The Lions travelled to Stenhousemuir for this rearranged fixture, looking to extend their lead at the top of League One against the side at the bottom of the table.
However, there were some understandable anxieties given that the hosts has systematically dismantled second top Airdrie at The Excelsior on Saturday, chalking up five goals without reply in the process.
Livi however were in a rich vein of form themselves, having won their previous four away games in the league and their last seven matches on the road in all competitions. The West Lothian men last tasted defeat on their travels in September at Bayview against East Fife.
Stenny, in their traditional maroon shirts, faced the leaders in their pale blue second kit in front of a meagre crowd that was made up overwhelmingly by travelling fans. Those supporters were interested to see young Matthew Knox starting in midfield, with Dale Carrick earning a deserved start after impressing as a substitute in the last couple of games.
It was the visitors who had to cope with some early pressure from the Warriors though. A powerful shot from Cook, which flew just over the bar, was followed moments later by a Marsh header that went wide of Kelly’s post. In reply, Livi saw tame efforts from De Vita and Mullin that failed to trouble McCabe.
But, after 16 minutes, the visitors took the lead in bizarre circumstances when Stenny’s Ciaran Summers failed to communicate with his goalkeeper and could only watch as his header looped over his teammate and into the empty net.
The Lions took encouragement from that early lead and looked to extend their advantage after a deliberate handball led to a free-kick around 30 yards from goal. However, Knox’s dipping attempt was just too high and the ball cleared the crossbar by a couple of feet. The artificial surface was challenging for both teams and there were several misjudgements from bouncing balls or misplaced passes. Even so, Livi continued to press for another opening and it almost came mid-way through the first half.
Josh Mullin ran across the penalty area and fired a powerful shot that McCabe could only parry away for a corner. The home side looked threatening on the counter-attack and from set pieces. From a corner on the half hour mark, McCormack fired a header that missed by a matter of inches. Shortly afterwards, Ally Roy tried his luck from 20 yards but his low driven shot was held superbly by Liam Kelly down low to his right to keep his side ahead.
As the first half drew to a close, Raffa De Vita had two opportunities to extend Livi’s lead but first fired over and then had a shot saved by McCabe. In the final move of the half, David Marsh had a close range header for the Warriors that went over the bar when he looked likely to score.
HT Stenhousemuir 0-1 Livingston.
The second period began as the first one ended, with both sides looking to create meaningful attempts on goal. Half chances fell to De Vita for Livi and Roy for the hosts but, having failed to extend their lead, The Lions brought on leading score Liam Buchanan for Matthew Knox after 60 minutes. The substitution would, once again, prove to be crucial and change the momentum in favour of the West Lothian men.
With Buchanan supporting the industrious Carrick in attack, and with Josh Mullin teasing the home defence from wide positions, space began to open up. With 20 minutes to play, Mullin took the ball to the touchline on the right hand side of the penalty area and drove his low cross to De Vita who finished neatly from 10 yards to give The Lions a two goal advantage. It was the Italian’s final touch and he was immediately replaced by Nicky Cadden.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, the home side was lucky not to find itself reduced to ten men after a terrible challenge from Marsh on Halkett. The tackle incensed the Livi players and, surprisingly, the perpetrator only received a yellow card. Much to the frustration of the travelling supporters, Captain Sean Crighton was also cautioned for his protests. The incident seemed to give the visitors a renewed sense of injustice and they responded in the best possible way within 5 minutes to put the game beyond Stenny’s reach.
Having replaced Josh Mullin with Ryan Currie, Livi’s energy remained high and, following some excellent passing play, the ball reaching Jackson Longridge on the left wing. His wonderful cross was inch perfect and Liam Buchanan powered home a header from 12 yards without breaking stride. With the game entering its final moments, Dale Carrick scored a fourth goal that his overall performance had merited, hammering his first time left footed shot into the far corner from the centre of the penalty area.
FT Stenhousemuir 0-4 Livingston.
So, winning their game in hand has extended Livi’s lead at the top of the league to seven points. Saturday’s home game to second placed Airdrie is now even more crucial, recognising that victory against their closest rivals will open up a ten point advantage as the season approaches the halfway stage. That game, closely followed by a game against Queens Park at the Tony Macaroni Arena on Christmas Eve, may have The Lions in a very strong position at the end of the year.
Stenhousemuir: McCabe, McCormack, Summers, Marsh (Meechan 83), Kerr, Berry, Roy (Martinez 80), Millar, McMenamin, Furtado, Cook
Subs not used: Robertson, Hamilton, McMaster, McCroary, Gilhaney
Livingston: Kelly, Halkett, Lithgow, Crighton, Longridge, Mullin (Currie 81), Pittman, Byrne, Knox (Buchanan 59), De Vita (Cadden 72), Carrick
Subs not used: Maley, Watt, Neill, Ogilvie
Goals: Summers (16 OG), De Vita (70), Buchanan (81), Carrick (90)
Referee: Kevin Graham
Match report: Calum Brown