League leaders Livi went in to today’s game against Airdrie in high spirits, after the victory over Stenhousemuir in midweek.
Although Airdrie had won their last match too, The Lions had the chance to complete a clean sweep over The Diamonds in the league, after 3 victories in 3 league games, and a cup win at The Excelsior Stadium too.
With the sun shining and not a cloud in the sky, it was a wonderful day to play football. The visitors had the first chance of the game, which fell to defender Joe Gorman after a free kick, but his shot from inside the box flew over the bar. Livi looked threatening going forward, and created the first chance of their own a few minutes later, but Ferguson made a comfortable save to deny a tame Liam Buchanan effort.
In the 8th minute, the deadlock was broken, and it was the hosts who went in front. After some fantastic closing down work, Buchanan won the ball from Airdrie’s Simon Mensing, putting pressure on the former Livi defender. The striker came forward into the box and cut the ball back for Danny Mullen who confidently slotted home from 8 yards.
It was a good start to what would become a great game. Just 2 minutes later, Livi doubled their lead. Following a cleared corner, Shaun Byrne picked the ball up on the edge of the box, beat his man and drilled a shot against the post, only for it to be tapped into the empty net by Declan Gallagher. It was a terrific start for the league leaders, going 2-0 ahead inside the first 10 minutes.
The visitors were anxious to get back into the game, and almost reduced the deficit when another terrific delivery from a free kick went agonisingly close to being turned in. In the 34th minute, Airdrie were awarded a free kick for a foul by Craig Halkett, who was consequently booked. Up stepped Ryan Conroy, who curled the ball over the wall and into the bottom right corner to get The Diamonds back into the match.
It was an excellent effort from the talented number 10. Livi were dominating and looked like they would score every time they went forward but, despite that possession and dominance, the game was nearly level just before half-time. A good cross to the back post by Russell beat everyone but Andy Ryan, who slid in at the back post, whose effort at full stretch was saved on the line by Lions’ number one Liam Kelly.
HT: Livingston 2-1 Airdrie
The exciting action continued after the break, and again the hosts looked very dangerous. A corner fell to Raffa De Vita on the edge of the box, but the Italian’s shot was blocked and rebounded to Shaun Byrne. His effort was also blocked and the ball rebounded to Josh Mullin. The winger’s shot wasn’t blocked but it ended up in the stands.
With Livi in control the game should have been out of sight, but again the visitors came knocking. A clearance fell to goalscorer Ryan Conroy who tried his luck again. His venomous effort clipped the top of the bar and over for a goal kick.
The next chance fell to The Lions. Josh Mullin whipped in a free kick, which was fumbled by keeper Ferguson, however he recovered after a few defensive blocks and a goalmouth scramble. A third goal was in sight for Livingston, and it eventually came in the 62nd minute. Danny Mullen received the ball with his back to goal, excellently used his body and spun his marker to fire a left footed strike past Ferguson. It was his second of the day and his 5th against Airdrie this season.
After the goal, Buchanan was replaced by Todorov who nearly made an instant impact. He found himself one on one with Ferguson, but the goalkeeper made an excellent save to deny the Bulgarian. Nicky Cadden replaced Josh Mullin a few minutes later, and immediately created a chance. He cut inside from the right and delivered a fantastic cross-shot but Danny Mullen just couldn’t stretch far enough to convert for his hat-trick.
With Livi in full control, they got themselves a fourth through substitute Nicky Cadden. The winger again cut inside, but this time rifled a powerful shot from the edge of the box through the legs of Ferguson to get his 4th goal against his old side this season. Matthew Knox came on to replace man-of-the-match Danny Mullen, who received a well-deserved standing ovation from the Livi supporters.
In the final minute, a penalty was awarded to the visitors after former Lion Iain Russell fell under a challenge from Craig Halkett. The Diamonds’ top scorer, Andy Ryan, beat Kelly to make it 4-2 but it was a mere consolation for the visitors.
With Alloa losing a last minute goal to drop 2 points to Queens Park, Livi’s lead at the top of League One increased to 11 points with only 6 games remaining. A trip to Brechin next week, quickly followed by a visit to the Tony Macaroni Arena the following Saturday by second placed Alloa, means that Livi would secure the title with wins in both matches.
Livingston: Kelly, Byrne, Lithgow, Gallagher, Halkett, Mullin (Cadden 75), De Vita, Pittman, Longridge, Buchanan (Todorov 68), Mullen (Knox 84)
Subs not used: Maley, Crighton, , Millar. Sinclair,
Goals: Mullen (8 & 62), Gallagher (10), Cadden (85)
Airdieonians: Ferguson, Stewart, MacDonald, McGregor, Mensing, Gorman, Brown (McIntosh 75), Hutton, Ryan, Conroy, Russell
Subs not used: Kerr, Boateng, Cairns, Leighton, McLaughlin, Loudon
Goals: Conroy (34), Ryan (90 pen)
Referee: Crawford Allan
Match Report: Calum Brown