A Rory Boulding hat-trick gave Livingston a comfortable victory over Raith Rovers on a wet Tuesday night at Stark’s Park. Raith Rovers dominated the early stages, but once the Lions got their first goal, the home side had no answer.
Rovers striker John Baird had an early chance to test former teammate Andy McNeil in the Livi goals, but after being the only one to claim a throw-in, his effort went high and wide. Just a minute later, Laurie Ellis got a free header to an Allan Walker corner, but he could only send his effort well over.
Rovers’ early dominance continued, Ellis tried a shot this time, but his effort deflected off Damain Casalinuovo for which the referee bafflingly gave a corner. The Livi defence then rode their luck again, with the ball twisting about in the box from defender to attacker and back again, eventually to be cleared.
It wasn’t until 10 minutes in that Livingston finally got a shot on goal, defender Kevin McCann putting in a well placed cross which Marc McNulty poorly shot into the keeper’s hands.
McNeil then kept the score level with a brilliant punched clearance from a free-kick by ex-Lion Allan Walker.
Moments after a failed effort by Marc McNulty, the referee awarded a penalty to Livingston against Rovers defender Jason Thomson. Rory Boulding duly stepped up to take the spot kick in the absence of usual penalty taker Iain Russell. He sent the keeper the wrong way, slotting low and hard into the bottom corner with just 17 minutes gone.
The young Livingston side began to settle, and the chances begun to rain in on the home side. McNulty saw a brilliant header punched clear by David McGurn before a powerful Rory Boulding strike crashed off the bar.
Boulding was determined to get his second of the match, sending bobbling shot into the keeper’s hands before heading a Bobby Barr cross wide.
Raith were determined to show they weren’t out the game yet, but still failed to test McNeil. Casalinuovo wrestled his way past Watson but his shot went wide before Allan Walker similarly found touch from 20 yards wide.
Boulding continued to find opportunities, this time sending a shot into McGurn’s hands from a McNulty cross.
Raith finally tested the Livi keeper with a shot by Casalinuovo. McNeil struggled to hold the soggy ball, but after an initial fumble, he recovered.
Livingston thought they had scored again from a corner, but the Linesman had his flag up before the ball was even in the net.
Casalinuovo continued to threaten, the striker getting to a Jason Thomson cross but his header was well held by McNeil.
McNulty then had his own effort come crashing off the woodwork, and excellent long range effort very unlucky not to find its way in.
Moments before the end of the first half, Bobby Barr recovered the ball right along the goal line before sending a precision pass into Boulding who side-footed the ball into the net from close range.
The second half began almost as brightly as the first half ended, Bobby Barr having the first opportunity to continue the Lions’ scoring, but after a surging run down the pitch, he held onto the ball just too long, and McGurn comfortably held his effort.
The Lions and Boulding didn’t wait long for their third goal. Bobby Barr slotted the young Englishman through into space and the striker sent the ball to the opposite side of the keeper to ensure he left Kirckaldy with the match ball.
Raith huffed and puffed as they attempted to get back into the game, but never really threatened McNeil or the Livi defence.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Boulding was determined to get into the Livingston record books with a fourth goal, McNulty setting him up for a left footed shot which went straight at the keeper.
The Bobby Barr – Boulding combo continued, with the former sending in an excellent cross which the latter was marginally too slow to get to at the back post.
The onslaught wouldn’t end for the Rovers keeper, as he just managed to keep out Boulding, punching a powerful effort wide after the striker was once again set up by the on-form Bobby Barr.
Barr then tried to gain a goal of his own, but his solo effort was too soft and easily saved by McGurn. His second effort with just 5 minutes remaining wasn’t so easily saved, his powerful shot being tipped just over by McGurn.
Despite dominating the first 15 minutes, Raith Rovers never threatened to score against Livingston and the Lions ultimately ran out very comfortable victors. The speed of attacks proved too much for the Raith defence at times, especially the scoring boots of invigorated hit man Rory Boulding.
McGurn, Thomson, Ellis, Hill, Dyer, A.Walker, Murray, Stewart (Williamson 60), J.Walker (Hamill 60), Casalinuovo (Graham 71), Baird
Subs not used: Laidlaw, Clarke
McNeil, McCann, Watson, C.Barr, Fordyce (McDonald 83), B.Barr, Ky.Jacobs, Scougall I, Kn.Jacobs (Beaumont 83), Boulding, McNulty
Subs not used: Andrew, Jamieson
Ref: I Brines
Match report by Chris Naismith
With thanks to RaithRoversTV for the interview footage.