Hibs 2, Livingston 1: October 27, 2004
HIBS returned to winning ways against Livingston after their eight-match unbeaten run had been ended by Hearts – but victory was less convincing than they would have liked. Having taken an early two-goal lead against opponents who were bereft of ideas, Tony Mowbray’s team should perhaps have gone through the rest of the match on cruise control, but a Derek Lilley penalty got Livingston back into the game.
Once they had got that goal Livingston began to play some decent football, but they had simply left themselves with too much to do after a disjointed opening half-hour.
Livingston were lucky to lose by just one. Hibs had two penalty appeals turned down – correctly, but both incidents were of the sort which on another night might have yielded spot-kicks – and Derek Riordan had a shot blocked in injury time.
The home team began the match in assertive mood, and were ahead after only nine minutes after a free-kick won by Alan Orman on the right led to the opener.
Stephen Glass’s diagonal cross had an innocuous look to it, and, held up by the wind, took an age to arrive at the far post. Had it taken twice as long, the Livingston defence would probably still have failed to get to it before Guillaume Beuzelin, whose looping header from six yards out, found the far corner of Roddy McKenzie’s net.
Simple, direct and telling, the goal encouraged Hibs to go for the jugular. Their equilibrium might have been upset when Garry O’Connor was forced off by an ankle knock and was replaced by Steven Fletcher, but instead they kept on trying to force the game.
Within minutes of making his appearance, the substitute came close to scoring his side’s second. A long ball down the right from Glass to Riordan was crossed first time by the latter, and, while Fletcher connected in the box, he could not keep the ball down and it flew a foot or so high of the goal.
Midway through the half, though, Fletcher was more accurate. Glass was again the provider with a cross into the box, and this time the young striker was on target, with McKenzie managing to do no more than slow the ball down slightly on its way into the net.
Two goals ahead with 23 minutes on the clock, Hibs were cruising.
Eight minutes before the break Livi’s Burton O’Brien latched on to a short header back to the goalkeeper from David Murphy, but Simon Brown got down well to block the shot. Two minutes later Livingston had another decent chance, but Jim Hamilton’s header from a Richard Brittain cross was too high. On the stroke of half-time O’Brien had another chance with a free-kick from just outside the box, but his effort was too high.
Livi boss Alan Preston made a change at the break, withdrawing Brittain and bringing on Lilley. When the game restarted, though, the first chance went Hibs’ way, when Riordan shaved the post with a glancing header. On the hour, Riordan, a danger every time he got the ball, was inches away from sending an Orman cross into the net. At the back, Ian Murray was commanding. Hibs were apparently strolling to victory.
But then former Hibs player Marc Libbra came off the bench, and within 30 seconds was awarded a penalty when Whittaker brought him down on the edge of the box. Brown went the right way but could not get a hand to Lilley’s well-struck spot-kick.
Hibs: S Brown, Whittaker, Caldwell, Murphy, Glass, Murray, Beuzelin, Orman, Rocastle, O’Connor, Riordan.