Livi made light of an injury-ravaged squad – not to mention the absence of manager Gary Holt – to set a new club record for their longest unbeaten start to a season with a hard-fought victory over St Mirren at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
With Holt recuperating from an injury sustained during training, Davie Martindale took the reins as goals from Alan Lithgow and Lyndon Dykes secured the three points, despite Kyle Magennis pulling one back for the visitors, and extended the Lions’ unbeaten streak to nine games.
Livi were forced into four changes from the 4-1 victory at Ross County as Scott Robinson, Keaghan Jacobs, Ricki Lamie and Scott Pittman all missing out through injury. Jack McMillan, Robbie Crawford, Chris Erskine and Aymen Souda came into the starting line-up.
It was the Lions who made the brighter start and went close to breaking the deadlock on seven minutes when Souda’s free kick was deflected into the path of Jon Guthrie who saw his looping header tipped on to the crossbar by Vaclav Hladky. The Saints keeper then pushed away a free kick from Souda before the ball found its way back to the Frenchman who fired over from 20 yards.
Livi were well on top and Crawford did well to win possession and release Souda on 11 minutes but the visiting defence got back well to clear just as he looked to get his shot away. Former Livi man Tony Andreu then had the visitors first chance three minutes later when he tried his luck from the edge of the area but his effort was straight at Ross Stewart who saved comfortably.
Good link up play from Lawless and Erskine on 25 minutes ended with the latter seeing a shot deflected wide for a corner from which the Lions took the lead as Souda’s outswinging cross found Alan Lithgow completely unmarked and he powered a header home from eight yards.
Livi were comfortable despite the narrow lead and almost doubled their advantage in spectacular fashion on 37 minutes when Guthrie decided to try his luck from fully 35 yards and saw his effort fizz just wide. Souda then came close five minutes later with a curling effort from the edge of the box that flew inches wide of the post, ruffling the net from the outside.
Another chance came Livi’s way on 43 minutes when Souda played the ball out wide to Nicky Devlin and his cross was glanced just wide by Dykes. Kyle McAllister then picked up a yellow card for a cynical foul on Souda just before the break as the Lions went in ahead.
Half-time: Livingston 1-0 St Mirren
The visitors almost made the perfect start to the second half as McAllister’s cross found Jonathan Obika only a few yards out but the cross was slightly behind him and, leaning back, he could only steer his header over the bar. He went close again a minute later with a low effort that was well blocked by Lithgow.
Livi then broke up the other end and Erskine won a corner from which Souda whipped in a terrific ball but no one was able to get on the end of it. St Mirren then came close again on 56 minutes when a low effort was deflected into the path of Andreu but, on the turn, he could only prod his effort just wide from close range.
That was a bit of a let off for Livi and they made the most of it by doubling their lead a minute later when, after Souda miscued a header in front of goal, Erskine gathered possession and found his way to the byline before cutting the ball back for Dykes to slot home from six yards.
The Lions’ two goal cushion would only last six minutes as Magennis curled home a fine effort from the edge of the box to bring the visitors back into the game. Livi were then forced into a change soon after as McMillan was forced off with an injury to be replaced by Ibrahima Savane, who came on for his Premiership debut. Junior Morias then replaced Andreu for the visitors three minutes later.
Livi went close to restoring their two-goal cushion on 72 minutes when Devlin played in Dykes and he held the ball up well before finding Erskine who teed up Lawless to fire just wide. Erskine was replaced moments later, Scott Tiffoney coming on in his stead, before Saints’ Paul McGinn picked up a yellow card for throwing the ball away in frustration after a free kick had been awarded against him. Gary McKenzie followed him seconds later for dissent.
McGinn almost had a more positive impact for his side on 77 minutes when he burst down the right hand side and rifled an effort at goal that Stewart did well to hold. Jack Stobbs then replaced Souda two minutes later in Livi’s final change.
The visitors went close to equalising four minutes from time when Obika spun on the edge of the box and fired an effort wide before Danny Mullen came on for McAllister in the visitors’ final change. Stobbs was then denied a clincher for Livi twice in quick succession as he saw his first effort blocked on the line before the ball popped back to him and he unconventionally kneed a volley that looped up and came off the crossbar before dropping behind.
Lawless picked up a yellow card for the Lions on 88 minutes for breaking up a counter attack while Stewart denied Morias from long range as Livi held on for the three points that ensured they will remain in third place in the Ladbrokes Premiership heading into the international break.
Full-time: Livingston 2-1 St Mirren
Livingston: Stewart, Devlin, Lithgow, Guthrie, McMillan (Savane 65), Bartley, Crawford, Lawless, Souda (Stobbs 81), Erskine (Tiffoney 75), Dykes
Subs Not Used: Sarkic, Pepe, Henderson
Goals: Lithgow (26), Dykes (58)
St Mirren: Hladky, McGinn, Mackenzie, Waters, Magennis, Flynn (Durmus 81), Foley, McAllister (Mullen 87), Andreu (Morias 69), Obika
Subs Not Used: Lyness, Baird, MacPherson, Djorkaeff
Goals: Magennis (64)
Referee: Colin Steven
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine