Livingston 3-0 Brechin City

Livi ensured they would finish runners-up in the Ladbrokes Championship with a comfortable win over relegated Brechin City at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

With a little help from Queen of the South, who beat Dundee United 3-0, second half goals from Scott Pittman, Jackson Longridge and Ryan Hardie were enough to give the Lions an unassailable four-point lead over Csaba Laszlo’s side and direct passage into the Premiership play-off semi-finals.

David Hopkin made two changes to the starting line-up from the goalless draw at champions St Mirren last weekend as Nicky Cadden and Keaghan Jacobs came in for Longridge and Adam Frizzell.

The visitors arrived in West Lothian still desperately searching for their first league win of the season and they had the first shot on goal inside three minutes when Callumn Morrison fired in an effort from the edge of the box that flew over the bar.

Livi appeared nervous, knowing what was at stake, and struggled to impose themselves on the lowly visitors, their only effort of note in the early stages being a corner from Raffaele De Vita on 12 minutes that was headed clear by the Brechin defence.

Neither side offered much as the half progressed but Livi had a sight of goal on 24 minutes when Hardie showed quick feet in the box but his shot was comfortably saved by Graeme Smith. Cadden then saw a free kick headed over the bar by Declan Gallagher a minute later.

The Lions had a great chance to take the lead on 27 minutes when a low cross from Cadden found its way to De Vita but his first time effort from 15 yards flew over the bar before the visitors came close to taking a shock lead a minute later when Isaac Layne tried his luck with an effort from 25 yards that was tipped wide by Neil Alexander.

Livi were denied the lead soon after by a fine double save from Smith. Shaun Byrne drove at the Brechin defence and fired in a low strike that was parried to De Vita and his effort drew a strong one-handed save from the Brechin stopper before he gathered the loose ball.

It was all Livi now and another chance went begging on 31 minutes when Jacobs’ free kick found Alan Lithgow but he headed over before Jacobs then tried his luck directly from a free kick four minutes later but saw his effort fly over. Cadden then drew a save from Smith with a low strike a minute later after being played in by Lithgow.

A big chance was passed up two minutes before half-time when Hardie and Miller linked up well to find Pittman but he fired over the bar from just inside the box to keep the scores level at the interval.

Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Brechin City

The Lions came blasting out of the traps for the second half and had their first chance within two minutes when De Vita fired in a dipping effort that was straight at Smith. The Brechin keeper then produced a superb stop to deny Miller when he got on the end of a long throw from Lithgow.

Smith was proving a one-man barrier to the Lions and made another fine stop on 53 minutes, this time keeping out a close-range effort from Hardie. He came to his side’s rescue again six minutes later, denying De Vita the first home goal of his second spell with the Lions with a good save with his chest from close range.

De Vita then fired an effort wide after being fed by Byrne before the Lions made their first change on 61 minutes when Josh Mullin replaced Cadden. Hardie then had a go from the edge of the box a minute later but his low effort was well held by Smith. Morrison then picked up a cheap yellow card for preventing Jacobs taking a quick free kick.

The Lions were building up a head of steam and finally made the breakthrough on 69 minutes as Mullin did brilliantly down the right and a curled in a superb cross that was perfect for Pittman to power a diving header past Smith from inside the six yard box.

James Dale picked up the visitors’ second yellow card for a foul on Pittman before Hardie came close to giving Livi some breathing space when he drove forward and played a neat one-two with Mullin before firing in an effort that was well saved by Smith.

Livi made their second change on 73 minutes as Longridge came on for De Vita and the switch paid instant dividends as they doubled their lead two minutes later. Hardie was the provider as he slipped the ball through for Longridge and, with his first touch, he slotted a low finish past Smith into the far corner of the net.

Now comfortable, the Livi boss made his final change as Scott Robinson came on for Miller before the visitors made a double change, sending on Liam Watt and Finn Graham for Morrison and Dale. The victory was sealed three minutes from time with a wonder goal as Hardie created space for himself before curling a beautiful strike over Smith into the net from 25 yards out.

Livi continued to swarm forward at every opportunity without adding to their tally but the work was done and there were huge cheers at the end as the Lions’ magnificent season was rewarded with a richly deserved second place finish.

Full-time: Livingston 3-0 Brechin City

Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Byrne, Jacobs, Pittman, De Vita (Longridge 72), Cadden (Mullin 60), Hardie, Miller (Robinson 74)
Subs not used: Buchanan, Thompson, Frizzell, McMillan
Goals: Pittman (67), Longridge (73), Hardie (86)

Brechin City: Smith, McLean, Dyer, Dale (Graham 78), Tapping, Layne, Lynas, Morrison (Watt 78), Oris, Crighton, Smith
Subs not used: Fusco, O’Neil, Costello

Steven Reid
Att: 943
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine

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