Livi rounded off 2019 in style with a comfortable win over Hibernian at the Tony Macaroni Arena that ensured they will spend the winter break in fifth place in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
A second-half double from Jon Guthrie, his third and fourth goals in his past five games, did the damage as the Lions leapfrogged both their opponents and Kilmarnock to sit in their highest league position at this stage of the season since 2001.
Gary Holt made two changes to his side from the narrow Boxing Day defeat at Aberdeen as Keaghan Jacobs and Jack McMillan came in for Aymen Souda and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair. Robbie Crawford also returned to the substitutes’ bench after four weeks out with injury.
Hibs came into the match on a high after their Edinburgh Derby victory so, unsurprisingly, it was they who started the brighter, forcing a half-chance inside six minutes as Martin Boyle got in behind the Lions defence but his shot lacked power and Matija Sarkic was able to save comfortably. At the other end, Stevie Lawless did brilliantly to hold the ball up and find Steve Lawson and Ofir Marciano had to be alert to parry away his low cross.
The visitors threatened again on 15 minutes as Daryl Horgan crossed for Vykintas Slivka and his effort was blocked for a corner that the Lions were able to clear. Lyndon Dykes then showed terrific skill and pace to get away from Darren McGregor but his shot was deflected which allowed Marciano to gather. Dykes was then inches away from getting on the end of Lawson’s cross three minutes later before Lawson picked up a yellow card for pulling down a Hibs player to prevent a counter attack.
Livi were enjoying a better spell and went close on 34 minutes when Scott Pittman slid in Lawson down the right and he ran at Lewis Stevenson before firing in a low effort that forced a terrific diving save from Marciano. Lawless then saw a free kick blocked by the wall three minutes and the rebound fell for Lawson who saw his effort flicked goalward by Craig Sibbald but comfortably gathered by Marciano.
Hibs ventured forward shortly and Christian Doidge did well to split the two Livi centre-halves but he could only fire high over the bar. The Lions then went close again on the stroke of half-time as patient build-up play ended with Lawson teeing up Jacobs to fire over the bar from just inside the area as the teams went in level at the break.
Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Hibernian
The visitors were the first to threaten after the restart as they saw a corner cleared as far as Melker Hallberg but he almost cleared the roof of the south stand with his effort from the edge of the box.
Livi were soon back in control and went close on 53 minutes when Lawson whipped in a free kick that was met by Ricki Lamie but his header was straight at Marciano. That sparked a spell of sustained pressure from the Lions with a flurry of corners that all came to nothing. Slivka then picked up a yellow card just before the hour for a foul on Dykes.
The deadlock was finally broken on 61 minutes as the Lions took a deserved lead with a goal that won’t win any goal of the month prizes as an almighty scramble from a corner saw Guthrie bundle the home from close range. Both Dykes and Bartley attempted to claim it but the big defender was having none of it as he wheeled away to celebrate his fourth goal of the season.
Livi made their first change on 64 minutes as Crawford came on for his first appearance since the goalless draw with Hamilton at the end of November in place of Sibbald before Hibs went one better with a double change two minutes later, Scott Allan and Horgan replaced by Oli Shaw and Fraser Murray.
The Lions were keeping the visitors at bay quite comfortably but were still looking for the cushion of a second goal and they got it on 76 minutes with a goal that was much more easy on the eye as Lawson curled in a superb cross from the right that was perfect for Guthrie to rise and power a header back across goal and into the net for this second of the afternoon.
That was Guthrie’s fifth goal of the campaign, which means he has now scored more goals in 21 appearances this season than he had managed in 238 appearances for Crewe Alexandra and Walsall.
Livi almost had a fortuitous third ten minutes from time as Pittman’s low cross was turned against his own post by McGregor before Jacobs fired a free kick straight at Marciano six minutes later. Gary Holt made a couple of late changes to eat up some time as Chris Erskine and Aymen Souda came on for Lawless and Dykes as the Lions ran out comfortable winners to ensure they finished December with just one defeat in six games.
Full-time: Livingston 2-0 Hibernian
Livingston: Sarkic, McMillan, Lamie, Guthrie, Lawson, Sibbald (Crawford 65), Bartley, Pittman, Jacobs, Lawless (Erskine 90), Dykes (Souda 90)
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Odoffin, Tiffoney
Goals: Guthrie (62 & 77)
Hibernian: Marciano, Naismith, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson, Hallberg (Newell 76), Slivka, Boyle, Allan (Shaw 67), Horgan (Murray 67), Doidge
Subs Not Used: Gray, Whittaker, James, Bogdan
Referee: Euan Anderson
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photo Gallery: Rae Irvine