Livi surrendered a half-time lead for the second time in four days as their survival hopes were dealt a savage blow by Greenock Morton, who maintained their push for a top-half finish in the Ladbrokes Championship.
Jordan White’s sixth goal in seven games had given David Hopkin’s side the advantage only for Denny Johnstone’s penalty and Thomas O’Ware’s header to ensure the three points stayed in Greenock and Livi stayed in the relegation playoff.
The Lions boss made one change to the side that lost narrowly to Hibs on Tuesday night as Sam Stanton, who had been unable to play against his parent club, returned to the starting line-up in place of Osman Kakay. It was Livi who forced the first chance of note on five minutes as White did well down the left before crossing for Liam Buchanan but his touch was too heavy and Ton keeper Derek Gaston was able to gather. Ross Forbes had Morton’s first effort a minute later with a free kick from 25 yards that Marc McCallum held comfortably.
The next chance came the home side’s way on 11 minutes when Paul McMullan hooked a cross into Johnstone but his header didn’t trouble McCallum. McMullan sent another dangerous cross in moments later but this time White and Darren Cole combined to clear the danger. Livi suffered a blow on 13 minutes when captain Ben Gordon limped off to be replaced by Morgyn Neill, Buchanan taking the armband.
After a Morton free kick came to nothing Livi countered quickly with Mark Fotheringham releasing Charlie Telfer down the left but his cross was over hit and the chance was gone. There was a real let off for Livi on 20 minutes as Alex Samuel slipped the ball into one-time Livi youngster Joe McKee and his effort crashed back off the bar and into the grateful arms of McCallum. Another ex-Lion Bobby Barr tried his luck from distance which the Livi stopper did well to gather after a slight bobble.
Livi’s next chance arrived on 25 minutes when Stanton was given the time to drive through the middle and slip in White but his shot was straight at Gaston. They came close again barely a minute later when Telfer pulled the ball back to Buchanan and his shot from 10 yards was well saved by Gaston with his feet. Morton’s McMullan then picked up a yellow card for attempting to con the officials with a dive, Forbes somehow avoiding the same fate after screaming in ref John McKendrick’s face.
A brilliant tackle from Cole denied Morton as Samuel ran clear and was about to pull the trigger only for Cole to make a terrific sliding tackle. It was becoming a real end to end game now and Scott Pittman was next to go close when he spun smartly on the edge of the box and fired in a low effort which Gaston did brilliantly to save down to his right.
The deadlock was eventually broken on 33 minutes and it was Livi who got the goal as superb skill from Stanton saw him ghost past three men before squaring for White to slam home his 14th goal of the season and give the Lions a priceless lead. Morton attempted to respond but McMullan, who was getting a rough ride from the Livi fans after his earlier indiscretion, could only cross into the arms of McCallum. The half wound down without much other action of note as Livi went in at the break with their one-goal lead intact.
Half-time: Greenock Morton 0-1 Livingston
Livi were first to threaten in the second half as White and Buchanan linked up well, the latter trying in vain to battle through the Morton back line as Gaston collected. The Lions were to suffer a huge blow on 50 as Cole brought down Samuel in the box and referee John McKendrick pointed to the spot. Johnstone sent McCallum the wrong way from 12 yards.
Livi knew victory was crucial in their fight for survival and immediately took the game to their hosts but Jackson Longridge’s cross was too long for anyone in the box and it sailed out for a goal kick. Telfer and Buchanan then linked up well and only a terrific block prevented the latter getting a shot away.
The Lions had a huge shout for a penalty on 57 minutes when Buchanan was bundled over in the box but McKendrick waved the claims away. Morton then came close to taking the lead on the hour mark when McKee curled in a free kick from 25 yards which McCallum saved brilliantly high to his right. McCallum came to the rescue again two minutes later with a smart save from Forbes’ long range effort.
After a quiet spell the match burst back into life on 74 minutes when Barr raced through on goal for Morton but pulled his effort wide. Johnstone and O’Ware then got in each other’s way as they jumped to meet a cross two minutes later, the latter heading over. Livi made a second swap on 76 minutes as Matthew Knox came on for Telfer before Morton followed suit four minutes later with McMullan replaced by Jai Quitongo.
Livi’s survival hopes suffered a bitter blow with seven minutes left when Morton took the lead as O’Ware headed home a corner from Forbes to leave the Lions with an uphill task. David Hopkin reacted immediately by sending on Jordyn Sheerin in place of Fotheringham.
The Lions came agonisingly close to drawing level on 87 minutes when White rounded Gaston and looked to have scored only for a defender to appear from nowhere to clear off the line. The resultant corner from Knox was headed goalwards but Morton managed to block inside the six yard box. White thought he’d grabbed a point in injury time when he headed past Gaston only for the linesman’s flag to go up for offside.
A final corner deep in injury time came to nothing as the Lions suffered a second straight defeat to remain second-bottom of the table and on course to face the dreaded end-of-season playoffs.
Morton: Gaston, O’Ware, Miller, McKee, Forbes, Johnstone, Barr (Lamie 85), Russell, Samuel (MacDonald 85), Gasparotto, McMullen (Quitongo 80)
Subs not used: McNeil, Kilday, Langan
Goals: Johnstone (51 pen), O’Ware (82)
Livingston: McCallum, Halkett, Cole, Gordon (Neill 13), Longridge, Telfer (Knox 76), Pittman, Fotheringham (Sheerin 85), Stanton, Buchanan, White
Subs not used: Jamieson, Kakay, Currie, Mullin
Goals: White (33)
Referee: John McKendrick
Match Report: Andy Crawford