This week saw the turn of Livingston playing host to Raith Rovers in the ever compelling First Division campaign. Livingston have made an impressive start to their season as the newcomers, summed up by a terrific last-minute win against Partick Thistle last weekend. Kyle Jacobs wonder strike was enough to see the Lions clinch victory. Raith Rovers on the other hand have had a topsy-turvy start to their campaign. A defeat last week to Ross County saw the Rovers slip to 7th in the table.
Considering the league is that tight though a win today would see them leapfrog Livi, so it was all to play for in this one.
Both sides made changes to their line ups, with Paul Watson coming in for Livi and Iain Davidson for Raith. A rather overcast day greeted the players but this didn’t do anything to dampen the spirits of the away fans who were in fine voice.
Raith kicked off and soon won a free kick. An early opportunity then for the away side, but they found McNeil in fine form as he punched the dangerous free kick clear.
It was a promising start from the fife side as Grant Murray had a half volley easily dealt with by keeper McNeil.
Raith were then dealt a major blow when Dougie Hill was sent of for an apparent stamp. It was a rather rugged challenge from the big centre half but referee Willie Collum had no hesitation in sending him off.
Despite this, it was the team with ten men who continued to press, Joe Hamill coming close with his trickling effort. Livingston were soon down to ten men as well as Iain Russell picked up a headknock.
In Russell’s absence, Raith were able to take control of the game without creating any real clear-cut chances. A mis-hit from Paul Watson allowed John Baird to go through on goal but his attempt went hide and wide. Russell came back on to the delight of the home fans, this time though sporting a rather fetching Terry Butcheresque head bandage. Joe Hamill then picked up the ball from 25 yards out and angled his shot just over the bar.
There wasn’t a great deal to talk about from a Livingston point of view, as they struggled to make the extra man count. Liam Fox had two rather tame efforts but that was about it from the Lions.
With seconds remaining of the first half Kyle Jacobs had a volley fired across the goal. It was a gutsy first half showing from the away side, but Livingston would have been disappointed not to make the extra man count.
And so into the second half and it was again the away side who had the first opportunity, Joe Hamill saw his deflected effort well collected by keeper McNeil.
Livingston almost immediately had a chance to open the scoring as Liam Fox saw his 25 yard effort well parried by David McGurn. From the resulting corner, Craig Barr was unlucky to nod just over the bar. Iain Russell then did well to work his way into a shooting position before blasting the ball goalwards but keeper McGurn was there to tip over.
McGurn was then called into action once more as he did well to improvise and divert the ball wide from a Paul Watson header.
Iain Russell looked to have broken the deadlock as he waltzed his way through the Raith defence, but he inexplicably cut the ball back when it looked easier to score.
Raith then had an Alan Walker volley trundle past the post. It was an action packed start to the second half as both teams had chances to grab the opener. But it was Raith who somehow got the first goal of the game, Allan Walker doing well to head it back for Brian Graham and the former Ton man scooped his volley into the bottom right hand corner.
Jason Talbot had an ambitious shot from fully 30 yards but his attempt went by the right hand post. Kenny Deuchar was then brought off for Marc McNulty and the substitute made an immediate impact.
Iain Russell was again at the centre of things, saw his deflected effort finding its way to McNulty who lashed his shot in off the underside of the bar to equalise for Livi.
Livi then nearly took the lead, a beautiful delivery from a Liam Fox corner found Craig Barr but his header was again well blocked by McGurn. Raith were beginning to look leg-weary as Livingston piled on the pressure.
Bobby Barr coming closest with a long-range effort. Iain Russell then went on another one of his mazy runs, setting up Rory Boulding but he could only fire wide. Raith were able to ride out the remaining minutes and it was a well-earned point for the Rovers.
John McGlynn was an understandably happy man: “I’m delighted with the character we showed especially after going down to ten men. I would have liked to have seen what the score was had we kept eleven players on but apart from that I’m happy with the point.”
A far from happy Gary Bollan commented: “I’m desperately dIsappointed we didn’t get the win. For me, that is two points dropped. To have the extra man for the majority of the game and not to win is a disappointment.”
Livingston: McNeil, Brown (Boulding 79), Craig Barr, Watson, Talbot, Bobby Barr, Fox, Kyle Jacobs, Scougall, Deuchar (McNulty 65), Russell. Subs Not Used: Jamieson, Ross Docherty, Ross Gray.
Raith: McGurn, Donaldson, Hill, Murray, Dyer, Davidson (Williamson 78), Ellis, Walker, Hamill, Brian Graham (Reynolds 90), Baird (Thomson 81). Subs Not Used: White, Scott McBride.
Ref: William Collum