A familiar face came back to haunt the Lions as Murray Davidson’s late strike condemned Gary Holt’s men to a third consecutive defeat on a perishingly cold night at McDiarmid Park.
Davidson turned home the rebound after Matty Kennedy’s header had been saved by Liam Kelly as Livi once again found themselves on the wrong end of a single goal defeat.
Lions boss Holt made three changes to his side from the Scottish Cup defeat to Hearts as Chris Erskine came in for his first start alongside Craig Sibbald and Ricki Lamie. Keaghan Jacobs and Gregg Wylde dropped to the bench while Dolly Menga missed out altogether through suspension. New loan signing Ciaran Brown was also among the substitutes along with Scott Tiffoney, who had returned from a six-month loan at Morton.
The home side has lost just twice in 13 games, keeping ten clean sheets, so it was little surprise that they started the brighter, Liam Craig trying his luck on six minutes with an effort from 20 yards that sailed comfortably wide of Liam Kelly’s goal. Steven Lawless then had Livi’s first chance two minutes later, gathering possession after the St Johnstone defence had half-cleared before firing a low drive wide of the post.
Livi were growing into the game and went close again on 17 minutes when Ryan Hardie cut inside before firing in a strike that took a wicked deflection and looped just wide of Zander Clark’s goal. The resulting corner was flicked on by Declan Gallagher at the near post but no one could get on the end of it. Erskine and Hardie then linked up well with the latter forcing a smart, diving save from Clark.
Richard Foster sent a long-range effort high over Kelly’s bar before Craig Halkett picked up a yellow card on the half-hour after he was adjudged to have brought down Tony Watt, though he vehemently protested his innocence. Craig stepped up to curl in the resulting free kick but it was comfortably pushed over the bar by Kelly.
Ross Callachan was next to have a go from distance on 35 minutes but his low effort flew a yard wide of Kelly’s right hand post before the Lions passed up a big chance five minutes later when Erskine picked out Lawless twelve yards out but he could only send his volley high over the bar. Foster picked up a yellow card just before the break for a foul on Sibbald but the resulting free kick was gathered by Clark as the sides went in level at the interval.
Half-time: St Johnstone 0-0 Livingston
As the temperature dropped further, it was little surprise that chances were at a premium after he restart and it took until just after the hour mark for either side to go close. After Scott Pittman, back at the scene of his first-ever Livi goal in the 2015 Petrofac Cup Final, was bundled over 30 yards from goal, Halkett curled in a superb strike that was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Clark.
The hosts made their first change on 62 minutes when Callachan was replaced by Chris Kane before Livi went close again a minute later as Halkett met Sibbald’s corner but glanced his header wide. Pittman picked up a yellow card on 68 minutes, “taking one for the team” as he brought down Matty Kennedy to break up a quick counter from the hosts before the Lions made their first change four minutes later when Wylde came on for Lawless.
Just as the game was starting to peter out, the hosts broke the deadlock with 13 minutes to go as, after Kennedy’s header had been brilliantly kept out by Kelly, the ball fell kindly for Davidson to slot home the rebound. The Lions made a double change shortly after, Erskine and Pittman heading off to be replaced by Cadden and Tiffoney.
Cadden fired an effort high over the bar six minutes from time before Davidson and David Wotherspoon picked up yellow cards in quick succession for niggly fouls aimed at disrupting any momentum the Lions tried to build. They did the trick as the hosts were able to see out the remaining time fairly comfortably and claim second 1-0 win over the Lions this season.
Full-time: St Johnstone 1-0 Livingston
St Johnstone: Clark, Foster, Tanser, Shaughnessy, Kerr, Craig, Davidson, Callachan (Kane 62), Wotherspoon, Kennedy (Alston 84), Watt (O’Halloran 90)
Subs Not Used: Hurst, Anderson, Swanson, Gordon
Goals: Davidson (78)
Livingston: Kelly, Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Lawless (Wylde 73), Lamie, Byrne, Sibbald, Pittman (Tiffoney 80), Erskine (Cadden 80), Hardie
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Brown, Jacobs, Lawson
Referee: Andrew Dallas
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine