Livi got their League One campaign off to a flying start as they demolished Stranraer at the Tony Macaroni Arena to avenge last season’s playoff defeat.
After the defeat to Brian Reid’s side, and their excessive celebrations at the end, David Hopkin’s Lions were hungry for revenge and ripped the helpless Blues to shreds with an exhilarating display.
Hopkin made just one enforced change to his side from the defeat at Hamilton as Morgyn Neill came in for the a suspended Craig Halkett. Stranraer arrived in West Lothian with a depleted squad and boss Reid was only able to name four substitutes.
The Lions showed no sympathy for Reid’s plight as they stormed into the lead inside four minutes as Shaun Byrne strode forward and laid off to Scott Pittman who took a touch and fired a stunning angled drive high past the helpless Cameron Belford from 20 yards to give Livi a dream start. Three minutes later, patient build-up play ended with Nicky Cadden curling just over the bar from 30 yards.
It was all Livi and good work from Cadden down the left saw him find Pittman who teed up Byrne to fire over. Stranraer’s Scott Robertson then picked up the game’s first yellow card for a reckless foul on Byrne. Cadden almost grabbed a fluke second for Livi on 16 minutes when his left wing cross looped over Belford but dropped just the wrong side of the bar. Cadden then led a flying counter attack and sent in a superb low cross that was just scrambled clear.
Stranraer were struggling to keep their heads above water as the Lions deluge continued and they were sunk further on 19 minutes with another sensational strike as Danny Mullen collected the ball on the left before turning inside
and curling a majestic effort into the top corner from 30 yards to out Livi in control. Their dominance continued and they nearly had a third on 28 minutes when Pittman broke down the right and played a perfectly-weighted ball inside to Byrne but Belford was out smartly to turn his shot wide.
The Lions were camped in the visitors half by now and came close again when Neill’s cross found Mikey Miller but he and Mullen both went for the shot and Belford saved comfortably. Belford then had to be alert to stop a free kick from Cadden sneaking in at his near post. After picking up a yellow card for talking too much, Christian Nadé had the ball in the net for Stranraer on 39 minutes but it was disallowed for handballl.
Calvin Kemp sent a first time effort wide before the half ended with two further Livi chances as Byrne’s effort was deflected through to Belford before the big keeper tipped Neill’s looping header over.
Half-time: Livingston 2-0 Stranraer
as Scott Agnew’s cross found Frank McKeown at the back post but Liam Kelly smartly saved his low drive. Josh Mullin was then denied a third Livi goal by a tight offside call. That decision proved all the more crucial as Stranraer pulled one back barely a minute later when Craig Malcolm dug the ball out of his feet and fired a low shot past Kelly.
It was nearly 2-2 soon after when Liam Turner showed great skill to find space and curl in a fine strike that was matched only by an outstanding fingertip save from Kelly. After seeing another goal disallowed, far more debatably, for offside, Livi boss David Hopkin was sent to the stand much to everyone’s bemusement. His mood was improved greatly on 72 minutes when Danny Mullen was tripped inside the box and referee Colin Steven pointed to the spot. Liam Buchanan sent Belford the wrong way to restore Livi’s two goal cushion.
Buoyed by their comfortable lead, Livi resumed their earlier dominance and came close to a fourth when Cadden drove at the visitors defence and curled in a low effort that Belford gathered at the second attempt. The fourth wasn’t long in coming though as Liam Watt, who had come on for Mullen, was played in down the left and cut the ball inside for Buchanan who turned smartly and fired low into the net from 10 yards.
The rout was completed in the final minute when Jackson Longridge’s was met by Watt and, when his header came back off the bar, Pittman was on hand to slam home the rebound and round off a dream day for the Lions.
Livingston: Kelly, Miller, Lithgow, Longridge, Neill, Pittman, Crighton, Mullin (Sinclair 74), Mullen (Watt 80), Byrne (Buchanan 68), Cadden
Subs not used: Maley, Knox, Smith, Orr
Goals: Pittman (5 & 90), Mullen (24), Buchanan (72 Pen & 87)
Stranraer: Belford, Robertson, Dick, McKeown, Bell, Agnew, Turner, McGuigan, Kemp (McCloskey 50), Malcolm, Nadé (Morena 74)
Subs not used: Currie, Barbour
Goals: Malcolm (55)
Referee: Colin Steven
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Lolly Twigg