It’s a battle of the Premiership new boys this weekend as Livi travel to Paisley to take on Championship winners St Mirren at the Simple Digital Arena.
The parallels between the two sides stretch further than that, though, as both clubs have had to contend with losing their promotion-winning manager as well as several members of the squads that delivered, certainly in Livi’s case, such unexpected success.
Livi are, of course, on to their second manager since David Hopkin’s exit following the departure of Kenny Miller by mutual consent last week as Gary Holt takes charge of his first match as Head Coach, while St Mirren turned to former Hibs boss Alan Stubbs after Jack Ross’ move to English League One side Sunderland.
Even at this early stage of the season, the match takes on added significance with both sides expected to be battling for Premiership survival come May so let’s look ahead to Saturday’s match up.
How have St Mirren fared on their return to the top flight?
After a successful Betfred Cup that saw them advance to the second round before being knocked out by Aberdeen, the Buddies have made an encouraging start to their Premiership return.
Their Betfred Cup campaign opened with a trip to Kilmarnock, where they emerged victorious 3-2 on penalties after a goalless draw.
Another penalty shootout win followed at home to Lowland League side Spartans, though it was one they were fortunate to get as they had to battle back from 2-0 down after Jason Stevens and Scott Maxwell had given the Edinburgh side a shock lead. Stephen McGinn and a Danny Mullen penalty rescued a draw for Stubbs’ side before they sealed a 5-3 win on penalties.
Saints were taken to penalties for a third time against League Two Queen’s Park at Hampden as they claimed a 5-4 shootout win after another goalless draw.
This left them on six points from three games and needing a victory in their final match at home to Dumbarton to have any chance of qualifying and they duly obliged with a 6-0 rout of the League One side. Hayden Coulson opened the scoring inside a minute before Cammy Smith’s double and further strikes from Ross Stewart, McGinn and James Kellerman rounded off an emphatic win.
That proved to be enough to take them into the second round but their run was brought to an abrupt halt as Aberdeen ran out 4-0 winners at Pittodrie through a double from Gary Mackay-Steven and goals from Graeme Shinnie and Stevie May.
After their successful Betfred Cup group campaign, they made a dream start to the Premiership season with a 2-1 victory at home to Dundee. Former Livi man Mullen struck both goals, the second after taking advantage of a clanger by Dark Blues keeper Jack Hamilton, either side of Elton Ngwatala’s equaliser.
They followed that up with a trip to Ibrox which ended in a creditable 2-0 defeat through goals from Alfredo Morelos and Connor Goldson.
Is there any team news ahead of the big game?
Ryan Hardie, Craig Sibbald and Raffaele De Vita will once again miss out for the Lions but new signing Steve Lawson should be available to make his Lions debut in Paisley. New boss Holt will also be sweating on the fitness of Lee Miller after the big striker limped out of the Betfred Cup loss to Motherwell with a knee injury.
The Buddies will be without Adam Eckersley and Gary Mackenzie for the foreseeable future after both players were forced to undergo operations to correct issues that have kept them out since the summer. Loanee keeper Danny Rogers also needs to undergo a scan on an injury sustained in a reserve match against Dundee United.
New signing Lee Hodson, who has arrived on loan from Rangers, is available to make his debut for Alan Stubbs’ side.
How have the two sides fared against each other over the years?
The head-to-head record between the two sides is pretty even with the Buddies holding a slight edge. The two sides have met 15 times since their first meeting in October 1999, a 1-1 draw at Love Street, with the Saints having picked up 7 wins to Livi’s 5, with 3 draws.
Until November of last year, there hadn’t been a home win in any meeting but the Buddies ended that quirk by coming from behind to claim a 3-1 win at the Paisley 2021 Stadium (as it was then known), coming from a goal down after Dale Carrick’s opener to run out winners thanks to Lewis Morgan, a Neil Alexander own goal and an Iain McShane penalty.
Livi followed suit in the next meeting, picking up their first home win over the Buddies with a thumping 4-1 success at the Tony Macaroni Arena. It was another come-from-behind success as Ryan Flynn’s early strike was overturned by Ryan Hardie’s double and wonder goals from Lee Miller and Scott Robinson.
The two sides’ last meeting was, despite a dire 0-0 draw, a match that Saints fans will never forget as it allowed them to clinch the Championship title. It was also a valuable point for the Lions as it helped them to finish second in the table ahead of Dundee United.
Of course this weekend marks the first ever top-flight meeting of the two sides and Gary Holt will hope to follow in the footsteps of the last red-headed former Scotland international to serve as Livi boss and mark his debut with a win in Paisley!
What do the bookies make of Saturday’s match?
League sponsors Ladbrokes see the Buddies as favourites for Saturday’s clash at 6/5, with Livi a 13/10 chance. It’s 11/5 that the two sides play out a draw.
The two sides’ first-ever meeting ended in a 1-1 draw and the same result is available at 5/1 while, if you’re feeling ambitious and fancy a repeat of the 4-1 win secured on David Hopkin’s debut, that’s 90/1.
Travelling supporters will be accommodated in the North Stand at the Simple Digital Arena (behind the goals to the right of the main stand). Ticket prices for Saturday’s match are as follows:
Under 12 – £6
* Proof of unemployed status (dated within the last three months) must be shown when purchasing a match day ticket
** To be entitled to a carer ticket, you must be in receipt of the higher rate mobility component of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Tickets should be purchased from the window in the North Stand, which is open from 1.30pm until kick-off, before proceeding to the turnstiles.
An electronic ticketing system is in operation so, on entering the turnstile, place your match ticket (with barcode facing up), into the slot and wait for the green light before pushing the turnstile to enter.
Our fans should note that St Mirren supporters have organised a food collection at the Simple Digital Arena ahead of Saturday’s game in aid of Renfrewshire Foodbank. Collection bins will be available outside each stand if you would like to donate something.
A list of items which the foodbank is in urgent need of can be found on the St Mirren website here.
How do I get there?
As ever, the LiviLions Supporters Club is running a bus to Saturday’s match. There are still a few seats available and the pick-up times/points are as follows:
· Pumpherston (The Cawburn Inn) – 12.45pm
· Mid Calder (opposite The Black Bull) – 12.50pm
· Dedridge (Crofthead Farm bus stop) – 12.55pm
· The Tony Macaroni Arena – 1pm
· Carmondean (opposite The Saltire) – 1.10pm
· Bathgate (opposite The Dreadknought) – 1.20pm
The fare for all travellers is £9. Exact change is much appreciated.
If you can’t make the bus, let the train take the strain with services from both Livingston North and South to Paisley St James (changing in Glasgow), which is a couple of minutes’ walk from the ground. The services to Paisley St James leave from Glasgow Central at half-hourly intervals.
Drivers should follow the M8 to Junction 29 then take the first exit onto the A726. At the first junction, turn right then immediately right again on to McFarlane Street, follow the road round on to Greenhill Road and the ground is on your right after you go under the railway bridge.
What if I can’t make it?
Fear not, we will have live text commentary on our Twitter feed @LiviFCOfficial from 3pm, while you can see extended highlights on Sportscene at 6pm on Sunday evening.