A much-changed Livi side slipped to a first home defeat since January as Inverness Caledonian Thistle keep their faint play-off hopes alive with a narrow win at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
A fine low strike from Liam Polworth was enough to give John Robertson’s side the three points and move them to within two of fourth-placed Dunfermline in the race for the final spot in the Premiership play-offs.
With second place secured, Lions boss David Hopkin made wholesale changes from the 3-0 win over Brechin as only Declan Gallagher, Raffaele De Vita and Ryan Hardie keeping their places in the starting line up alongside Gary Maley, Jackson Longridge, Gregor Buchanan, Jack McMillan, Adam Frizzell, Josh Mullin, Jordan Thompson and Scott Robinson.
The sweeping changes didn’t seem to hamper the Lions too much in the early stages and they came close to taking the lead on nine minutes when Mullin slipped a fine ball through for Frizzell and he did brilliantly to get away from his men but saw his low shot well blocked by the advancing Mark Ridgers. That save triggered a series of corners for the Lions but they were unable to make any of them count.
More neat interplay from Livi saw Hardie and Robinson link up well and, after the latter had seen the ball taken off his toes as he prepared to shoot, De Vita’s header from the resulting corner was blocked by the Caley defence. Hardie was then denied by a fine save from Ridgers as the Caley stopper got down well to tip his low effort wide after the Livi man had been sent clear.
The visitors had their first effort of note on 15 minutes as Polworth tried his luck from distance but saw his effort deflected over before Maley gathered the resulting corner.
That proved to be a rare foray upfield for the visitors as the Lions went close again four minutes later when ex-Livi defender Coll Donaldson got a vital touch onto a Mullin cross to deny Gallagher before Robinson’s return ball was gathered by Ridgers. Livi came close again midway through the half as Frizzell’s corner was met by Buchanan but his powerful header flew just over the bar.
It took until five minutes from the break for the Lions to threaten again as De Vita played in Mullin and he drove in at goal before firing a fierce effort wide to send the teams in at the break all-square.
Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
After dominating large parts of the first half, Livi were hit with a sucker punch within seconds of the restart as the visitors took the lead when the ball fell to Polworth 25 yards out and he stroked a fine, first-time strike low past a helpless Maley. The goal happened so quickly, even Caley boss John Robertson missed it!
The Caley man tried his luck again from a similar effort two minutes but the only danger this time was to anyone who happened to be passing outside as his strike soared over the roof of the north stand.
Livi set about trying to find a way back into the game and, after Ridgers had done well to deny Hardie, Thompson fashioned a chance from the resulting throw but could only fire his effort wide. McMillan was next to try his luck from long range but his effort flew over the bar before Livi made their first change on 55 minutes as Nicky Cadden came on for Mullin. The visitors followed suit shortly after as Jake Mulraney replaced Aaron Doran.
The visitors came close to a second goal with a quick counter attack on 63 minutes as Joe Chalmers got on the end of a low cut back but Maley made a fine save. Livi made a double change six minutes later as Craig Halkett and Lee Miller replaced McMillan and Frizzell.
Hardie came close again on 73 minutes as he worked his way into an almost identical position to his goal against Brechin but this time his effort was low and deflected wide. Gallagher rose highest to meet the resulting corner at the near post but his effort dropped agonisingly past the post.
The visitors almost sealed the points on 83 minutes when George Oakley saw a fierce effort from the edge of the box sting the palms of Maley but in the end it mattered little as the Highlanders took the three points and kept their promotion hopes alive heading into the final game. For the Lions, the result was secondary to valuable game time for their fringe players ahead of the play-offs.
Full-time: Livingston 0-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Livingston: Maley, Longridge, Buchanan, Gallagher, McMillan (Miller 71), Frizzell (Halkett 71), Mullin (Cadden 58), De Vita, Thompson, Robinson, Hardie
Subs not used: Alexander, Jacobs, Pittman, Byrne
Inverness CT: Ridgers, Seedorf, Mckay, Donaldson, Tremarco, Chalmers, Trafford, Polworth, Doran (Mulraney 60), Bell (Elbouzedi 86), Oakley.
Subs not used: Esson, Austin, Calder, Mackay, Brown
Goals: Polworth (46)
Referee: Colin Steven
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine