Livi ended a three-game losing streak in spectacular style as Marc McNulty led a five-star show at Cappielow to move eight points clear of the drop zone and cost Morton boss, and former Lion, Allan Moore his job.
The Lions headed west on the back of the dismal home defeat to Dumbarton last weekend and knew the significance of this weekend’s game after the home side had clawed back to within five points of the Lions and had of course claimed the scalp of Celtic in the third round of the League Cup last month. New signing Patrik Twardzik took his place among the substitutes for the visitors as skipper Simon Mensing returned from injury in the Lions’ only change from last week.
Livi made a dream start and were in front inside five minutes as Jason Talbot swung in a cross which broke to McNulty, who was left with a simple tap in to start off a memorable day of his own and get the Lions off to the best possible start against a side with fragile confidence. Having said that, Morton did try to get back into things but Livi showed great resolve to keep them out until the 22nd minute when Nacho Novo, a shadow of his former self, produced a rare moment of brilliance to whip in a fine ball into the so-called “corridor of uncertainty” and with keeper and defenders completely bamboozled, giant frontman Kaba-Modou Cham stooped to head into the empty net and tie the scores at 1-1.
It was crucial for Livi to snuff out any momentum Morton would try to build on the back of the equaliser and they did so in ideal fashion as, right from kick off, they broke forward and McNulty turned provider, floating a fine cross to the far post where Andy Barrowman set himself and unleashed a terrific volley back across goal and into the net with Nicolas Caraux well beaten. Morton’s confidence visibly drained after that and Livi took firm control.
They continued to press the home goal without any great joy until eight minutes from the break when a simple set piece undid Morton’s suspect rearguard. Stefan Scougall sent a corner into the near post where Martin Scott rose unmarked to bullet in a header which Caraux got a hand to but couldn’t keep out. Livi eased through the remaining minutes to go in at the break in an unexpectedly commanding position.
Morton came out in the second half and tried to spark a fightback but the returning Mensing was a colossus at the back for Livi and snuffed out any threat the home side may have offered. It was Livi who came closest just before the hour mark and it was only the heroics of Caraux which denied them as Mensing bulleted in a header from a Scott corner which the Frenchman parried brilliantly before denying Barrowman from a tight angle with the rebound.
Livi were rampant by now and were handed a golden chance to completely kill off the home side when Keaghan Jacobs just beat Jonathan Page to the ball on the edge of the box before being brought down by the Welshman, and ref Greg Aitken, who was excellent throughout, had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. McNulty stepped up and slammed his penalty high into the net to give the Lions an unassailable three-goal lead.
Morton’s miserable afternoon still had further to run and goal hero Cham turned villain with two minutes left when he was shown a straight red card for an off the ball clash with Callum Fordyce after the Lions full-back had dispossessed him just inside the Livi half. There was still time for the icing to be added to Livi’s cake in injury time as debutant Twardzik sent McNulty clear and he finished expertly past Caraux to cap a memorable day for him, in front of his family and friends who had joined the travelling support, and a stunning victory for John McGlynn’s side, who ended their recent poor run in tremendous style.
The result saw Livi climb to sixth in the table, six points ahead of second-bottom Cowdenbeath and only three points behind fourth-placed Falkirk. It also allows the Lions to head into their Scottish Cup clash with Premiership side St Johnstone with renewed confidence as they look to pull off a rare upset.
Morton: 23 Caraux, 12 Reid (McKee 57), 5 Page, 6 McLaughlin (O'Ware 46), 3 Fitzpatrick, 17 Nicholson (Russell 77), 21 Bachirou, 18 Habai, 8 Imrie, 48 Cham, 20 Novo
Subs not used: 27 McNeil, 10 Campbell, 16 Stirling, 1 Gaston
Livingston: 17 Walker, 5 Fordyce, 19 Donaldson, 4 Mensing, 3 Talbot, 8 O'Brien, 7 Jacobs, 6 Scott (Denholm 76), 10 Scougall, 22 Barrowman (Twardzik 78), 9 McNulty
Subs not used: 45 Rutherford, 1 Jamieson, 18 Wilkie, 20 Downie, 48 Mullen
Referee: Greg Aitken
Match report: Andrew Crawford