Falkirk 1-3 Livingston

Livi avenged their recent Cup defeat with a fine victory at the Falkirk Stadium to make it three straight league wins and move to within a point of second-placed Dundee United in the Ladbrokes Championship.

A scintillating display saw goals from Alan Lithgow and a Ryan Hardie double put the Lions three goals up with Alex Jakubiak’s reply turning out to be little more than a consolation as they strolled to victory.

David Hopkin made one change to his side from the 2-0 win over Dumbarton the week before as Shaun Byrne returned from suspension to replace Gregor Buchanan, who dropped to the bench.

The Lions made a storming start and came close to taking the lead inside two minutes when the ball dropped to Lee Miller in the box and he saw his shot parried by Robbie Thomson. The Bairns keeper was called into action barely a minute later when Hardie cut inside from the right and curled in a long range effort that Thomson saved well.

It was all Livi and they came close again on seven minutes when Declan Gallagher released Raffaele De Vita down the left and, though his cross was blocked, the resulting corner was met by Craig Halkett who headed wide. A few minutes later, Nicky Cadden did superbly down the left and crossed for Hardie. The on-loan Rangers man saw his first effort cleared but Cadden found him again and he glanced a shot wide.

More Lions pressure saw De Vita find Miller in the box but his header just evaded Cadden and Hardie and the home side were able to clear. Three minutes later, Cadden’s corner was met by Halkett and his header beat Thomson but was hacked off the line by Lewis Kidd. Gallagher gathered the loose ball and his cross was met by Miller who headed wide.

Livi had the ball in the net on 26 minutes as Lithgow headed home but he was harshly adjudged to have fouled Thomson before Cadden picked up the game’s first yellow card for a foul on Louis Longridge.

The deadlock was finally broken on 38 minutes when, after Andrew Nelson was lucky to avoid a card for a foul on Byrne, De Vita’s free kick found Halkett in the box and he teed up Lithgow to fire a fine effort into the bottom corner with the outside of his right foot.

The home side finally offered their first threat a minute from half time as Nelson broke through one-on-one with Neil Alexander but he poked his effort the wrong side of the post as Livi went in at the interval in front.

Half-time: Falkirk 0-1 Livingston

Livi continued to dominate as the second half got underway and twice came close to doubling their lead on 54 minutes. First, Gallagher saw a header well saved by Thomson before Cadden rounded the keeper but saw his effort blocked by a sliding defender.

That proved only a brief reprieve for the Bairns as Livi went 2-0 up barely two minutes later when Gallagher released Jordan Thompson down the left and his fine first-time cross was met by Hardie who bulleted his header home via the underside of the bar.

The Lions didn’t hang about and made it three just after the hour mark when De Vita’s free kick was glanced home by Hardie. There was some debate over who got the final touch but the Italian eventually conceded that it was Hardie’s goal.

Hardie’s next act was to pick up a yellow card for pulling back a Bairns defender before the home side pulled a goal back on 72 minutes when sub Jakubiak showed neat footwork before placing a shot low past Alexander to reduce the arrears.

Livi had visibly dropped off with the match appearing to be won and Longridge should have made it 3-2 with twelve minutes left when he found himself in acres of space just eight yards out but he fired his volley wide.

The Lions made their three changes in the space of five minutes as Miller, Cadden and Hardie were replaced by Steven Boyd, Josh Mullin and Buchanan. Those changes succeeded in stalling any momentum the home side were looking to build as Livi eased to victory and opened up a six-point cushion in the race for a place in the Premiership play-offs.

Full-time: Falkirk 1-3 Livingston

Falkirk: Thomson, Kidd (McKee 75), McGhee, Muirhead, Grant, Taiwo (Jakubiak 62), Sibbald, Longridge, Tumilty, Robson, Nelson (Loy 68)
Subs not used: Hazard, O’Hara, Blair, Watson
Goals: Jakubiak (72)

Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Byrne, Pittman, Cadden(Mullin 80), Miller (Boyd 78), Hardie(Buchanan 83), De Vita, Thompson, Halkett, Gallagher
Subs not used: Maley, McMillan, Longridge, Robinson
Goals: Lithgow (39), Hardie (59), De Vita (62)

John McKendrick
Att: 4,123
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine

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