Saturday 10 September 2011

Livingston 1 - 1 Falkirk
HT (0 - 0)

After negotiating our passage to the semi-finals of the Ramsdens Cup thanks to a difficult quarter-final win at Sheilfield, it was back to league business for the Lions. With our last home match giving us our only win in the league so far, Gary Bollan and the boys were keen to repeat that success against Steven Pressley’s Falkirk side.

There were three changes to our starting eleven from the Berwick match. Cammy MacDonald made way for the fit again Craig Barr, captain Liam Fox joined Stefan Scougall in the middle of the park at the expense of David Sinclair and Kenny Deuchar was the preferred strike partner for Iain Russell, with Rory Boulding taking a place on the bench.

Livi started the game brightly and Russell could have added to his already impressive tally for the season early on. Jason Talbot’s cross from the left wing was headed back across the face of the goal from target man Deuchar but despite getting there first, Russell side-footed the ball high over the bar from 7 yards out. Shortly after, Bobby Barr provided Russell with another chance to find the net. Fox’s deft ball over the top found Barr on the right and after checking into the middle, he slipped the ball through the back-line but Russell couldn’t find a way past Falkirk ‘keeper McGovern and had to settle for a corner-kick.

Falkirk soon stepped up their game and tried to force themselves into the lead too. Kallum Higginbotham’s cross from the right found the impressive youngster Craig Sibbald but his low drive at goal was blocked by Craig Barr.

Russell was next to try and break the deadlock, and he came agonisingly close with a spectacular long-range effort. Paul Watson’s headed clearance reached Deuchar in the middle of the park and he sent Russell through on the goal. After taking a touch to steady himself, he rifled a thunderbolt towards the Falkirk goal which McGovern did excellently top tip over the bar.

With only 38 minutes on the clock, Falkirk were reduced to 10 men. After being chased down and dispossessed by Russell and Scougall in the middle of the park, midfielder Stewart Murdoch lunged through the back of Scougall and was shown a straight red by referee Craig Thomson. There was little complaint from Murdoch or any of the other Falkirk players and luckily for Livingston, Scougall was able to get up and continue playing.

Despite the sending-off, Falkirk finished the half as the stronger side and had two long-range efforts from Higginbotham and Dale Fulton well saved by Andy McNeill. Higginbotham turn and shot from out wide was tipped over for a corner and Fulton’s 25-yard effort was comfortably held.

The second-half kicked-off with Livingston dominating. Bobby Barr came closest to opening the scoring but after latching on to Deuchar’s lay-off, his shot clipped the outside of the post and away to safety with McGovern well beaten. Fox was next to spurn a good opportunity. Deuchar nodded down another high ball forward from Craig Barr, but the skipper thumped his shot wide.

Falkirk weren’t letting their one-man disadvantage stop them from getting forward and Mark Millar riffled a 25-yard effort just over the bar midway through the half.

However, with 70 minutes gone, the deadlock was finally broken. Liam Fox found right-back Johnny Brown down the wing and he fired a cross into the box. Defender Darren Dods got to the ball first but his attempted clearances deflected to the front-post where Iain Russell was on hand to slam the ball into the net and give the Lions the lead.

It was nothing more than both Livi and Russell deserved and given the extra man, you could forgive the home support for thinking that Falkirk would be down and out. Quite the opposite happened though as the Bairns created the next couple of chances. Farid El Alagui curled a long-range shot inches over the bar and David Weatherston forced a decent save from McNeill.

Livingston were then denied what appeared to be a stonewall penalty. Sinclair’s free-kick was passed inside to Keaghan Jacobs and he found Russell in the box. As he looked to skip between Falkirk’s two central defenders, he was tripped by an outstretched leg and hit the deck. Thomson waved away the claims from numerous Livi players and the ball was cleared to safety.

As if not already riled enough by that, Thomson’s next decision was to enrage the home team even more. Murray Wallace’s high pass forward appeared to be too long for El Alagui but as he and Paul Watson both jumped for the ball, El Alagui tumbled to the ground and in doing so, won his side a penalty. Midfielder Mark Millar stepped up and rolled the ball into the bottom corner for the equaliser, despite the best efforts of McNeill.

It was a sucker-punch for the Lions who looked to be on course for another home win.

The match ended on a sour note with the dismissal of Higginbotham for what appeared to be head-butt on Bobby Barr. The two clashed after Barr had fouled Higginbotham and as they squared up, Thomson had no doubt in his mind and sent the Falkirk man off. There was no time for Livi to take advantage though and the teams shared the spoils.

Livingston: McNeil, Brown (Ky.Jacobs 81), Watson, C.Barr, Talbot, Fox (Sinclair 77), Scougall, Kn.Jacobs, B.Barr, Deuchar, Russell
Subs not used: Jamieson, Sinclair, Boulding

Falkirk: McGovern, Duffy, Dods, Wallace, Scobie, Fulton (Alston 58), Murdoch, Millar, Sibbald (Weatherston 65), El Alagui, Higginbotham
Subs not used: Bowman, Bennett, Fulton

Att: 2,229

Ref: C Thomson

Match report by Dave Black