Calum Elliot hogged the limelight for all the wrong reasons as 10-man Livi slipped to a first defeat in three games on a controversial night in Kirkcaldy.
Elliot, who achieved the unique feat of signing for both clubs during the summer, appeared to dive to earn his side a penalty midway through the first half before moments later making the most of minimal contact from Danny Denholm in a challenge which saw the Lions winger shown a straight red card by referee Alan Muir.
Raith came close to opening the scoring in the opening moments as Joe Cardle picked the ball just inside the Livi box and flashed a low drive across goal and inches wide of the far post with Darren Jamieson beaten. Cardle was at the heart of Raith’s next opportunity as his clever reverse pass released Liam Fox, one of several ex-Livi men in the home line-up, and his cut back found Elliot but he screwed his shot wide of the near post.
Livi were offering little as an attacking threat but came close to the lead as Keaghan Jacobs’ first time drive from distance was deflected just over the bar by the advancing Raith defender. Raith came agonisingly close to the lead soon after as a bullet header from xx produced a brilliant save from Jamieson to divert the ball over the crossbar when a goal seemed certain.
It was only a matter of time before the opening goal came and it was no surprise that it was the home side who got it as Jamieson came charging out of goal to try and deal with a hopeful ball forward, only to be eased off the ball by Gordon Smith, another ex-Lion, who took a touch out wide before firing in a low shot which Callum Fordyce came agonisingly close to stopping on the line.
Livi came close to drawing level as Kyle Wilkie and Stefan Scougall linked up to play in Danny Denholm, who had to stretch to get in a looping shot which dropped just wide of the post. Raith then headed straight up the other end and Cardle’s low shot from outside the box was saved well by Jamieson at his right-hand post. Denholm then sent in a long-range effort for Livi which Laidlaw in the Raith goal saved comfortably.
The game then exploded into life in a crazy few minutes as, first, Elliot threw himself to the ground under pressure from Burton O’Brien inside the penalty box. Ref Muir seemed set to book the Raith man for diving but inexplicably took the advice of his assistant, who had a much poorer view of the incident, and instead awarded the home side a penalty. Justice was served though as Elliot’s spot kick was saved fairly comfortably by Darren Jamieson down to his left, his second penalty save in successive matches after the crucial save in the win over Dundee, before Jason Talbot cleared the headed rebound off the line.
That wasn’t the end of the drama as just seconds later Denholm caught Elliot with a challenge which could be called clumsy at worst, but the theatrics of the Raith man did enough to convince Muir that the challenge was worthy of a straight red card, a decision which sparked fury among the travelling support. Elliot’s actions did however draw the approval of Raith defender Paul Watson, who ran straight to the striker and offered him a hearty high-five.
Livi’s ten men then found themselves trying to do more of a containing job on the home side but did come close to an equaliser when Kyle Wilkie slid a low ball across goal and agonisingly wide of the post.
The second half was a far quieter affair, with the diminished visitors sent out primarily on a damage limitation mission. Unsurprisingly then, the best of the chances fell to the hosts and villain of the piece Elliot was denied from close range by a well-positioned Jamieson before Fox was denied a goal against his former club when his shot spun over the bar from 15 yards. Cardle then came close twice in quick succession with low, long-range drives which Jamieson did well to hold.
The closest Livi came to an unlikely equaliser was when Coll Donaldson’s hopeful ball into the box was flicked into the path of sub Martin Scott but he couldn’t stretch enough to wrap his leg around the ball and the chance slipped away, along with Livi’s hopes of salvaging a result. Livi stayed fifth despite the result, a point behind Falkirk ahead of the two sides’ meeting at Westfield on the other side of the Scottish Cup break.
Livingston: 1 Jamieson, 3 Talbot, 4 Mensing, 5 Fordyce, 7 Jacobs, 8 O'Brien, 9 McNulty (Lander 71), 10 Scougall (McDonald 79), 11 Denholm, 15 Wilkie (Scott 55), 19 Donaldson
Subs not used: 16 Beaumont, 31 Praprotnik, 45 Mullen, 17 Walker
Raith Rovers: 17 Laidlaw, 2 Thomson, 3 Booth, 4 Watson, 16 Ellis, 6 Fox, 7 Cardle, 8 Moon, 11 Anderson (Callachan 89), 10 Elliot, 15 Smith (Spence 71)
Subs not used: 5 Hill, 14 Donaldson, 19 McCann, 21 Vaughan, 27 Roberts
Referee: Alan Muir
Match report: Andrew Crawford