Livi bounced back from last week’s dismal display in Methil with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Peterhead at the Balmoor Stadium.
The Lions headed north looking to persuade the rest of the league that the East Fife defeat was a blip in what had otherwise been an excellent start to the season. With barely a cloud in the sky and the underfoot conditions close to perfect, it promised to be game full of free-flowing football.
The West Lothian side took the early initiative and sought to take advantage of the excellent pitch, with some slick passing. With only two minutes on the clock, Danny Mullen found himself in a promising position in the penalty area but appeared to throw himself to the ground and referee Gavin Duncan waved away any weak appeal for a penalty.
The hosts, with the ever-dangerous Rory McAllister leading the line, used the big striker as a target man at every opportunity but Livi’s back three of Halkett, Crighton and Neill coped admirably with the aerial threat.
In the 7th minute, Livi conceded a cheap corner on their left. The ball was whipped in to the edge of the six yard box and Peterhead’s tallest player, centre half Kelleher, was able to glance it beyond Kelly without a serious challenge in the air.
The long journey was already looking to take its toll on the players and supporters alike. The home side, feeling understandably confident, almost doubled their advantaged a few minutes later. Ferry, Peterhead’s captain, found himself free on the left hand side and fired a low shot just wide of Kelly’s left hand post. The hosts were enjoying possession, especially in the wide defensive areas that were highlighted by the absence of full backs.
Identifying this weakness, the Manager made some tactical changes, reverting to a recognised back four in an effort to regain the initiative. The travelling support had to wait until the 23rd minute to see the first serious attempt on goal from Livi, when Mikey Miller fired his shot over the bar. But, only two minutes later, Livi were back on level terms.
A fantastic diagonal cross field pass from Sean Crighton, of at least 50 yards, was instantly controlled by Danny Mullen near the touchline. He took the ball past his marker and curled the ball from the edge of the penalty area into the far corner of the net beyond Smith in the Peterhead goal.
Livi began to dominate and the front two of Mullen and Buchanan enjoyed more possession than before. On two or three occasions, perhaps with better first touches, the visitors could have taken the lead and missed opportunities.
A wonderful driven cross from Cadden, in the 34th minute, flew across the six yard box and missed every despairing outstretched leg before going out harmlessly for a goal kick. Shortly before the interval, Buchanan created an excellent chance for Mullen after some trickery in the penalty area but his strike partner fluffed his lines from 8 yards out and the ball was cleared.
HT: Peterhead 1-1 Livingston
The Lions started the second half where they’d left off in the first. A lovely pass from Mikey Miller, who had an excellent game, found Josh Mullin but his fierce shot was parried by Smith to keep the home side level. Nicky Cadden, for the third time in the game, fired a vicious effort wide of the goal as Livi looked to take the lead.
With Peterhead pressing in search of a goal of their own, the West Lothian men launched a devastating counter attack after 59 minutes. Mullen and Buchanan found themselves breaking clear of the home defence from the half way line, in a two-on-one situation. In what seemed to take a lifetime, Mullen passed the ball to Buchanan rather than shooting himself. Buchanan appeared to have the lost the chance to score and his attempt was blocked. However, thankfully for the travelling support, the ball fell to Mullen who slotted the ball into the empty net and give The Lions a deserved lead.
That set the scene for the remainder of the game. Livi seemed content to give their hosts some possession and looked to counter attack at every opportunity. Peterhead continued to feed McAllister with high balls and, although he was always dangerous, there was no real threat from the prolific striker and he was well-marshalled by Crighton and Neill throughout.
As the home side’s desperation increased, McAllister threw himself to the ground in the penalty area and was cautioned for simulation, much to the relief of the Livi fans. Another counter attack saw Pittman breaking from half way, but the defender raced back to block the attempt and the resulting corner came to nothing.
In the end, a 2-1 victory was a fair reflection of the play and The Lions can now enjoy a break from league action as they face another game away from home next week – this time in Belfast against Crusaders in the Irn Bru Cup.
Peterhead: Smith, Stevenson, Noble, Strachan (Redman 83), Kelleher, Dzierzawski, Riley (McIntosh 75), Brown, McAllister, Ferry, McCluskey (Brown 75)
Subs not used: Hobday, Baptie, Rumsby, Blockley
Goals: Kelleher (7)
Livingston: Kelly, Miller, Longridge, Neill, Halkett (Sinclair 84), Mullin (Carrick 76), Cadden (Watt 65), Pittman, Buchanan, Crighton, Mullen
Subs not used: Maley, Byrne, Knox, Allan
Goals: Mullen (25 & 58)
Referee: Gavin Duncan
Match Report: Calum Brown