An excellent second half performance saw Livingston hammer Falkirk on their own turf under the warm glowing sun. Doubles from Rory Boulding and Bobby Barr, and a penalty by Iain Russell ensured the three points were taken back to the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium.
Both sides were severely changed through injuries and suspension, including a Livi defence without a single established blocker and a rookie keeper playing for Falkirk.
With a young defence, including two midfielders at full back, Livi began nervously against the attacking threat of Farid El Alagui. With just a minute gone, Livi keeper Andy McNeil was caught in possession by the Falkirk striker but the defence and keeper responded quickly to stifle the threat.
El Alagui continued to threaten, but young centre back Callum Fordyce was equal to the task just taking the ball off the Moroccan’s feet as he closed in on goal. This was quickly followed up by an excellent save from Andy McNeil brilliantly tipping an El Alagui header off the cross bar.
McNeil continued his heroics, denying El Alagui’s goal-bound header from an excellent free kick by Thomas Scobbie.
With a quick counter attack, Livi found themselves at the other end thanks to the work of Iain Russell who set up Marc McNulty, his shot was comfortably thwarted however. Minutes later after a Bobby Barr free kick, Falkirk were luck to find themselves with the ball after a goalmouth scramble.
El Alagui’s impressive first half performance continued, setting up Blair Alston in an excellent position, but the Falkirk No11 could only shoot wide. El Alagui was not for giving up however, and after a failed 1-on-1 went wide, he finally scored the goal he deserved on 28 minutes.
As Andy McNeil came charging for the ball from a brilliant Falkirk counter attack, Farid El Alagui just managed to get his foot to the ball in the air and deflected it over McNeil into the empty net.
It was less than 7 minutes until Livingston equalised from a very quick counter attack down the wing. Marc “Sparky” McNulty played the ball across the box where Boulding prodded home from close range. Livingston were buoyed by this, and began to pressure, with Sparky testing the keeper this time, which Graham Bowman did well to tip wide.
With 5 minutes till half time, Livingston took the lead with a near carbon copy of their first goal. A quick ball across the box found Boulding who once again slotted the ball past Bowman to give Livi a half time lead.
Falkirk came out in the second half, desperate to regain the difference, but El Alagui was thwarted by Livingston’s Trialist and free kick being headed over from close range.
Livingston were showing their confidence however. McNulty recovered the ball in the Livi half and sped up the park to play in Boulding, who could only shoot across the goal, well wide.
A clever substitution by ex-Falkirk manager John Hughes saw the returning David Sinclair come on for Marc McNulty, and the extra presence in midfield soon began to work.
Falkirk were showing they weren’t out of the game yet, with El Alagui missing a glorious opportunity to score into from close range, but his header went out for a throw. Mark Millar then tested the guile of Andy McNeil who was equal to the midfielder’s powerful shot. This was followed up by another opportunity to score from close range by El Alagui, but his header was, again, wide.
The Falkirk onslaught continued, and Andy McNeil was on hand to save from El Alagui’s header from a corner.
Against the run of play, it was Livingston who scored again. Keaghan Jacobs played in an excellent cross, low across the goalmouth which found Bobby Barr in the perfect place to slot the ball into the bottom corner to make it 1-3 with 71 minutes gone.
Minutes later, a Livi corner saw Falkirk give away a silly penalty for a hand ball. Iain Russell wrestled the ball away from Boulding, determined to show his worth, and duly slotted it low past the keeper with Bowman diving the wrong way.
The pace of the game refused to slow down as Falkirk reduced the deficit, Andy McNeil beaten from close range by Thomas Scobbie with 11 minutes remaining.
Livingston weren’t finished, however. A quick counter attack from a Falkirk corner found Bobby Barr running up the wing with Rory Boulding in support. Barr laid the ball off to Boulding near the edge of the box, and the striker neatly played it back in for Bobby Barr at the back post who made no mistake in firing past Bowman.
Livingston came out on top in this game, but in many ways it was football that won. Any neutral would have enjoyed this game with two teams playing some terrific football at times. The scoreline is perhaps harsh on Falkirk, but Livingston were clinical in front of goals scoring with almost all their chances. Livi’s makeshift defence showed what they were capable of at the same time, stifling out the threat of Falkirk, however the score could have been so much higher had Farid El Alagui found his scoring boots.
Bowman, Duffie, Dods, Wallace, Scobbie, J.Fulton, Faulds, Millar, Alston (Gibson 54), Weatherston, El Alagui
Subs not used: Amos, Bennett, D.Fulton, Dick
McNeil, Docherty, McCann, Fordyce, Scougall, B.Barr, Ky.Jacobs, Kn.Jacobs, Boulding (A.Russell 88), McNulty (Sinclair 57), I.Russell
Subs not used: Jamieson, McDonald, Travis
Ref: D Somers
Match report by Chris Naismith