Livi held off a late rally from bottom side Brechin to return to winning ways and move back into second spot in the Ladbrokes Championship.
After Jack McMillan’s early opener had been cancelled out by ex-Livi man Jordan Sinclair, goals from Craig Halkett and Dylan Mackin saw the Lions pull clear before Kalvin Orsi’s late penalty ensured a nervy finish.
David Hopkin made three changes from the side that lost 3-1 at Dunfermline as McMillan, Raffaele De Vita and Declan Gallagher came in for Dale Carrick, Jackson Longridge and the suspended Danny Mullen.
The Lions got off the perfect start as they took the lead inside three minutes with a goal that visiting keeper Graeme Smith won’t want to see again in a hurry. De Vita and Byrne linked up to release McMillan down the right – his cross looked simple enough for the keeper but he fumbled the ball over the line. Nikolay Todorov made sure it went in but the goal was McMillan’s.
The visitors, still without a win in the Championship, showed early attacking intent and Isaac Layne did well to create space at the edge of the box before firing his low shot wide. They were rewarded two minutes later as they drew level when former Livi man Sinclair curled a free kick low into the net from 30 yards. It was well struck but Neil Alexander will be disappointed to have been beaten at his near post.
The Lions reacted well to the loss of the equaliser and came close to regaining the lead on 15 minutes when Josh Mullin’s cross found Gallagher but his header flew inches wide. De Vita then tried his luck from distance shortly after but saw his effort fly comfortably wide.
Livi went on to boss the remainder of the half without overly threatening Smith’s goal before a moment of controversy just before the interval saw ref Stephen Finnie at the thick of the action.
The visitors’ Connor McLennan massively overreacted to an innocuous foul from Mullin, sparking a mass brawl that saw McLennan, teammate Euan McLean and Livi’s Gallagher shown yellow cards. McLennan was particularly fortunate to stay on the park as the sides went in at the interval all square.
Half-time: Livingston 1-1 Brechin City
David Hopkin made one change at the interval as Dylan Mackin replaced goalscorer McMillan and he was quickly into the action as he flicked a long ball on for De Vita and his first-time shot took a deflection and bounced wide of the near post.
The resulting corner was cleared but Mullin recovered possession and found Mackin who cut inside and fired in a low, curling effort that was well parried by Smith. Mackin then got on the end of another Mullin corner but glanced his header just over the bar.
It was all Livi by now and Gallagher took the opportunity to run out of defence and, seeing his name in lights, let fly from 30 yards but his effort flew high over the bar. Mullin then found Mackin again and the big striker showed nifty footwork to make space but his shot was deflected through to Smith and he gathered easily.
The Lions’ dominance was eventually rewarded on the hour mark as they regained the lead. After a corner was cleared, Mullin fired the ball back in and Halkett was able to bring the ball before prodding past Smith from six yards out. They then made their second change as Keaghan Jacobs replaced Todorov.
Livi set about looking for a third goal and a great flick on from Mackin released De Vita but his powerful shot was blocked before his follow up cross sailed out of play. The third goal did arrive shortly after as Jacobs played in James Penrice and he showed great skill to get away from the defender before firing in a low cross to Mackin who fired home at the second attempt after Smith had blocked his first effort.
Suddenly facing a mountain to climb, visiting boss Darren Dods made his first change as Orsi came on for Liam Watt. The Lions almost had a fourth on 72 minutes when Mullin’s corner was flicked on by Halkett for Gallagher but his first time effort flew over the bar. Livi’s final change came soon after as Matthew Knox replaced De Vita before two more for the visitors saw Finn Graham and Euan Smith replace McLennan and Sinclair.
Smith was quickly involved as he tried to spark a Brechin fightback, showing good strength to turn away from Alan Lithgow before firing an effort a few feet wide. The visitors were handed a lifeline with five minutes to go as Gallagher brought down Graham in the box, leaving the referee with little option but to point to the spot. Orsi sent Alexander the wrong way from 12 yards to set up a nervous finale but the Lions held on to bounce back from the defeat to Dunfermline and move to within two points of leaders St Mirren.
Full-time: Livingston 3-2 Brechin City
Livingston: Alexander, McMillan (Mackin 45), Lithgow, Byrne, Mullin, Pittman, Todorov (Jacobs 64), Penrice, De Vita (Knox 73), Halkett, Gallagher
Subs not used: Longridge, Carrick, Maley, Henderson
Goals: McMillan (3), Halkett (60), Mackin (69)
Brechin City: Smith, McLean, Dyer, Fusco, Lynas, Crighton, Dale, Watt (Orsi 70), Sinclair (Smith 78), Layne, McLennan (Graham 74)
Subs not used: C.O’Neil, Spark, P.O’Neil
Goals: Sinclair (8), Orsi (85 pen)
Referee: Stephen Finnie
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Livi Media