Livi struck five times in 14 minutes to demolish ten-man Heart of Midlothian and set a new club record top flight victory on an extraordinary night at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
After a goalless first 70 minutes, Craig Halkett broke the deadlock from the penalty spot before Dolly Menga and a double from Ryan Hardie made it 4-0 in the space of seven minutes. Shaun Byrne completed the rout four minutes from time.
Gary Holt made three changes to his side from the agonising 3-2 defeat to Aberdeen as Ryan Hardie, Stevie Lawless and Nicky Cadden came in for Jack McMillan, Craig Sibbald and the ineligible Bobby Burns and one of the new faces almost got the Lions off to the perfect start inside seven minutes when Scott Pittman played in Hardie but his low drive cannoned back off the post into the grateful arms of Zdenek Zlamal.
The post had been Livi’s scourge but it became their saviour three minutes later when Demetri Mitchell received the ball at the edge of the box and curled in a fine strike that had Liam Kelly beaten all ends up but crashed off the post to safety. Arnaud Djoum then played a fortunate one-two off a Livi player but sent his effort high and wide.
The Lions were well on top and came close again on 22 minutes when Halkett curled a free kick inches wide of Zlamal’s right hand post before Hearts were forced into a change two minutes later when Clevid Dikamona appeared to tweak a hamstring trying to keep up with Menga and was replaced by Aaron Hughes.
Halkett came even closer to breaking the deadlock on 27 minutes when he got on the end of Keaghan Jacobs’ cross and stabbed it goalwards but Zlamal made a superb point-blank save. Menga then linked up well with Hardie five minutes later before turning his man and firing an effort wide of target. Up the other end, Ben Garuccio tried his luck with an ambitious effort that sailed high and wide of goal.
Garuccio then came to his team’s rescue on 37 minutes when Hardie controlled a Jacobs corner and fired in a low drive that beat Zlamal but the Australian was in the right place at the right time to clear off the line. Christophe Berra then headed an Oliver Bozanic corner over the bar a minute later in a rare foray forward for the visitors.
The Lions then went close again twice in quick succession five minutes before the break as Hardie played a superb ball across goal for Pittman but Zlamal stretched out a boot to somehow keep his effort out before Menga fires a shot just wide. Lawless then came within a whisker of a stunning opener on the stroke of half-time when he cut inside and curled a superb effort inches wide from 25 yards as the Lions somehow went in at the break still on level terms.
Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Heart of Midlothian
The visitors made a second change at the interval, Sean Clare replacing Callumn Morrison, as Craig Levein sought to change his side’s fortunes and the substitute was straight into the action as he was sent clean through on goal but Kelly was out smartly to make a fine save with his legs.
Livi were quickly back on the front foot and Zlamal had to be alert to race out of goal and head clear under pressure from Hardie and Jacobs tried his luck from the halfway line but saw his effort sail harmlessly wide. Djoum then picked up a yellow card after catching Jacobs with a stray arm in an aerial challenge.
The Lions were still in command and Menga released Hardie on the hour mark. His touch took him wide but he tried to catch Zlamal with a chip that dropped just wide of the far post. Menga then picked up a yellow card for a foul on Berra before Livi’s first change on 66 minutes saw Scott Robinson come on to replace Nicky Cadden. The former Jambo was swiftly involved, releasing Hardie down the right and he fired a low effort across goal and wide when a square pass to the unmarked Pittman may have been the better option.
Having dominated much of the match without finding a breakthrough, the Lions were gifted the chance to take the lead on 72 minutes when Halkett beat Zlamal to a high ball before being cleaned out by the Hearts keeper. Ref Nick Walsh pointed to the penalty spot and showed the Czech a yellow card, followed by a red before realising he had not previously booked the Hearts stopper and rescinding the yellow card. Halkett sent Zlamal the wrong way from 12 yards to give the Lions a richly deserved lead.
Hearts were reduced to ten men two minutes later when Djoum received a second yellow card for a foul on Menga before the Angolan doubled the Lions’ lead with a superb individual goal. Menga picked the ball up on the right hand side before slaloming past half a dozen Hearts players, some more than once, before slotting home through Zlamal’s legs.
It was three barely a minute later as Pittman was allowed the run 30 yards unchallenged before slipping in Hardie, who cut inside before firing into the far corner of the net. The on-loan Rangers would make it 4-0 two minutes later, Hardie outpacing Hughes before dinking a finish over Zlamal.
After a whopping four minutes without a goal, the rout was completed four minutes from time when a superb crossfield pass from Robinson found Lawless and, when his effort was blocked, Byrne showed great composure to skip past a defender before slamming home at the near post past a wrong-footed Zlamal.
Having watched their opponents fail to create many chances in the game, the Lions decided to set one up for them when a misplaced pass fell to Steven MacLean but, even with only Kelly to beat, he could only hit the crossbar from 10 yards as Livi secured a clean sheet to round off an unforgettable night under the lights.
Full-time: Livingston 5-0 Heart of Midlothian
Livingston: Kelly, Gallagher (Hamilton 86), Halkett, Lithgow, Cadden (Robinson 68), Lawless, Byrne, Jacobs, Pittman, Menga (Saunders 82), Hardie
Subs not used: Stewart, McMillan, Sibbald, Lawson,
Goals: Halkett (72 pen), Menga (76), Hardie (77 & 79), Byrne (86)
Heart of Midlothian: Zlamal, Smith, Haring, Berra, Bozanic, Djoum, Mitchell, Garuccio (Lee 77), MacLean, Dikamona (Hughes 25), Morrison (Clare 45)
Subs not used: Doyle, , Wighton, Mulraney, Hickey
Referee: Nick Walsh
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine