Livi slipped to their first defeat of the New Year as Ross County avenged two four-goal hidings by the Lions with a 2-0 victory at the Global Energy Stadium.
Billy McKay struck early in each half to hand the Lions their first reverse since Boxing Day and bolster their own hopes of avoiding relegation. Livi enjoyed a lot of the ball and created a few chances but failed to really test County keeper Nathan Baxter.
Gary Holt stuck with same starting line-up from the win over Motherwell three days earlier, while there was a return to the bench for Dolly Menga after the early end of his loan spell in his native Angola.
The Lions got off to the worst possible start as they fell behind inside two minutes when a deep cross from the left was laid off by Harry Paton for McKay to fire a low, angled drive past McCrorie in the far corner. Paton almost added a second six minutes later but saw his curling effort deflected wide.
Livi threatened for the first time on ten minutes as Aaron Taylor-Sinclair drove down the left before whipping in a terrific low cross – there were three men in white in the box but none were able to get on the end of it. Callum Morris then headed wide for the home side eight minutes later before picking up a yellow card on 25 minutes after just about kicking Scott Robinson’s head off. Craig Sibbald followed suit soon after for a late tackle on Paton.
Livi were doing a lot of pressing without really testing the home defence, although they did come close on 38 minutes with a well-worked move down the right that ended with Lyndon Dykes bursting into the box but he could only find the side netting with his fierce effort to ensure that County kept their lead intact at the interval.
Full-time: Ross County 1-0 Livingston
Having fallen behind in the opening minutes of the first half, Livi almost turned the tables on County three minutes after the restart as Sibbald’s corner found Ciaron Brown at the near post but his glancing header drifted agonisingly wide of the far post. Scott Pittman then fired in a fine half volley from 30 yards that only cleared the bar by a couple of feet six minutes later.
Dykes went into the book on 56 minutes after an aerial collision with Donaldson that left the former Livi defender with a cut to his cheek before the home side doubled their lead four minutes later when a through ball sent McKay running clear and, as the Lions defence appealed for offside, he skipped past McCrorie and slotted home his second of the game despite Jon Guthrie’s valiant attempt to clear off the line.
McKay should have completed his hat-trick on 65 minutes when Sean Kelly whipped in a dangerous cross from the left and, with McCrorie bizarrely wandering across to his far post, the ex-Dundee United man was left with a virtually open goal but could only steer his effort wide. That let-off sparked decisive action from Gary Holt as he made a triple substitution with Steve Lawson, Robbie Crawford and Menga came on for Jack McMillan, Sibbald and Robinson.
Menga was quickly into the action, bursting away from Paton and leaving him on the seat of his pants before driving an effort wide. Fellow sub Lawson then whipped a dangerous ball in from the right on 75 minutes but Baxter was out smartly to gather. Oli Shaw then replaced McKay for the visitors shortly after.
Livi almost had one back on 79 minutes when a deep cross from Lawson found Guthrie at the far post and he looped an effort back across goal but just wide. Don Cowie then replaced Paton for the host moments later as they looked to shore things up before Lawson sent another cross into Baxter’s grateful arms with Dykes lurking.
Ross Draper picked up a yellow card for a foul on Menga as he looked to break forward before Brown had his legs swiped out from under him in the box. Everyone in the ground knew it was a penalty, except referee Nick Walsh who pointed the other way and booked the Livi man for diving. He then compounded matters by booking captain Marvin Bartley for questioning the decision.
Menga had looked lively since coming and got in down the left on a number of occasions but his crosses failed to find their target as the Lions’ five-match winning run was brought to a shuddering halt.
Full-time: Ross County 2-0 Livingston
Ross County: Baxter, Donaldson, Morris, Fontaine, Fraser, Paton (Cowie 81), Draper, Vigurs, Kelly, McKay (Shaw 77), Erwin (Tillson 90)
Subs not used: Foster, Laidlaw, Mullin, Watson
Goals: McKay (2 & 59)
Livingston: McCrorie, McMillan (Lawson 67), Taylor-Sinclair, Brown, Guthrie, Bartley, Pittman, Sibbald (Crawford 67), Lawless, Robinson (Menga 67), Dykes
Subs not used: Maley, Lamie, Jacobs, Souda
Referee: Nick Walsh
Match Report: Andy Crawford