Livi extended their unbeaten run to nine league games but it was a frustrating afternoon as they were held to a goalless draw by Falkirk at a freezing cold Tony Macaroni Arena.
Lee Miller came closest to breaking the deadlock as he saw a late header cleared off the line but results elsewhere ensured no harm was done to the Lions’ playoff push as they maintained their seven point lead over third-placed Dundee United.
David Hopkin sprang a few surprises in his starting line-up as he made four changes from the dramatic 1-1 draw with Morton four days earlier. Shaun Byrne missed out through suspension while Jordan Thompson, Raffaele De Vita and Lee Miller dropped to the bench. Gregor Buchanan, Jackson Longridge, Keaghan Jacobs and Steven Boyd came in from the start.
Bairns keeper Conor Hazard was the first to be called into action on nine minutes when Alan Lithgow sent a high, looping cross into the box and the on-loan Celtic stopper had to be alert to gather as the wind threatened to carry it into the net. Neil Alexander’s first involvement came four minutes later as Andrew Nelson beat Buchanan to Louis Longridge’s cross but his effort lacked power and the Livi keeper was able to gather with ease.
The Lions came close to breaking the deadlock on 16 minutes when Craig Halkett released Ryan Hardie down the left and he cut inside before slipping the ball through to Longridge but his shot from a tight angle was straight at Hazard. They were then lucky not to fall behind a minute later when Alex Jakubiak was given far too much space in the box and he brought the ball down before firing in a powerful effort that was brilliantly tipped over by Alexander.
Livi had the ball in the net on 21 minutes when Lithgow’s cross was smartly volleyed home by Josh Mullin at the far post but the linesman’s flag was up to deny him before Longridge fired an effort over from 25 yards soon after.
The best chance of the match came Livi’s way barely a minute later when Longridge’s fierce cross found Scott Pittman unmarked but he could only bullet his header a foot over the bar from eight yards out. Declan Gallagher then met a Mullin corner three minutes later but his near-post volley bounced wide before Boyd fired a long range effort straight at Hazard shortly after.
The visitors finally found a way back into Livi’s half on 34 minutes but Nelson could only drag an effort wide from 20 yards before another golden change went begging for the Lions when Longridge’s free kick fell to Mullin in the box but he sent his effort high over the bar from 12 yards. Hardie then did well to control a clipped ball in from Boyd but his shot on the turn flew wide.
Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Falkirk
Livi made a bright start to the second half and Pittman had a sight of goal on 47 minutes as he latched on to a loose ball but his effort trundled harmlessly wide. The visitors then threatened when Nelson beat Alexander to a loose ball before trying to lob the Livi keeper but he didn’t get enough height on his effort and it flew straight into Alexander’s arms.
Another big chance came and went for the Lions on 55 minutes when Lithgow’s long throw was flicked on by Gallagher for Pittman but his close-range volley flew high over the bar. There was a lighter moment three minutes later when the visitors were awarded a free kick which prompted an angry reaction from the Livi manager but, in his attempt to boot the ball away, he missed, slipped and fell to the ground, much to the amusement of his coaches and the Livi fans. Fortunately he was able to see the funny side!
Gallagher headed a Mullin corner wide on 65 minutes before Livi made two quickfire changes, sending on De Vita and Miller for Mullin and Boyd. Hardie then forced another save out of Hazard when he fired a low drive straight at the Bairns keeper from 20 yards.
Livi were ramping up the pressure in the closing stages and Jacobs saw an effort from the edge of the box deflected wide before Falkirk boss Paul Hartley made his first change as Kevin O’Hara replaced Nelson. Then came the big chance for the Lions on 85 minutes as De Vita’s sumptuous cross was perfect for Miller and his header across goal looked netbound until Aaron Muirhead cleared off the line.
Falkirk then made their final two changes in the dying minutes as Reghan Tumilty and Tommy Robson, both having suffered unfortunately timed bouts of cramp, were replaced by Lewis Kidd and Paul Watson. Livi then made their final switch as Jack McMillan replaced Longridge.
McMillan almost set up a winner for the Lions at the death but saw his low cross cleared as both sides settled for a share of the spoils that was far more welcome for the visitors.
Full-time: Livingston 0-0 Falkirk
Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Mullin (De Vita 65), Pittman, Buchanan, J.Longridge (McMillan 90), Boyd (Miller 68), Jacobs, Hardie
Subs not used: Maley, Thompson, Robinson, Cadden
Falkirk: Hazard, McGhee, Muirhead (c), Grant, Sibbald, L.Longridge, Tumilty (Kidd 90), Blair, Jakubiak, Robson (Watson 90), Nelson (O’Hara 81)
Subs not used: Thomson, McKee, Taiwo, Welsh
Referee: Gavin Duncan
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine