Livi produced an outstanding defensive performance to claim a fine goalless draw in a pulsating encounter with league leaders Heart of Midlothian at Tynecastle Park.
Liam Kelly saved Steven Naismith’s penalty on the stroke of half time to secure a valuable point and maintain Gary Holt’s unbeaten record since becoming Livi boss.
The Lions were unchanged for the third match in a row as they looked for a fourth consecutive win and they made a bright start, Stevie Lawless releasing Scott Robinson only for the former Jambo to be flagged offside. An Alan Lithgow throw then caused alarm in the home defence before they were able to clear.
Hearts then looked to threaten and Peter Haring tried to get on the end of a through ball but Kelly was out smartly to gather. Livi picked up the first yellow card of the game on nine minutes when Scott Robinson was cautioned for a heavy challenge, albeit a ball-winning one, on Olly Lee. The resulting free kick was curled into the back post by Naismith but Kelly was able to gather.
The Lions forced a couple of chances in quick succession on 15 minutes when Lawless fed Menga who cut inside and saw his low shot deflected wide for a corner that was met by Craig Halkett, who saw his header comfortably gathered by Bobby Zlamal in the Hearts goal. The home side then went close two minutes later as a free kick from the right was met at the back post by Jimmy Dunne but his header crashed back off the bar.
Livi were very much in the game and had another chance on 22 minutes when Menga and Robinson linked up well and the Angolan tried his luck from a tight angle but saw his effort go across goal and wide. Stevie Lawless then tried to repeat his Hamilton heroics six minutes later when Lithgow’s long throw fell to him at the edge of the box but his volley bounced through to Zlamal.
Naismith picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Scott Pittman on 31 minutes and, from the resulting free kick, Keaghan Jacobs’ cross was met by Halkett but his powerful header was straight at Zlamal. Pittman came to Livi’s rescue four minutes later when a corner fell to Demitri Mitchell 25 yards out and his ferocious volley was bravely headed clear by the Livi midfielder.
Just as it looked like the first half was petering out, the home side were awarded a penalty in injury time as Kelly was, perhaps harshly, adjudged to have brought down Naismith in the box. The Lions keeper would have the last laugh, though, as he produced a superb one-handed save low to his right to keep the scores level at the interval.
Half-time: Heart of Midlothian 0-0 Livingston
Hearts made a strong start to the second half and Ben Garuccio tried his luck from long range but saw his effort deflected wide for the first of two quickfire corners that Livi dealt with comfortably. Garuccio was then substituted four minutes later and replaced by Callumn Morrison.
The Lions had a great chance to break the deadlock on 54 minutes when a quick counter attack saw Menga release Pittman but Zlamal was out smartly to make a good save. Lithgow then got on the end of Jacobs’ cross a minute later but could only glance his header across goal and just wide. A similar chance fell Hearts’ way on 57 minutes when Craig Wighton glanced Morrison’s cross wide.
Livi made their first change just after the hour mark as Jack McMillan replaced Robinson before Menga picked up silly yellow card for a needless foul on Michael Smith four minutes later. The home side then made their second change as Arnaud Djoum replaced Wighton. Menga had a sight of goal on 68 minutes as he got away from John Souttar and let fly from the edge of the box but his effort was straight at Zlamal.
Livi made their second change on 71 minutes as Nicky Cadden replaced Lawless before Naismith tried his luck with a curling effort from the corner of the box that was easily saved by Kelly. Gary Holt made his final switch eight minutes later as Menga’s excellent shift finished early, Jack Hamilton coming on to replace him.
Mitchell had a go from distance on 83 minutes but his effort would have been better suited to Murrayfield as it sailed high into the Roseburn Stand before Jake Mulraney replaced Lee in the Jambos’ final change. Byrne then fed Cadden three minutes later but his low effort trundled wide.
Livi then had a huge let off in the final minute of normal time as Souttar’s mishit shot fell to Mulraney six yards out but his effort looped up and came back off the crossbar. After that escape, the Lions saw out the four added minutes quite comfortably to secure a well-deserved point and remain third in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Full-time: Heart of Midlothian 0-0 Livingston
Hearts: Zlamal, Smith, Souttar, Dunne, Garuccio (Morrison 51), Naismith, Lee (Mulraney 84), Haring, Mitchell, Wighton (Djoum 65), MacLean
Subs not used: Dikamona, Bozanic, Doyle, McDonald
Livingston: Kelly, Lamie, Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Lawless (Cadden 71), Byrne, Pittman, Jacobs, Robinson (McMillan 62), Menga (Hamilton 80)
Subs not Used: Stewart, Kaja, Saunders, Lawson
Referee: Don Robertson
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine