A poor second half display condemned Livi to the play-offs as Queen of the South came from behind to claim all three points and boost their hopes of a top-half finish in the Ladbrokes Championship.
With Dumbarton winning at home to St Mirren, the Lions knew only three points would keep them in the hunt for an eighth-place finish and they were on course to claim them after Sam Stanton’s first half goal but, for the third match in a row, David Hopkin’s team failed to hold onto a half time lead and slid to defeat.
Hopkin made two changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Morton in their last league game as Morgyn Neill and Osman Kakay came in for the suspended Darren Cole and injured Ben Gordon. Jordan White was named captain for the day.
In truth Livi didn’t start like a side desperate for the three points as Queens, in their first match under Gavin Skelton and Jim Thomson after the sacking of boss James Fowler, quickly took control and forced the first chance inside six minutes but Iain Russell’s touch let him down and allowed Marc McCallum to block. Dale Hilson and Russell then linked up inside the box to set up Derek Lyle but he couldn’t get his foot round the ball and the chance was gone.
It was all Queens and they came close again on 18 minutes when Mark Millar curled a free kick inches wide of the McCallum’s right hand post. Russell then came even closer with a low shot that trickled past McCallum but cannoned back off the post. Livi forced their first effort of note on 26 minutes when Charlie Telfer gathered the ball outside the box but fired his shot well wide.
Despite Queens’ dominance it was Livi who broke the deadlock on 29 minutes with a well-worked goal as Buchanan’s cross was knocked down by White for Sam Stanton and he coolly fired a first-time effort past Jim Atkinson to give the Lions a priceless lead. Callum Tapping then picked up the first yellow card for a cynical foul in midfield.
Queens responded well to going behind and came close to drawing level just before half-time when Hilson fed Lyle and he laid off to Gary Oliver whose shot drifted wide to ensure Livi went in at the break with a vital lead.
Half-time: Queen of the South 0-1 Livingston
The second half got underway with things going Livi’s way both in Dumfries and Dumbarton and a slow start to the half was punctuated only by yellow cards for Livi’s Jackson Longridge and Queens’ Chris Higgins. The resultant free kick from Higgins’ caution was taken by Telfer who went for power and struck well but his effort swerved just wide. Telfer came even closer with a powerful effort from the edge of the box that Atkinson did well to save.
Livi suffered a crushing blow on the hour mark as Queens were awarded a controversial penalty when, as he tends to do, Russell successfully conned ref Mat Northcroft into pointing to the spot. Lyle sent McCallum the wrong way from 12 yards. Hopkin responded quickly to the loss of the goal by sending Jordyn Sheerin on in place of Telfer. Russell’s afternoon ended shortly after as he was replaced by Alex Harris.
Queens almost took the lead in fortuitous circumstances as sub Lewis Kidd’s cross-shot was tipped over by McCallum. Livi were punished from the resulting corner though as Lyle was left hopelessly unmarked to bullet a header home and make it 2-1 to the home side. Lyle went off shortly after to be replaced by ex-Lion Kyle Jacobs.
The home side grabbed a third goal with 11 minutes to go as Livi’s defence parted like the Red Sea to allow Hilson to go clear and hit the crossbar and then stood and watched as Kidd ran in to fire in a shot that McCallum could only parry, leaving Oliver with a simple task to tap home and clinch the three points. The home side would end the match with ten men as Kidd was sent off for an off-the-ball incident with McCallum.
Queens didn’t look like a side playing with a man less and came close to a fourth when the woodwork came to Livi’s rescue once again as Hilson’s fine effort from distance crashed back off the bar. Livi made a rare foray forward shortly after with Danny Mullen, who had come on for Scott Pittman before the third goal, firing in an effort that Atkinson saved comfortably. Mark Fotheringham then picked up a yellow card for a petulant foul.
Livi, perhaps knowing their fate, offered very little threat in the dying moments as they slumped into the play-offs with a whimper.
Full-time: Queen of the South 3-1 Livingston
The Lions finish the regular season with back-to-back home games against champions Rangers on Tuesday and Raith Rovers on Sunday. That will be followed by a two-legged play-off semi-final against League One’s fourth-placed side, either Stranraer, Airdrieonians or Albion Rovers.
Queen of the South: Dowie, Higgins, Millar, Lyle (Jacobs 74), Russell (Harris 66), Tapping, Atkinson, Hilson, Hooper (Kidd 56), Marshall, Oliver
Subs not used: Thomson, Brownlie, Murdoch, Smith
Goals: Lyle (60 pen & 69), Oliver (79)
Livingston: McCallum, Halkett, Kakay, Neill, Longridge, Buchanan, Telfer (Sheerin 60), Fotheringham, Stanton, White, Pittman (Mullen 77)
Subs not used: Jamieson, Currie, Knox, Mullin, Gordon
Goals: Stanton (29)
Referee: Mat Northcroft
Match report: Andy Crawford