Livi made it three straight away Championship wins for the first time since 2012 as they eased past Falkirk to move into the top four.
Not since John Hughes’ Lions strung together five wins on their travels had they managed the feat but quickfire goals from Danny Mullen and Josh Mullin early in the second half ensured Livi’s impressive start to life back in the second tier continued.
David Hopkin made five changes to the side that pushed Hibs all the way in the Betfred Cup as Mullin, Mullen, Declan Gallagher, Jackson Longridge and James Penrice came in for Matthew Knox, Keaghan Jacobs, Raffaele De Vita, Nicky Cadden and Dale Carrick.
In what was a fairly drab first half, it was the Bairns enjoyed the majority of the early play but created few chances of note as several balls into the box from wide areas were booted clear by the Livi defence. Alex Harris had an effort from 20 yards out that was deflected past the post, before Jordan McGhee’s attempted overhead kick was scuffed and the visitors were able to clear.
In truth, there were very few chances of note throughout the first half. There was plenty of endeavour from the Bairns, but it was that final ball and touch that was lacking to get themselves in front.
The Lions thought they had scored the opener just past the half hour mark as Jackson Longridge headed home Josh Mullin’s cross, but referee Greg Aitken adjudged him to have fouled Aaron Muirhead in jumping for the ball and disallowed the goal. It looked a very harsh decision.
Rory Loy had a good opportunity to put the Bairns in front just before the break as he hit a volley on the turn just wide of the target after Sibbald had headed a corner back into the danger area.
The two sides simply couldn’t be split at the break leaving both managers with work to do at the interval.
Half-time: Falkirk 0-0 Livingston
After such a quiet first half, the match burst into life after the break as Livi struck a quickfire double to take control of the match.
The first goal was the result of a horrible defensive lapse from the home side as Alex Harris’ massively underhit backpass was pounced on by Penrice and he cut the ball back for Mullen to fire into the unguarded net. After Robbie Thomson made a smart save to deny Scott Pittman, the Lions doubled their lead on 53 minutes as Mullin curled a fine free kick into the bottom corner.
It left Peter Houston’s side with a mountain to climb and they set about trying to reduce the deficit as Tony Gallacher flashed a low ball into the box that was inches away from substitute Lee Miller. Houston soon made another change as he searched for a way back into the match with Nathan Austin taking the place of Harris.
The home side’s efforts were fruitless as the Livi defence remained well drilled, organised and made life difficult for the Bairns who continued to try and find a route back into the match. Aaron Muirhead released Kevin O’Hara on the right, he cut back to Lee Miller, but the ball just wouldn’t drop for the striker to get his shot away and the Lions cleared.
Then came a big chance for Austin on 83 minutes as he smacked the underside of the bar after going clean through on goal. The striker was involved again just minutes later as he had an effort blocked from a tight angle, before Conrad Balatoni’s goalbound header from Tom Taiwo’s corner was well held by Neil Alexander.
The Lions were in control but there was to be a late blow as Declan Gallagher was sent off late on. It proved little inconvenience to David Hopkin’s side as they comfortably on to secure an impressive away victory and move into the promotion play-off places.
Full-time: Falkirk 0-2 Livingston
Falkirk: Thomson, McGhee (Gasparotto 54), Muirhead, Balatoni, Gallacher, Taiwo, Kerr, Sibbald, Harris (Austin 64), O’Hara, Loy (Miller 54)
Subs not used: McKee, Mitchellm, Blues, Craigen
Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Longridge, Byrne, Mullin, Pittman, Penrice (Jacobs 78), Todorov (McMillan 60), Mullen (Cadden 78)
Subs not used: Mackin, Knox, Carrick, Maley
Goals: Mullen (46), Mullin (53)
Referee: Greig Aitken
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine