Having suffered back-to-back league defeats, a trip to take on bottom of the league Raith Rovers offered and opportunity for the Lions to get back to winning ways.
Gary Bollan made three changes from the team that started at Firhill, welcoming back Maurice Ross, David Sinclair and Jason Talbot at the expense of Kenny Deuchar, Keaghan Jacobs and Cammy MacDonald. This meant a tactical shuffle with Marc McNulty leading the line himself ahead of a five-man midfield.
The first half won’t linger long in the memory of either set of fans as both teams battled away whilst ultimately cancelling each other out. McNulty and Sinclair both shot wide from distance after some good build up play before a low cross from Ross forced Rovers ‘keeper David McGurn to react quickly at his front-post.
Up the other end, McNeil was rarely tested and watched on as Jamie Walker fired high over the bar. Raith’s best chance of the half came from a Denis Prychynenko free kick. The on-loan Hearts midfielder looked to have curled his free kick wide but after nicking off the head of Kyle Jacobs, the ball spun over McNeil and crashed off the crossbar.
As the half drew to a close, Livi finished the stronger of the sides. In a sign of things to come, Craig Barr got on the end of Mark Fotheringham’s corner but could only head wide before McNulty’s low effort from the edge of the box was well saved by McGurn.
Half time saw the introduction of Kenny Deuchar who replaced McNulty, with the young striker appearing to have picked up a first half knock.
Straight from kick-off, the Lions looked to have stepped the game up a gear and were pressing forward in search of the opener. A high ball forward from Fotheringham reached Craig Barr at the back post but his header across goal just spun out of reach for the incoming Paul Watson. Moments later, some great work on the wing and a teasing cross from the ever impressive Bobby Barr found Liam fox rushing in, but he could only shoot over under heavy pressure from Grant Murray and former Lion Allan Walker.
It looked to be only a matter of time before Livi took the lead and with 56 minutes on the clock, the deadlock was broken. Mark Fotheringham’s free-kick from the left nicked off Murray and straight into the path of Craig Barr and the no nonsense defender made no mistake in powering a header past McGurn.
It was a much deserved lead for the away side and it was so nearly doubled as another Bobby Barr cross teased the Rovers defence but Deuchar and Jacobs got in each others way with the latter just managing to get a shot away but McGurn saved well.
Jason Talbot was next to test the ‘keeper and after strolling forward from left back, he unleashed a powerful strike towards the top corner but McGurn was equal to it and palmed the ball to safety.
Raith did try to venture forward but the Livi defence coped brilliantly, blocking every shot and giving the front men no time on the ball. McNeil, who appeared to be the pantomime villain given the hostile reception from his old side’s supporters, rarely had a save to make but coped well as he came under late pressure from crosses into the box.
Bobby Barr had Livi’s last chance of the game with a breakaway from a Raith Rovers attack. A cross into the box was cleared by Sinclair and Barr raced forward with the ball. With only Willie Dyer in his way, Barr made light work of taking him on before shooting from 20 yards but McGurn, again, got down well to make the save.
Raith made one last desperate push forward in an attempt to snatch a late equaliser and as David Smith’s cross fell in the box, Iain Davidson couldn’t hit the target and fired wide of McNeil’s goal.
A brilliant win on the road for Livi who next face fellow promoted side Ayr United at home.
McGurn, Murray, Ellis, Davidson, Dyer, Smith, A.Walker, Prychynenko (Hill 77), Holt (Graham 68), J.Walker (Hamill 81), Baird
Subs not used: Roy, Williamson
McNeil, Ross, Talbot, Sinclair, C.Barr, Watson, Fox, Ky.Jacobs, McNulty (Deuchar 46), Fotheringham, B.Barr (Cummings 89)
Subs not used: Fordyce, A.Russell, Jamieson
Ref: C Allan
Match report by Dave Black