The Lions made five changes from last weekend’s victory over Stenhousemuir, with Gary Maley replacing Liam Kelly in the Livi goal to make his league debut between the sticks.
Crighton, Halkett, Josh Mullin and Danny Mullen also started. Matthew Knox retained his place in the team after starting at Ochilview. Queen’s Park came into the game in third place knowing that a win would keep them in the play-off places, but if they slipped up they could fall out of them.
But Livi had won their last six games in the league and, having failed to beat The Spiders so far this campaign, were keen to make sure that they didn’t slip up once more against the amateurs from Hampden.
Livi lined up in their familiar black home kit but Queen’s Park were in their less recognisable red tops, shorts and socks. Conditions overhead were close to perfect on a warm sunny day with little or no wind to spoil the action.
It was the visitors who started the stronger of the two sides. Firstly, a free kick found Ryan McGeever who met the ball well, only to be denied by a great save by Gary Maley, who clawed the ball away from the top corner.
A penalty appeal was turned down by referee Grant Irvine, claims of a handball by Jackson Longridge were waved away by the officials. To make matters worse, manager Gus MacPherson was sent to the stands for his protests. Despite The Spiders’ inspired start, it was the hosts who took the lead. Nikolay Todorov found himself on a through ball by Josh Mullin and the Bulgarian lofted the ball over the on rushing Muir to slot it into the empty net.
Queen’s Park were close to levelling before half time when Dario Zanatta’s shot beat Maley but struck the bar. It was agonisingly close again for the visitors and a let off for the home side. Matthew Knox nearly made it 2-0 after the ball broke to the teenager on the edge of the box following Danny Mullen challenged goalkeeper Muir. However, with the keeper out of his goal, Knox tried an audacious chip but it went narrowly wide. Livi were perhaps a little lucky to be going into the break in front.
HT: Livingston 1-0 Queen’s Park
The Lions started the better of the two sides in the opening moments of the second period. However, the visitors had two attempts that gave the home side some concerns and reminded them that the three points were far from guaranteed.
Firstly, Gavin Mitchell’s right footed shot from the edge of the box was close but missed the target, before Sean Burns’ attempt was blocked by Halkett when it looked net-bound. Gus MacPherson’s instructions from the back row of the stand meant that The Spiders made two early substitutions, with Aidan McIlduff and Ewen MacPherson coming on with only ten minutes of the second half played.
But Livi made a substitution of their own, with Declan Gallagher replacing Sean Crighton on the hour mark. The big defender almost extended Livi’s lead shortly afterwards but his header from six yards flew over the bar when it looked as though he was certain to score. The game opened up and both sides looked to score but it was The Lions who found the net next.
Gallagher found himself in space on the edge of the box and played the ball to Danny Mullen in the penalty area. The striker, with his back to goal, improvised beautifully and fired an overhead kick beyond the despairing Muir into the opposite corner of the net to give Livi a 2-0 lead. As the play moved from end to end, the home side’s superior fitness started to tell. The champions scored a third goal with only ten minutes left on the clock. Gallagher, once again, was involved and the move ended with Josh Mullin dancing through the visiting defence to round the keeper and slide the ball into the empty net, putting the result beyond doubt.
But the scoring wasn’t over yet. After Mullen was replaced by youngster Jack Ogilvie, Livi looked to add to their visitors’ misery. With full time approaching, Matthew Know, whose second half performance was full of clever flicks and trickery, played an excellent pass to Josh Mullin wide on the right. The winger’s cross was knocked on by Liam Buchanan to the unmarked Nicky Cadden., who calmly struck the ball into the net for a deserved fourth goal for Livi.
So The Lions maintained their 16 point lead at the top of the league and continued their free-scoring approach by chalking up their 74th goal of the league campaign. Queen’s Park dropped from third to sixth as a result of today’s defeat, but will still feel confident of securing a play-off place. All four sides in contention for the remaining two places are on the same points, separated only by goal difference.
Livi will be keen to ensure that they end the season strongly, with a home game against Peterhead next week and an away match in Coatbridge against Albion Rovers to end the season. A victory in each of those games will ensure than Livi pick up maximum 27 points from the final quarter of league game.
Livingston: Maley, Crighton (Gallagher 58), Halkett, Longridge, Jacobs, Mullin, Knox, Pittman, Cadden, Mullen (Ogilvie 82), Todorov (Buchanan 64)
Subs not used: Kelly, Lithgow, De Vita, Millar
Goals: Todorov (18), Mullen (70), Mullin (80), Cadden (90)
Queen’s Park: Muir, Mitchell (McIlduff 55), Foy (MacPherson 54), McKernon, McGeever, Cummins, Galt, Brady, Zanatta, McVey, Burns (Orsi 70)
Subs not used: Mortimer, Docherty, Wharton, Brown
Referee: Grant Irvine
Match Report: Calum Brown