The Lions brought the points back to West Lothian after a scrappy affair on a pitch that was bumpy and uneven.
The game lacked any genuine quality, with passing and creativity almost impossible on a playing surface that would have challenged the world’s most gifted players. However, after almost 90 minutes of poor fayre, the travelling fans were treated to late drama as their favourites won a last minute penalty to snatch a dramatic victory when the match looked destined to end goalless.
Livi, all in black, were without Mikey Miller and Danny Mullen for the game, with both missing out due to injury. Raffaele De Vita and Liam Watt were the replacements, while Nicky Cadden came in for Josh Mullin after impressing with a goal against former side Airdrie last week.
It was the visitors who had the first effort of the match, but the keeper wasn’t truly tested. De Vita’s cross from the right wing was knocked down to Watt by Pittman, but the midfielder’s shot went high and wide. It took Livi a while to get into the swing of things, and for the majority of the first half Albion were on top. The home side seemed to cope better with the underfoot conditions and looked threatening in possession without putting Kelly under pressure.
The league leaders weren’t in top gear, that’s for sure, and Rovers looked to punish, just like they did in the reverse fixture. Boyd found Wallace with a through ball, but the striker dragged his shot wide. Another chance for Rovers came minutes later. Wallace tried his luck again but his shot was blocked. The block fell to a red shirt but the effort flew over. With Scott Pittman looking composed and typically industrious, Nicky Cadden was really the only player that created any danger for The Lions in the first half. He beat his man and got to the by-line on several occasions but, invariably, his crosses were cleared or intercepted by the home defenders.
As half time approached, Cadden looked dangerous again and he found space outside the box, but his effort was well saved by Rovers’ goalkeeper Ross Stewart. Both sides created half chances rather than clear cut opportunities and there was very little to concern either defence. Albion looked the more likely to score, having greater possession of the ball, but the sides went in level at the break. Livi didn’t look like the team at the top of League One and were below par in the first 45 minutes.
HT: Albion Rovers 0-0 Livingston
The Lions started the second half shooting left to right, towards the travelling support that had congregated behind the goal. Nicky Cadden caused danger on the left wing whenever he received the ball. He took the ball skilfully past his opponent, Gilmour, only to be brought down and a a yellow card was shown to the Rovers midfielder. De Vita’s ball in from the free kick didn’t trouble the Albion defence but another was awarded a few minutes later in a very similar area. The ball fell to Alan Lithgow who held it up and turned, but a miscommunication between the big centre-half and Liam Buchanan saw the chance squandered.
Moments later another chance came for Livi, who were starting to dominate possession as Rovers tired. Watt’s cross was cleared to the edge of the box, where Scott Pittman met the ball in the air with a first time volley but his effort flew over the bar. Cadden beat his man again and delivered a low cross, which was cleared to the edge of the box to Pittman. The midfielder tried his luck but his shot was deflected wide for a corner.
With around 15 minutes to go, The Lions made their first change of the day with Dale Carrick replacing Liam Watt. Immediately, the striker was involved. He played in Liam Buchanan, whose shot was parried out to De Vita but the Italian failed to make contact with the ball and Rovers cleared the ball for a corner. With the game entering its final moments, Morgyn Neill replaced Liam Buchanan in a substitution that looked unconventional. However, within seconds, he was in the box and causing problems from a Livi corner, which eventually came to nothing.
Just moments later, in the 89th minute, the decisive moment of the game arrived. Livi, probing for an opening, played the ball forward to Dale Carrick inside the penalty area with his back to goal. As he looked to control it, he was bundled to the ground by a Rovers defender in a clumsy attempt to win possession. The referee pointed to the spot and awarded a penalty to the League One leaders, which the home side will undoubtedly argue was a harsh decision.
With Buchanan having been subbed just moments before, the fans wondered who would step up to take the spot kick. Nicky Cadden took responsibility and the winger smashed the ball straight down the middle past the diving Stewart to send Livi into the lead. Deep into added time, Livi got the ball up the pitch to De Vita, who beat Reid but was hacked to the ground by the defender who’d already been cautioned. The referee showed no hesitation in showing the Rovers player a second yellow card, quickly followed by a red.
So, in the end, it was a valuable 3 points for Livingston on a day when they lacked their usual flair and creativity. Rovers will feel aggrieved that they took nothing from a game that they didn’t deserve to lose. However, such victories are essential for teams looking to win the league.
It may not have been the most entertaining game of the season so far, but it was a truly fantastic ending for the travelling support.
FT: Albion Rovers 0-1 Livingston
Albion Rovers: RM.Stewart, Reid, McBride, Fisher, R.Dunlop, M.Dunlop, Gilmour (Ferguson 57), Davidson, Wallace, Boyd (RC.Stewart 75), Willis
Subs not used: McCann, Ferry, Potts, Archibald, Lightbody
Livingston: Kelly, Crighton, Lithgow, Longridge, Halkett, Buchanan (Neill 87), Byrne, Pittman, Cadden, De Vita, Watt (Carrick 79)
Subs not used: Maley, Knox, Currie, Ogilvie, Mullin
Goals: Cadden (89 pen)
Referee: David Munro
Match report: Calum Brown