Livi produced an inspired display to come from behind and thump runaway leaders St Mirren and move three points ahead of Dundee United in the race for second place in the Ladbrokes Championship at a jubilant Tony Macaroni Arena.
After Ryan Flynn had rounded off an intense period of pressure to give the Buddies the lead inside two minutes, it looked as though the Lions were in for a tough afternoon but Ryan Hardie took advantage of a defensive mix-up to draw his side level seven minutes. Hardie grabbed another six minutes later before stunning strikes from Lee Miller and Scott Robinson sealed a memorable win for David Hopkin’s side.
The Lions boss made just one enforced change from the goalless draw with Dunfermline as Robinson replaced the suspended Jordan Thompson, reluctant to tinker too much with his side on the back of a four-match unbeaten run.
Jack Ross’ side took the lead with their first sight of goal on two minutes as the ball ricocheted around the Livi box before dropping for Flynn to prod the ball low into the net from six yards. Livi responded well and came close to an equaliser when a spell of corners ended with Nicky Cadden’s cross being met by Miller but he sent his header wide.
It wasn’t long before the Lions were level, though, as Craig Samson and a Saints defender both went to deal with a long ball over the top from Robinson but the defender succeeded only in heading the ball past his own keeper for Hardie to run in and tap home.
The visitors came close to regaining the lead on 11 minutes as Adam Eckersley fired in a low shot that was pushed wide by Neil Alexander but it was the Lions who moved ahead four minutes later when Alan Lithgow’s long throw was flicked on by Declan Gallagher for Hardie to volley a fine finish past Samson from six yards.
It was almost 3-1 on 20 minutes when Robinson teed up Cadden on the left and his cross was near-perfect for Miller but he could only glance his header wide. The big striker wasn’t to be denied though as he doubled Livi’s lead two minutes later in spectacular style when Lithgow’s back post cross was headed back across goal and Miller fired a stunning overhead kick into the net to round off a storming 13-minute spell for the Lions.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the match went into a bit of a lull after such a storming start before the Lions came close again on 37 minutes when Shaun Byrne scooped a ball forward for Hardie who spun on the edge of the box before firing in a low shot that was palmed away by Samson. Hardie and De Vita saw half-chances go begging as the Lions went in at the break in front.
Half-time: Livingston 3-1 St Mirren
Livi picked up where they left off after the restart and came close to a fourth two minutes into the second half when Cadden’s terrific cross was met by Miller at the back post but his downward header was well saved by Samson. The Buddies then made their first change three minutes later as Gary McKenzie replaced goalscorer Flynn.
Cadden and Miller linked up again on 55 minutes when the winger’s shot was deflected into the path of the big man but he dragged his effort wide before a second Saints change saw top scorer Gavin Reilly replaced by ex-Livi man Danny Mullen. Lithgow then tried his luck with a shot from the edge of the box but it was safely held by Samson.
Raffaele De Vita picked up a yellow card for a cynical trip on Mullen before the visitors’ final change saw another ex-Lion, Myles Hippolyte, come on for Cammy Smith. Livi came close to a fourth twice in quick succession as Cadden was released down the left by Hardie before firing an effort over from a tight angle before Hardie ran clear and saw his effort from the edge of the box clip the bar on its way over.
Cadden should have sealed the points for Livi on 71 minutes when he raced clean through but slotted his effort inches wide of the near post before the Lions made a quickfire double change three minutes later as Jack McMillan and Jackson Longridge came on for De Vita and Cadden. Mullen then picked up a yellow card for a foul on Pittman on halfway.
Hippolyte almost pulled one back for the Buddies on 75 minutes when the ball dropped to him in the box but, although he was able to beat Alexander, Pittman was on hand to clear off the line before a couple of quickfire Buddies corners came to nothing.
Steven Boyd came on for Hardie with eight minutes remaining as Livi comfortably staved off pressure from the visitors before rounding off the scoring in stunning fashion as Miller latched onto a short backpass and teed up Robinson to loft a glorious over Samson into the net from a very tight angle and provide a fitting end to a superb Lions performance.
Full-time: Livingston 4-1 St Mirren
Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Robinson, Pittman, Byrne, De Vita(McMillan 74), Cadden (Longridge 74), Miller, Hardie (Boyd 82)
Subs not used: Maley, Buchanan, Jacobs, Mullin
Goals: Hardie (9 & 15), Miller (22), Robinson (90)
St Mirren: Samson, McGinn, Magennis, Morgan, Smith (Hippolyte 64), Baird, Flynn (Mackenzie 50), Reilly (Mullen 58), Davis, Eckersley
Subs not used: Stewart, Demetriou, McShane, Hill
Goals: Flynn (2)
Referee: Alan Muir
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine