Livi’s excellent start to the league campaign came to a juddering halt at the National Stadium.
The Lions went into the game brimming with confidence, following their 100% record and thirteen goals from the opening three games. However, that confidence was misplaced as they came away from Hampden empty-handed. The Spiders, building up to their 150th anniversary, wore an unfamiliar dark blue commemorative kit for the first time whereas The Lions reverted to their Argentina-style pale blue and white striped away tops.
A fine day and a perfect playing surface promised an afternoon of free-flowing, expansive football but neither side took advantage of the ideal conditions.
The game started slowly, with both sides taking a cautious approach. The only incident of note came in the 15th minute when Liam Buchanan’s powerful shot was pushed away by Queens Park’s goalkeeper Andrew Murphy. The resulting follow-up from Scott Pittman was blocked by a covering defender.
The first 25 minutes saw very few attempts at goal and the home side took the lead in suitably strange circumstances. A corner was played beyond the congested six yard box to the far post where Malone’s volley back towards goal took a deflection and crossed the line without hitting the back of the net. The home supporters were as confused as those travelling from West Lothian, but the referee awarded the goal with the assistance of the stand-side linesman.
Livi huffed and puffed but found their opponents full of energy, closing down The Lions in midfield at every opportunity. Despite winning a succession of corners, the visitors were unable to pose a genuine threat to the home side’s defence.
If the Livi supporters were optimistic that the first half performance was simply a blip, they were to be disappointed. The Lions failed to take advantage of the conditions and the quality of passing was surprisingly poor, given the immaculate playing surface. The match continued and a pattern of play eventually emerged.
The Spiders seemed content to give their visitors more and more possession, retreating into their own half and content to try to catch Livi on the counter attack. The work rate from the hosts was excellent, frustrating Livi at every turn. Despite that superior possession, The Lions failed to create clear cut chances in front of goal and the most encouraging opportunities came from set pieces rather than from open play.
Mullen and Miller squandered decent chances but the efforts become increasingly desperate as the time ebbed away. Queens Park brought on fresh legs to maintain the team’s energy and almost scored a second when Kelly’s diving save prevented Carter from finding the net from 20 yards. Livi did have the ball in the net in the 76th minute, when Danny Mullen’s header looked to have levelled the game, but the assistant referee flagged for offside. It looked to be a controversial decision, given that the cross was delivered from a wide area close to the touchline.
That, in effect, was the last meaningful attempt from The Lions and the referee brought the game to an end to a chorus of cheers from the home fans. The Livi supporters were left to ponder why such a poor performance followed previously excellent form.
Queen’s Park: Murphy, Millen, Gibson, McVey, McGeever, Cummins, Woods (Brady 90), Miller, Malone (Carter 69), Watt (Galt 64), Burns
Subs not used: Wharton, Fotheringham, Brown, MacPherson
Goals: Malone (25)
Livingston: Kelly, Halkett, Lithgow, Crighton, Longridge, Miller, Byrne (Watt 75), Pittman, Cadden (Mullin 63), Mullen (Neill 63), Buchanan
Subs not used: Maley, Orr, Sinclair, Allan
Referee: Kevin Graham
Match report: Calum Brown