Having recorded fantastic back-to-back away wins at Falkirk and Partick, it was time to try and recreate that form at home as table toppers Ross County visited the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium.
John Hughes had to shuffle the pack slightly and welcomed Jason Talbot back to the team in place of Iain Russell who broke his hand in the win at Firhill. Talbot took to his usual left back position with Stefan Scougall pushing up into the midfield.
A win for Ross County coupled with Dundee dropping points at home to Falkirk would have crowned the Staggies champions so Hughes would have been ensuring his players were alert straight from kick-off in an attempt to spoil any potential title party.
Livi started the game brightly and created the opening chance. Scougall delivered an excellent free-kick to the back-post and after drifting away from his man, Kyle Jacobs rose highest to win the header but sent his effort narrowly over the bar.
Ex-Lion Colin McMenamin was gifted a great opportunity moments later when he dispossessed Craig Barr on the edge of the box but Callum Fordyce got back quickly enough to make the block before McMenamin got a shot away.
Another error along the Livi back-line then presented McMenamin with a second chance and this time, he made no mistake. Andy McNeil short goal-kick put Fordyce in a bit of trouble and he could only miskick his clearance as far as Richie Brittain. Brittain quickly controlled the ball and slipped a pass through the Livi defence to Michael Gardyne who held off the challenge of Fordyce and squared the ball to the unmarked McMenamin who headed into the empty net.
It was a quick and clinical finish from County who made the Livi defence pay for some slack passing. Up until that point though, the Lions had held strong and quickly went about trying to rectify the mistake and grab an equaliser.
A nasty injury to Jason Talbot meant a first-team debut for Connor McDonald and he was involved as the home side created an opportunity. Scougall’s pass sent McDonald scampering down the left wing and after getting the better of Brittain, he found Rory Boulding on the edge of the box but the in-form front man bent his 20 yard effort just wide of the post.
Into the second-half and Boulding didn’t have to wait long to have his next chance on goal. Two excellent tackles from Craig Barr saw the ball find its way to Bobby Barr on the right and first-time, he sprayed an excellent pass beyond the County backline into Boulding’s path. Despite the heavy presence of both Scott Boyd and Gary Miller, Boulding made no mistake, steadying himself before slipping his shot beyond the reach of Michael Fraser and into the corner of the net.
That goal was Boulding’s fifth in three games and seemed to give the whole team a lift as they started to put more pressure on Fraser’s goal. Bobby Barr’s short corner found Scougall on the edge of the box and he fired a shot just over the bar. Minutes later, a driving run from McNulty saw him stroll towards goal but his shot whistled wide of the post. Another corner, this time sent in by Scougall, again found Kyle Jacobs at the back-post and this time he hit the target with his header but Fraser was equal to it, palming the ball beyond the post.
Despite Livi dominating at this stage, County’s title credentials shone through as they steamed up the park and regained the lead. Paul Lawson collected Barr’s clearance on the edge of the box and sent a pass out wide to Brittain. The County captain looped a high cross to the back-post where McMenamin leaped high to beat McCann in the air and sent a header over McNeill and into the net.
It was a cruel blow for the Lions who had looked the likeliest to take the lead and they continued to attack the County goal, now in search of another equaliser. Kevin McCann found Boulding on the half way line after evading the challenge of Iain Vigurs; he drove forward, skipping by Grant Munro before firing a low shot just past Fraser’s far post. McCann’s throw-in deep in the County half again found Boulding who turned past Munro and Morrison before laying the ball off to Bobby Barr to fire goal wards but Fraser reacted brilliantly to tip the ball over from 8 or so yards.
Livi kept on pressing and McCann’s high ball into the box was flicked on by Craig Barr but Miller managed to block McNulty’s shot before Fraser thwarted Fordyce from getting on the end of the loose ball on the edge of the six-yard area. McCann was again involved as the Lions went close, this time flicking on Boulding’s cross into the path of Keaghan Jacobs who unleashed an excellent volley towards goal but couldn’t find the target as the ball flew past the post.
As we’ve seen so many times this season, not taking your chances can come back and haunt you and that was exactly the story here. A long ball forward from Miller sent McMenamin clear down the right and after twisting and turning past Fordyce, he fired the ball into the box and despite the best attempts of David Sinclair and Craig Barr, the ball fell kindly for Iain Vigurs to side foot home and seal the three points for the Dingwall side.
McNeil, McCann, Fordyce, C.Barr, Talbot (McDonald 23), Ky.Jacobs, Scougall (Sinclair 81), Kn.Jacobs, B.Barr, Boulding, McNulty (A.Russell 89)
Subs not used: Watson, Jamieson
Fraser, Miller, Munro, Boyd, Morrison, Lawson, Kettlewell (Vigurs 59), Brittain, Quinn (Craig 59), McMenamin (Corcoran 88), Gardyne
Subs not used: Malin, Morrow
Ref: C Richmond
Match report by Dave Black