Having fallen to a first home defeat in the league in over a year and a half, the Lions hit the road to take on Partick Thistle at Firhill.
Gary Bollan was forced to make two changes to his starting line-up due to injury and suspension. Cammy MacDonald made his first league start of the season at left back in place of the injured Jason Talbot while captain Liam Fox came back into midfield for Rory Boulding.
The first twenty minutes saw the sides contest an evenly matched battle, both creating half chances in the hunt for the opening goal. Kyle Hutton’s long-range drive deflected wide and from the resultant corner, Paul Cairney found Craig Dargo but he shot straight at Liam Fox who was guarding the front post. Another corner then caused a good old stramash in the penalty area with Livi defenders diving to make blocks all over the place, before Andy McNeil finally got a hold of Hutton’s weak shot.
Down the other end, Paul Watson’s header fell nicely for Kyle Jacobs but his shot was blocked on the line before he then turned provider with a great cross into the box but Kenny Deuchar couldn’t get over the ball and header over. Deuchar again went close with a header, this time from Mark Fotheringham’s cross but despite getting there before Thistle ‘keeper Scott Fox, he could only glance the ball wide.
Referee Alan Muir then denied Livingston what looked like a clear penalty. A sublime ball over the top from Bobby Barr sent Marc McNulty in behind the Partick back-line but as the young striker raced for the ball, he appeared to be tripped by Conrad Balatoni. As the ball trundled out, Muir signalled for a goal kick, much to the obvious disgust of McNulty.
Partick soon began to take a hold of the game and it wasn’t long before they went a goal ahead. Some neat passing play across the middle created some space for Stephen O’Donnell on the right and he fired a shot at goal that deflected off Paul Watson and looped over for a corner. From that corner, Cairney had two bites at getting the ball in the box and from the second attempt, he found Balatoni who volleyed home from 12 yards.
It was a goal that had been coming for the Glasgow side and they continued to push on, looking for a second. Some strong hold up play from Craig Dargo allowed Christie Elliot to break through but his low shot was easily saved by McNeil. Another Partick corner was to again cause Livi problems as the home side doubled their lead in comical fashion. Aaron Sinclair crossed from the corner and as it reached the danger area, the ball appeared to hang in the air slightly. This was enough for Kenny Deuchar, who was back defending the set piece, to miscue his header and send the ball past McNeil and into his own net.
It was a horrible moment for the big front man but he was to make amends just before the interval. Fotheringham’s long free kick wasn’t dealt with by Balatoni or Archibald and as the ball broke free, Deuchar was on hand to drive home and half the deficit. That was exactly the response Livi needed as the teams went up the tunnel for half time.
The small number of travelling away fans would have hoped that the Lions would start the second half brightly, but it was Thistle who looked most likely to add to their tally. A high ball forward was excellently flicked into Cairney’s path by Dargo and his rocket of a shot flew just past the post. Cairney again posed a threat as he drove forward with the ball, skipping by two defenders but his shot had the same outcome as it whistled behind for a goal kick.
Livi did keep fighting on as they fought for an equaliser. A well worked passing move in the middle eventually found Keaghan Jacobs out wide and after beating his man, he teed up McNulty but his shot was straight at Fox. Bobby Barr then did well to feed in Deuchar but he didn’t make great contact with the ball as he volleyed goal wards and into Fox’s arms.
Bollan threw on top-scorer Iain Russell in an attempt to strengthen the Livi front-line but it was Partick who finished with the last chance of the match, a deflected Paul Paton effort that flew well wide of the post.
A second league defeat in a row for the Lions with a trip to basement boys Raith Rovers next on the cards.
Fox, Paton, Balatoni, Archibald, Sinclair, Cairney, Rowson, Hutton, O'Donnell, Dargo (Erskine 81), Elliot (Doolan 89)
Subs not used: Scully, Stewart, Bannigan
McNeil, MacDonald, C.Barr, Watson, Ky.Jacobs, Fotheringham, Kn.Jacobs, Fox, B.Barr, McNulty, Deuchar (I.Russell 76)
Subs not used: Jamieson, Sinclair, Fordyce, A.Russell
Ref: A Muir
Match report by Dave Black