Livingston 1-2 Aberdeen

Livi ended 2018 with a rare disappointment as Aberdeen struck twice in the last 20 minutes to inflict just a second home defeat of the season at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

A close-range effort from James Wilson and a Steve Lawson own goal put the Dons in control and, although Ryan Hardie pulled one back, the Lions were unable to force an equaliser.

Gary Holt made two changes from the goalless draw at Dundee as Lee Miller and Craig Sibbald came in for Keaghan Jacobs and Nicky Cadden and it was the former who had the first opportunity inside three minutes when Hardie dinked a ball to the far post for Miller but he sent his header wide.

The visitors had their first half-chance soon after as Stevie May cut in from the left and curled an effort goalwards but it flew high over the bar.

The Lions were doing well to restrict the visitors to efforts from distance and Dominic Ball was next to try his luck on 20 minutes but his strike was deflected and flew straight at Liam Kelly. Livi then came close to breaking the deadlock seven minutes later as Craig Halkett broke the Dons’ offside trap to get on the end of Sibbald’s free kick but saw his header brilliantly saved by Joe Lewis.

The visitors were forced into a change on 29 minutes as Shay Logan limped off to be replaced by Stephen Gleeson before the Lions had to make an enforced switch of their own five minutes later as Miller, on his first start since August, suffered a potentially serious calf injury and was replaced by Cadden.

Declan Gallagher fired a low effort narrowly wide on 43 minutes before a quite extraordinary incident saw Dons defender Ball throw out his left arm to divert a long ball away from Dolly Menga but, inexplicably, referee Steven McLean either missed it or adjudged it to be accidental.

It could be argued that Menga would have been in on goal but for Ball’s intervention but it mattered not as none of the four officials spotted managed to see it and the Lions went in level at the break but with a considerable sense of grievance.

Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Aberdeen

The Lions made a bright start to the second half and had the ball in the net on 50 minutes when Hardie lobbed Lewis from outside the area but was flagged offside. Replays showed that the Livi man may have been just onside but it was a tough one to call in real time.

Hardie and Pittman then linked up well seven minutes later for Hardie to curl a tame effort wide from the edge of the box before the Dons made a game-changing substitution on the hour mark as Wilson came on for Bruce Anderson.

The on-loan Manchester United man was quickly involved, teeing up Stevie May to shoot wide when his teammates may have been better placed to score. Sibbald then went close on 67 minutes when he let fly from the edge of the box but his rasping effort flew just over.

The Dons’ pressure had been building throughout the second half and they broke the deadlock with 20 minutes to play when Gleeson fired a low strike from the edge of the box and Wilson was on hand to divert it past Kelly from inside the six yard box.

The Lions responded to the loss of the goal by sending on Jack Hamilton in place of Menga but it was the visitors who went close again shortly after as May fired a free kick straight at Kelly from 30 yards. Livi made their final change on 77 minutes when Lawson came on to replace Stevie Lawless before Aberdeen sent on Dean Campbell for Scott Wright a minute later.

The home side pushed hard for an equaliser but were caught out on the counter attack as the Dons doubled their lead five minutes from time. May accelerated away from Alan Lithgow and fired a low ball across the face of goal and Halkett’s attempted clearance cannoned off Lawson into his own net.

To their credit, the Lions refused to give up and Hardie headed wide from a Gallagher cross on 87 minutes. They were rewarded for their persistence a minute later when Hardie latched on to a short back pass and attempted to square for Scott Pittman. He couldn’t quite force the ball home but Scott McKenna’s attempted clearance bounced in off Hardie to give the Lions hope.

That sparked a late siege from the home side and they came close to an equaliser in the first minute of added time when Lawson teed up Sibbald and, as the ball sat up, he fired in a looping volley that dropped just wide to condemn the Lions to a first home defeat since Hallowe’en.

Full-time: Livingston 1-2 Aberdeen

Livingston: Kelly, Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Lawless (Lawson 78), Menga (Hamilton 73), Byrne, Pittman, Sibbald, Hardie, Miller (Cadden 38)
Subs not used: Stewart, Saunders, McMillan, van Schaik
Goals: Hardie (89)

Aberdeen: Lewis, Logan (Gleeson 30), Shinnie, Considine, McKenna, Wright (Campbell 79), Cosgrove, May, Ball, Anderson (Wilson 61), McLennan
Subs not used: Cerny, Forrester, Ross, Virtanen
Goals: Wilson (71), Lawson (84 OG)

Referee: Steven MacLean
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine
Att: 5,548

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