Livi closed the gap on second-bottom Alloa to just three points with a thumping win over Dumbarton at the Bet Butler Stadium.
Dumbarton boss Ian Murray has said pre-match that a win for his side over the Lions would have taken them out of reach of Mark Burchill’s side but was left to rue his comments as Livi ran riot to claim their second five-goal away haul of the season.
Livi boss Burchill made two changes from the 1-1 draw with Cowdenbeath two weeks ago as Craig Sives and Nejc Praprotnik came in for Simon Mensing and Myles Hippolyte. There was also a dugout debut for newly-appointed assistant manager David Hopkin, the former Scotland international who joined the club in midweek.
New signing Ibra Sekajja was included among the substitutes for the Lions and his presence on the bench clearly galvanised Jordan White to make sure he kept his starting spot as he broke the deadlock for Livi inside five minutes. After Praprotnik’s shot had been deflected wide, the resulting corner from Jason Talbot was flicked on at the near post by Declan Gallagher and White charged in to power his header home from close range.
Dumbarton responded and a fine move ended with Scott Linton whipping a low ball into the box but former Livi youngster Dylan Easton couldn’t get on the end of it. Livi then countered and Praprotnik played in Keaghan Jacobs but his low cross trundled just wide. The Lions had keeper Darren Jamieson to thank for keeping their lead intact as Gary Fleming broke through one-on-one only to see the Livi keeper somehow divert his low shot over the bar.
The weather was becoming a bit of a leveller as rain and a swirling wind battered the stadium, sat right on the banks of the River Clyde, and it allowed Dumbarton to take control. Jamieson came to the rescue again for Livi as Easton broke through but his tame effort produced a fine save from the Livi no.1. Gallagher then produced two fine defensive headers to deny the home side a sight of the Lions goal before a golden chance was wasted as Linton was left unmarked at the back post but could only bundle the ball over the bar. Linton then turned provider for Scott Agnew but his effort was straight at Jamieson.
Despite Dumbarton’s growing dominance, they had a massive let-off right on half time as Stuart Findlay’s backpass rolled past keeper Danny Rogers but trundled inches wide of the post as the Sons narrowly avoided a comical own goal and the two sides went in for the interval with the Lions just the one goal in front.
After surrendering a 1-0 half-time lead to lose 2-1 the last time the two sides met (though not before a Keaghan Jacobs goal had been wrongly ruled out for offside), Livi boss Burchill knew the importance of putting the game to bed quickly to avoid a repeat and his side started the second half strongly as they hunted down the second goal. A big chance fell the way of Danny Mullen on 51 minutes but, after seeing his first effort saved by Rogers, he could only put his rebound wide. The home side then passed up a golden chance of their own as David van Zanten rose to meet a cross but could only head over the bar when it seemed easier to hit the target.
Livi were gradually imposing themselves on proceedings now though and came close again when Keaghan drove forward from deep, drifted past two Dumbarton players but fired wide. The let-off was only a brief one though as the crucial second goal arrived for the Lions just four minutes later, Mullen showing great skill and tenacity to turn his man inside out before firing beyond the keeper at his near post to give the Lions a much-needed cushion. The second goal took the sting out of things as far as the home side were concerned and it wasn’t long before the Lions began to run riot. The third goal arrived on 73 minutes when Keaghan fired a low effort against the post but the ball rebounded perfectly for Mullen who slid in to make it 3-0. With the match sewn up, Livi made their first change as Michael McKenna replaced the impressive Praprotnik.
Livi were flying by now, confidence flowing back into the players, and it was no more evident that in the wonder strike that saw the Lions go 4-0 up as the ball broke to Keaghan 25 yards and he let fly with a stunning first-time effort which dipped perfectly over Rogers and into the net. A stunning strike which capped an impressive display from the Lions midfielder. A second Livi change followed soon after as Sekajja made his debut in place of Kyle Jacobs.
Incredibly, Livi weren’t done and, after starting the rout inside five minutes, White rounded it off with a fine goal, coolly chesting down McKenna’s cross before slamming an effort past Rogers at his near post to complete a stunning nap hand for the Lions. Burchill then made his final change, bringing off two-goal hero Mullen to a standing ovation with Hippolyte taking his place. There was one blot on Livi’s, and Keaghan’s, copy book as the Livi goal hero horribly misjudged a backpass and played the ball straight to Donald McCallum barely ten yards out and he skipped past Jamieson and prodded the ball home to add a modicum of respectability to the scoreline for the home side – though for their Hibs-daft manager, it meant he would once more be haunted by a 5-1 scoreline.
A memorable afternoon for Livi then as they showed their capabilities once again and fingers crossed this can be start of a more consistent run of results as the fight for survival continues. After a free Saturday next week with intended opponents Rangers in League Cup action against Celtic, the Lions are back in action a week on Tuesday, 3 February, in the crucial rearranged match at home to relegation rivals Alloa. Depending on the Wasps’ result at home to Hearts next week, a victory could take the Lions off the foot of the Championship table, having at one stage trailed the sides above them by seven points.
Dumbarton: 1 Rogers, 2 Van Zanten (Taggart 67), 3 Linton, 4 Graham, 5 Mair, 6 Turner (McCallum 80), 8 Agnew, 10 Megginson, 14 Fleming, 16 Easton (Campbell 75), 18 Findlay
Subs not used: 19 Ewings
Livingston: 1 Jamieson, 2 Sives, 3 Talbot, 5 Fordyce, 6 Ky.Jacobs (Sekajja 81), 7 Kn.Jacobs, 8 O'Brien, 14 Gallagher, 15 Praprotnik (McKenna 74), 18 White. 20 Mullen (Hippolyte 86)
Subs not used: 12 Walker, 10 Robertson, 16 Beaumont, 31 Rutherford
Referee: Craig Charleston
Match report: James Lothian