Livingston battled their way to a point in Perth, with Dara Costelloe’s first half strike cancelled out by a Sean Kelly penalty for a 1-1 draw against St Johnstone.
David Martindale introduced a host of changes from the side that exited the Viaplay Cup on Wednesday; Tom Parkes, Bruce Anderson, Mo Sangare and Andrew Shinnie coming in, with Stephen Kelly, Daniel MacKay, Luiyi De Lucas and Kurtis Guthrie dropping to the bench.
The first real opportunity of the game fell to the hosts, with Mo Sangare failing to clear in the box from a corner. The ball was poked towards goal however was wide left and no trouble for Shamal George.
Livi had a good opportunity quarter of an hour in, with Joel Nouble getting the ball on the left wing. Beating the defender he drove into the box along the byline, however was unable to get a pass away, being blocked for a corner. This was taken by Sean Kelly, whose delivery found Sangare in the box, however his header was blocked, with Tom Parkes’ follow up shot cleared for a throw in.
Livingston looked tired and a shadow of what they had shown they can be this season, and this was showing against a poor Saints side. The hosts were denied the opener after some fine work from Graham Carey down the left side of the box saw him hit the byline and cut the ball back for Luke Jephcott. The 23 year old will be disappointed, as his shot from the six yard box was blocked and cleared when it looked easier to slot the ball home.
It was all St Johnstone as the hosts continued to carve out chances to take the lead. A corner from the left ended in a scramble in the box, and all it needed was a toe to prod the ball home, however it ended up being cleared by Livi. The clearance would only go as far as Andy Considine on the right side of the box, but his wicked cross failed to find a blue shirt.
Livi would get a chance on target, with some beautiful quick passing along the midfield trio of Shinnie, Holt and Sangare allowing space to open up outside the St Johnstone box for Jamie Brandon, but his shot was straight at Saint’s keeper Dimitar Mitov who saved easily.
A mere 60 seconds later and the ball was in the back of the net, however it was for the home side.
A clever ball carved open the Livi defence and left Costelloe clean through on goal. Shamal George managed to get a hand to the shot however it was too strong and found the net for the hosts to open the scoring.
And it was almost two just a minute later, with Costelloe again breaking through the defence, however his poked effort was saved remarkably well by George.
Livi were panicky and Ayo Obileye almost scored a stunning own goal five minutes before the break. Carey, who was a nuisance down the left-hand side all game played in a cross, which Obileye swung a leg at. Rather than connecting and clearing, the ball spun off his shin and looped over George in the Livi goal, who looked helplessly on as the ball crashed onto the top of the net.
David Martindale made a change at half time with Jamie Brandon coming off for the more attack minded Daniel MacKay, however it would again be St Johnstone who would get the first chance of the second half, with Carey striking the ball from 25 yards out, however the shot would fizz wide.
The Lions finally started to get a foothold in the game, and were starting to create chances. A lovely reverse pass on the edge of the box found Bruce Anderson, who’s first time strike forced a wonderful save from Mitov in the Saint’s goal, however the Livi number 9 was adjudged to be offside in any case.
Just before the hour mark, Livi found themselves was a golden opportunity to level the scoring. Joel Nouble was chasing a nothing ball over the top, which looked all the way to be going out, however a coming together between him and St Johnstone captain Liam Gordon had Graham Grainger pointing to the spot. A quick VAR check confirmed the foul had happened in the box, and up stepped Sean Kelly, sending the ball to the right as Mitov dived the other way to end Livi’s abysmal penalty record, and more importantly draw the game.
From then on, it was all Livi as the visitors burst into life. A lovely Sean Kelly free kick found Obileye all alone at the back post, however his header landed just wide of the goal.
A similar free kick from the opposite side minutes later would be delivered by sub Stephen Kelly, with Nouble finding the target, forcing a simple save from Mitov.
There would be some confusion into the final ten minutes of the match. Nouble was challenged robustly by Liam Gordon, and was left in a heap on the floor. Referee Grainger allowed play to continue and as one of the St Johnstone players kicked the ball out for Nouble to receive treatment, Jason Holt barged ruthlessly into him with a slightly raised foot. In the melee, Holt was booked and VAR opted to take a look at a possible red card. With most in the ground assuming it was for Holt, there was shock when Grainger finished looking at the monitor and showed Gordon a red card for the challenge on Nouble, however replays would show a high, dangerous tackle on the Livi man with studs up.
This allowed Livi to remain on the front foot however they were unable to make their numerical advantage count as they headed back down the M90 with a deserved point in the end.
Match Report: David Hastie
Mitov, Wright (Olufunwa 84), Gordon ©️ ▊, Considine, Robinson, Phillips, Costelloe (McClelland 84), Kucheriavyi (Turner-Cook 68), Sprangler ▊(Smith 90+2), Carey, Jephcott (May ▊ 68)
Subs not used:
George, Parkes (de Lucas 62), Obileye, Anderson, Brandon (MacKay ▊ 45), Holt ©️ ▊, Nouble, Sangare (Guthrie 69), Shinnie (Pittman 69), Sn.Kelly (St.Kelly 78), Penrice
Subs not used:
|Referee: Willie Collum | HT: 0-1 | Att:|