At a very cold Tony Macaroni Arena, East Fife were in town to take on the league leaders.
The visitors were looking for their first win since their 3-1 triumph over Livi at Bayview in late September, but were without Jamie Insall in their starting eleven, the striker that scored a brace the last time the sides met. The Methil side started the better of the two sides. The hosts, though, were without Alan Lithgow at the back due to suspension, and made seven changes from the team that secured the 3-0 victory over Crusaders on Tuesday.
It was East Fife who started the better of the two sides and they dominated the opening exchanges. Tony Wallace was allowed too much space and worked a shot, which was struck with power, but captain Sean Crighton blocked well and the ball went out for a corner.
Shortly afterwards, another chance came for the visiting side. This time Kevin O’Hara was free at the back post and, although his half volley from around 10 yards went flying over the bar, it was another warning for the Lions who were yet to get into their stride. Livi’s first real chance came around the half hour mark. Nicky Cadden’s corner found Crighton but the centre half’s headed effort went over.
The Lions were almost caught out a few moments later. A lot of bodies were in the opposition half, allowing East Fife to break away on the counter attack which resulted on a three on one situation. Fortunately for the league leaders, the final ball to Smith was beyond him, which allowed the men in black to reassemble.
The next opportunity came in the 38th minute from a free kick to Livi following a foul by East Fife’s player/manager Gary Naysmith. It was taken by Cadden, whose effort curled over the wall and just wide.
Just on the stroke of half time, The Lions took the lead. A nice passing move, the first of the game from Livi, involved four different players. The ball was played to Mikey Miller, who beat his man on the edge of the box, before playing a lovely cut–back from the by-line for Buchanan who slotted it home.
Half Time, Livi 1-0 East Fife
There were no changes made at the break for either side, after quite a physical and scrappy first half. The first few minutes saw the Lions start to take control of the game, and they looked like doubling their lead.
A free kick was awarded about 25 yards out, after a foul on Danny Mullen. Three Livi players – Da Vita, Miller and Cadden – stood over it the ball and Da Vita ran over it in a dummy run, leaving Mikey Miller to fire a fabulous shot over the wall and into the top right corner. It was a tremendous goal from the midfielder, popping up with his 3rd goal of the season, and gave the keep absolutely no chance whatsoever.
Four minutes later though, after some poor defending, East Fife striker Kevin Smith prodded home a goal for the visitors to reduce the deficit and make the score-line 2-1. Although it was against the run of play at this stage of the game, it was a deserved goal for the Bayview side given their superiority in the first half. With the clean sheet gone, The Lions looked to restore their two goal cushion and comfortably see out the match. That third goal almost arrived seven minutes later. Pittman was fouled, and Cadden swung the free kick into a dangerous area, but Crighton’s header was a little too high.
In the 62nd minute, Nicky Cadden was replaced by Shaun Byrne. Just two minutes after the substitution, a Crighton powerful headed clearance turned into a fantastic through ball for Danny Mullen. The striker knocked the ball past on coming East Fife keeper Mark Hurst, who collided heavily with the Livi striker. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and, and after some hesitation, sent off the East Fife goalkeeper. The official ruled that the double jeopardy law didn’t apply, judging the keeper guilty of serious foul play. With The Fifers down to ten men, O’Hara was withdrawn to be replaced by substitute keeper Ryan Goodfellow.
Liam Buchanan stepped up to take the spot kick and sent Goodfellow the wrong way with ease restore Livi’s two-goal lead. The league’s top scorer doubled his tally for the day and looked hungry for a hat-trick.
The three points were in touching distance for the hosts and the home fans were looking for their side to take advantage of their extra player by going on to score more goals. East Fife captain Kevin Smith was booked on the 76th minute, then brought off straight afterwards to be replaced by Paul McManus. Buchanan and Mullen linked up very well on the edge of the box, but Mullen’s effort was just wide.
With only twelve minutes to play, there was a bizarre incident involving East Fife substitute Paul McManus. Just two minutes after coming on, the striker was ordered off. It wasn’t clear what had caused the referee to brandish a straight red card, but it presumably involved an off-the-ball incident or something that the player said to the official.
The visitors were reduced to nine men and Livi made two changes in as many minutes, with Rafa Da Vita and Liam Buchanan being replaced by Ryan Currie and Dale Carrick respectively. Jamie Insall also came on for East Fife, replacing Wallace. Livi looked like scoring more, but East Fife defended well, and The Lions couldn’t find the killer pass to increase their lead.
Full Time Livi 3-1 East Fife
Interestingly, the reverse fixture in September at Bayview had exactly the same score and many of the same outcomes as today’s game. Both matches ended 3-1 to the home side, with a brace for the host’s striker, and two red cards for the visitors.
The Lions remain top of League One and continue to set the pace. It was their 4th straight win and the 4th consecutive game in which they’ve scored three goals.
Livingston: Kelly, Miller, Neill, Crighton, Halkett, Longridge, Cadden (Byrne 62), Pittman, Buchanan (Carrick 84), De Vita (Currie 81), Mullen
Subs not used: Maley, Sinclair, Mullin, Watt
Goals: Buchanan (45 & 66 pen), Miller (49)
East Fife: Hurst, Mercer, Slattery, Kane, Kerr, Brown, Wilkie, Wallace (Insall 83), Naysmith, O’Hara (Goodfellow 65), Smith (McManus 76)
Subs not used: Lamont, Austin
Goals: Smith (53)
Referee: Craig Napier
Match report: Calum Brown