Livingston 2 Dunfermline Athletic 1Author: Alistair Campbell Date: Saturday, 8th Dec 2012
It’s never a good thing when you come away from a game debating the officialing but this was the case after Callum Morris’ early red card was followed up by a later booking for diving for Dargo when awarding a spot-kick seemed the more obvious decision. Barrowman’s last minute penalty following Barr’s red card was little consolation after goals from Garcia Tena and Mullen had put Livi out of sight.
Almondvale (less well-known as the Braidwood Motor Co Stadium) is virtually a home game for me, but Christmas shoppers crowding the usual parking places prompted a change of plans and for £3 I ended up in the stadium car-park with no prospect of a quick getaway. Nevertheless, I was able to take my seat in a rather crowded Pars section of the stadium in good time, where virtually the first person I saw was Paul Gallacher, in his civvies, clutching a hot drink. Apparently he had incurred an injury in training and so this meant a debut for the Slovakian Michal Hrivnak with another unforced change seeing Joe Cardle back in the side at expense of Thomson. The back four was first choice, though – Jordan McMillan captaining the side from right back, Stephen Jordan at left back and Dowie and Morris the centre-backs. Geggan was therefore in midfield with Husband and Falkingham and Dargo retained his starting place alongside Andrew Barrowman, who will be suspended from the next Scottish Cup match. That meant places on the bench for Wallace and Kirk, along with Thomson, Ryan Goodfellow, and this week Alex Whittle. So again, no Potter.
Livi’s line up included one of the Jacobs triplets (Kyle), his big brother Keaghan, and former Pars youth player Stefan Scougall, who was partnering Mark McNulty in attack.
There was not much to choose between the sides in the early stages. As one might expect from a side with input from John Collins, the home side exhibited a lot of pretty passing, but to little effect with a couple of early breaks being flagged off-side allowing Hrivnak a couple of early pressure-free touches. In fact, we didn’t see any proper attempts on goal until the 7th minute, when Morris wandered forward and had a pop, although the corner flag was in more danger than the Livi goal.
The Pars nearly managed to set up Dargo a couple of times, but each time the ball wouldn’t sit for him before the game change dramatically in the 19th minute. Scougall easily broke beyond Dowie and Morris moved across and dived in at the edge of the box with a rather wild tackle. He got the ball, but referee Beaton was very quick to flash the red card, and the Pars were down to 10 men with only one recognised centre-half available. Changes would have to be made, but first there was a free-kick to defend. Fox took the kick and crashed the ball of the left-hand post with Hrivnak nowhere.
Cardle was sacrificed for Thomson, as Jefferies reshuffled. Jordan went to centre-back, McMillan took his place at left-back and Geggan dropped to right back, as the Pars opted for a narrow 4-3-2.
The new formation would take a while to gel, and with Jordan expecting Hrivnak to collect a forward pass in 25 minutes that the Slovakian had no intention of getting, Geggan was alert enough to cover and blast the ball out of the park.
However, it was Dunfermline who nearly took the lead on the half-hour – a Falkingham challenge in the middle of the park saw the ball spin to Barrowman who controlled on his chest and played back to the ever alert Husband, before getting the return in space. His cross shot beat McNeil, but agonisingly rolled past the far post.
If that was a let off for the home team, then the Pars had an extraordinary multiple let off 4 minutes later. Jordan had the chance to clear, but chose to double back on to his right foot, was tackled by McNulty, slipped, and nearly brought down the forward. McNulty only had Hrivnak to beat, avoided a wild attempted tackle from the keeper, and with the goal gaping, crashed his shot off the junction of bar and post. An amazing miss, but the danger wasn’t over yet as the ball was returned to Scougall who missed another sitter by blasting over from 6 yards.
Husband nearly made Livi pay for that profligacy when he took a free-kick 30 yards out but McNeil produced a decent save to turn his free-kick round the post. From the resulting corner, it looked as if Dargo had been given a shove, and then when Dargo returned the ball into the area, Barrowman’s header finished on the roof of the net.
Livi finished the half on top, though. Jordan looked vulnerable and swapped positions with McMillan, and Hrivnak made his first saves of the game, including getting a good firm left-hand to a low shot after McNulty’s spin had set up a chance.
Half Time: Livi 0 Pars 0
The second half started in similar fashion, Livi passing the ball well and trying to stretch the Pars defence, but without creating much, although Dowie’s misplaced pass in 49 minutes allowed them a chance which wasn’t taken. The Pars saw plenty of ball too and looked dangerous on the break, but their hopes were stifled by a rash of bookings. Barrowman was first for an aerial challenge on Garcia Tena, before Dargo had to rein in his fury after going to ground in the box, when he had a chance to score, only to be yellowed. McMillan was next for a two footed challenge, but with his opponent not particularly close this must have been classified as reckless, rather than using excessive force.