Livi extended their unbeaten run to six games as they claimed a superb victory over Rangers at the Tony Macaroni Arena to move up to third in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Dolly Menga’s first Lions goal ten minutes before the interval were enough to secure a richly-deserved win for Gary Holt’s men and make it four home games without defeat against the Ibrox side.
Unsurprisingly, the Lions were again unchanged from the start following their goalless draw against leaders Hearts the previous week, though Bobby Burns returned to the bench after missing out against his parent club.
Livi made a very bright start and came close inside the opening two minutes when Menga released Scott Pittman and he beat Allan McGregor to the ball but could only prod his effort across goal and wide. A huge chance then came the Lions’ way nine minutes later when Keaghan Jacobs’ free kick was headed across goal by Craig Halkett for Alan Lithgow but he could only steer his effort inches wide of the post on the stretch.
Rangers had penalty appeals swiftly dismissed by referee Craig Thomson after Alfredo Morelos went down in the box on 15 minutes before Scott Robinson picked up the game’s first yellow card two minutes later for hauling down James Tavernier as he looked to break forward down the right. Morelos then saw a header comfortably saved by Liam Kelly as Rangers threatened for the first time.
The deadlock was broken on 34 minutes and it was the Lions who found the breakthrough with a well-worked goal as Declan Gallagher slipped in Robinson and he cut the ball back for Menga, who had time to take a touch before firing a low effort through McGregor’s legs to give Livi a well-earned lead.
Rangers looked to mount a response and had a half-chance on 38 minutes when Ovie Ejaria beat Kelly to a cross but his header flew high over the bar. Livi then threatened at the other end as Jacobs’ corner was headed across goal by Halkett and Jacobs picked up possession again but saw his drive blocked and cleared as Livi took a one-goal lead in at the interval.
Half-time: Livingston 1-0 Rangers
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard made a change at the interval to try and get his side back into the game as Ryan Kent replaced Lassana Coulibaly and he saw a great chance go to waste five minutes after the restart as Morelos was played in behind but Kelly was out smartly to spread himself and make a fine save at his near post.
There was a highly unsavoury incident on 57 minutes as, after correctly awarding Livi a goal kick, assistant referee Calum Spence was struck by an object thrown from the away support which left him needing treatment from Livi’s physio for a cut to the back of his head. Fortunately he was able to continue without the need for a Declan Gallagher-style bandage.
Livi made their first change on 63 minutes as Stevie Lawless was replaced by Burns before Rangers’ second change three minutes later saw Glenn Middleton come on for the ineffective Kyle Lafferty.
Livi came close to a second soon after as Pittman got in behind the Rangers defence but saw his effort well saved by McGregor. Lithgow almost scored a remarkable goal from the resulting corner, connecting with Burns’s cross with a ‘scorpion kick’ that dropped agonisingly wide of the far post with McGregor beaten.
Livi were fairly comfortable despite the narrow scoreline and had another chance of a second goal on 75 minutes as Menga’s overhit cross was recovered by Ricki Lamie. His cross was met by Menga but his header was straightforward for McGregor.
Gary Holt made his second change twelve minutes from time as Steve Lawson came on for goal hero Menga before Burns was booked for a trip on Morelos. The on-loan Hearts man then almost provided a second Livi goal as his cross was met by Lithgow but his header bounced down and just wide.
The remaining minutes ticked down without much cause for concern for the Livi defence, although Morelos did get in behind in the final minute only to slice his shot out for a throw-in. A final Livi change in added time, which saw Craig Sibbald replace Robinson, served to disrupt any momentum Rangers tried to build as the Lions ran out comfortable winners to maintain Gary Holt’s unbeaten record since taking charge.
Full-time: Livingston 1-0 Rangers
Livingston: Kelly, Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Lamie, Lawless (Burns 63), Byrne, Pittman, Jacobs, Robinson (Sibbald 90), Menga (Lawson 78)
Subs not used: Stewart, McMillan, Cadden, Hamilton
Goals: Menga (34)
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Batisic, Arfield, Coulibaly (Kent 45), Ejaria, Candeias, Morelos, Lafferty (Middelton 66)
Subs not used: Fodderingham, Halliday, McCrorie, Katic, Grezda
Referee: Craig Thomson
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine