A second-half fight back from Dundee wasn’t enough to deny Gary Bollan’s men a first league victory as the Lions claimed all three points in a 6-goal-thriller.
There was only one change to the side that narrowly lost at Cappielow last week with Stefan Scougall, who impressed in the midweek Reserve League Cup semi-final win, coming into the midfield in place of David Sinclair.
After sluggish starts in the first two league matches, Bollan sent his starting eleven out a few minutes before kick-off to carry out some sprints, hoping to get the players heart-rate up and have them racing out the traps when referee, Gary Hilland started the game. What a decision that proved to be…
With only 4 minutes on the clock, Iain Russell sent the Livi fans wild. Dundee midfielder Stephen O’Donnell misjudged McNeill’s long goal kick and inadvertently glanced the ball on to Kenny Deuchar. The big front man held off two Dundee defenders to head the ball on to Bobby Barr and his crisp, first-time strike could only be parried by ex-Livi goalkeeper Rab Douglas. Despite the best efforts of Craig McKewon to clear the rebound, Russell was there first and calmly side footed the ball into the empty net to claim his third goal in three league games.
This was exactly the start the home fans were looking for and they didn’t have long to wait before they were celebrating again.
Russell was involved again, this time sliding a brilliant through-ball into the path of Keaghan Jacobs. As Jacobs raced towards goal, Kenny Deuchar followed suit, completely unmarked in the middle. Keaghan rolled the ball into his path and despite his initial shot being blocked by Douglas, Deuchar rose highest to nod the rebound into the net and double our advantage.
Off the park, the Dundee fans were silenced but their team gradually began to fight back into the game, so much so that if it hadn’t been for three excellent saves from McNeill, the Dees could have lead at half-time.
After some good build-up play in the midfield, Jamie McLuskey was first to test the Livi stopper. After getting on the end of Ross Chisholm’s pass, he cut inside Paul Watson, finding himself one-on-one with McNeill but his shot was saved and Craig Barr cleared the rebound. Stevie Milne was next to try his luck but his low-shot was well saved too. The pick of the bunch however came from a free kick. After winning a foul on the edge of the box, Matt Lockwood fired a curling effort round the wall but at full stretch, McNeill got fingertips to the ball and tipped it wide for a corner.
As the teams re-emerged for the second-half, the Dundee fans must have thought they would need an early goal to get themselves back into the game. They were to receive quite the opposite though.
Rhys Weston’s poor clearance was headed back into the danger area by Liam Fox. Kenny Deuchar was to then do what he does best, again holding off the challenge of two defenders to prod the ball under Douglas and send Livi three goals clear.
The Livi faithful could have been forgiven for thinking that was game, set and match however the Dundee players were to prove otherwise.
Just two minutes after Deuchar’s goal and defender Gary Irvine threw Dundee a lifeline. After initially starting the move from the right-wing, Irvine’s run wasn’t picked up and he got his head to Graham Bayne’s cross, nodding the ball past McNeill and into the corner. This was to prompt the rest of his team to life and they sensed Livi on the back-foot.
After more pressure on the Livi goal, Dundee won a corner. O’Donnell fired the ball right into the 6-yard-box and despite seeming to get there first, McNeill could only watch in horror as the ball slipped out his hands and over the line. Bobby Barr and Paul Watson both desperately tried to claw the ball away but the assistant referee, who was perfectly placed on the by-line, signalled the ball had crossed the line.
Both teams were now battling hard for another goal – Dundee looking for an equaliser and Livi trying to finally kill Dundee off. Substitute Rory Boulding could have sealed the win, but after latching on to Jacobs ball over the top, he could only shoot straight at Douglas. Up the other end, a deep cross to the back post found Nicky Riley but at full stretch, his shot was easily gathered by McNeill.
With Dundee pushing on, they were always going to be vulnerable to a counter-attack and that’s exactly how the Lions sealed all three points. Jacobs and Sinclair had found themselves up against the last Dundee defender in a 2 vs 1 situation. Despite working an opening, Sinclair fired the ball wide. However, from the resultant goal kick, Douglas landed Irvine in hot water, passing him the ball with three Livi players round him. Sinclair and Scougall hounded the ball off him and sent Jacobs through on goal. He then teed himself up before smashing a low effort into the bottom corner, ensuring a hard-fought win for the Lions.
Livingston: McNeil, Brown, Talbot, Scougall, C.Barr, Watson, Fox, Kn.Jacobs, Deuchar (Sinclair 87), Russell (Boulding 73), B.Barr (Ky.Jacobs 67)
Subs not used: Jamieson, McNulty
Dundee: Douglas, Irvine, McKeown, Weston (Hyde 85), Lockwood, Riley, Chisholm (Conroy 62), O'Donnell, McCluskey, Bayne, Milne
Subs not used: McShane, Black, Robinson
Ref: G Hilland
Match report by Dave Black