Livi have left themselves with a mountain to climb in the second leg as Stranraer took control of the Championship Play-off semi-final on a disastrous night for the Lions at Stair Park.
After a dream start, it quickly turned into a nightmare for the Lions as Brian Reid’s side stormed back to claim a thumping win and put one foot in the final.
Lions boss David Hopkin made six changes to the side that lost to Raith Rovers last Saturday as Marc McCallum, Liam Buchanan, Jackson Longridge, Sam Stanton, Jordan White and Scott Pittman returned to the starting line-up in place of Darren Jamieson, Jordyn Sheerin, Charlie Telfer, Matthew Knox, Ryan Currie and Mark Fotheringham.
Livi started the match brightly and Josh Mullin released Buchanan down the right and he rounded goalkeeper Cameron Belford but his effort from the tightest of angles was deflected wide for a corner. The resulting corner fell to Stanton at the edge of the box and he controlled it well but could only fire his effort just over.
The Lions were rewarded for their strong start as they broke the deadlock on 10 minutes as Mullin’s free kick was flicked on by Stanton for White to fire home. The lead lasted barely five minutes though as Stranraer quickly drew level when a cross to the back post was met by a fine first-time finish from Mark McGuigan as he cushioned an effort back across goal into the corner of the net.
Barely two minutes later the home side were in front as Andy Stirling was allowed to amble forward totally unchallenged and fire a powerful effort past McCallum from 20 yards. It was nearly 3-1 four minutes later as Scott Robertson rose unchanged at a corner but he headed over from 10 yards.
Stranraer were winning the midfield battles all too easily which allowed them to dominate proceedings and they added a third six minutes before half-time when Willie Gibson curled a free kick low past McCallum. They continued to control the match and eased through to the interval with their 3-1 lead intact.
Half-time: Stranraer 3-1 Livingston
Hopkin made a double change at half-time as Danny Mullen and Josh Mullin both went off to be replaced by Charlie Telfer and Mark Fotheringham as they tried to gain control in the midfield area.
Temperatures started to fray as frustration set in and Fotheringham and Osman Kakay were spoken to by ref Steven McLean. Livi tried to take the game to the home side and Stanton did well to hit the byline but saw his cutback blocked.
Shortly after, the ball found its way to Jordan White in the box but he was well marshalled by the home defence and couldn’t get a shot away. Fotheringham was then shown a yellow card for a foul on Gibson.
There was a huge let-off for Livi as a free kick from Gibson on the right flew right across the face of goal but no Stranraer player could get a touch. Livi made the most of that as they went up the other end to give themselves a lifeline as a terrific cross from White was met by Buchanan at the back post and he headed back across goal and into the net.
Before they could built any momentum, though, the home side restored their two goal lead as a cross found McGuigan unmarked to tap home. Livi made their final change shortly after as Morgyn Neill was replaced by Darren Cole.
Livi’s night got even worse on 81 minutes as Gibson’s cross deflected in off Cole to make it 5-2 though they almost pulled one back shortly after when Halkett met Telfer’s corner but headed inches wide.
Stranraer nearly made it six in the dying minutes as sub Jamie Longworth got into the box and cut inside but his low effort was well saved by McCallum. The ball was cleared only as far as Robertson but his powerful effort was well cleared off the line by Stanton.
That proved the final action of note on a miserable night for Livi in the south west and they now have it all to do to save their Championship status this afternoon.
Full-time: Stranraer 5-2 Livingston
Stranraer: Belford, Robertson, Pettigrew, Bell, Dick, Cairney (Turner 88), Stirling, Thomson, Gibson, Malcolm (Kemp 84), McGuigan (Longworth 82)
Subs not used: Currie, Barron, McClosley, Rumsby
Goals: McGuigan (14 & 70), Stirling (17), Gibson (40 & 81)
Livingston: McCallum, Halkett, Buchanan, Neill (Cole 72), Longridge, Kakay, Pittman, Mullin (Fotheringham 45), Stanton, White, Mullen (Telfer 45)
Subs not used: Jamieson, Sheerin, Currie, Knox
Goals: White (10), Buchanan (68)
Referee: John Beaton
Match Report: Andy Crawford