Livingston grind out vital victory over Falkirk

Danny Mullen scored a double. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Danny Mullen scored a double. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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Livingston moved to within three points of second-bottom Alloa last night after grinding out a 2-1 victory over play-off chasing Falkirk at the Energy Assets Arena.

It was Livi’s first triumph at home in the league since they defeated the Wasps 4-0 in September which, as a result, has given their hopes of Championship survival a much-needed boost.

Buoyed by their weekend Petrofac Training Cup heroics, Livingston showed a real vibrancy from the first whistle, pressuring the Falkirk defence early on. The opening goal arrived on the tenth minute when an expertly-weighted cross from Keaghan Jacobs found striker Danny Mullen in acres of space inside the penalty area and he volleyed sweetly beyond goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald from eight yards.

Mullen, again with time inside the box, then drove over just minutes after giving his side the lead as he failed to keep his shot down from a tight angle.

Tempers frayed on the sidelines between Livi assistant David Hopkin and Bairns boss Peter Houston after Will Vaulks had pushed over Kyle Jacobs on the far side. Jacobs and Vaulks both received cautions for their actions from referee Euan Anderson. Myles Hippolyte, so instrumental in Sunday’s cup victory, was then inches away from doubling the lead when his free-kick from 20 yards ruffled the top of MacDoanld’s net.

However, the visitors equalised two minutes from the interval. There were certainly no qualms over the decision to award the Bairns a penalty as Craig Sibbald, who had been virtually anonymous up until then, skipped away from Callum Fordyce into the area and went down under the challenge of the defender’s trailing leg.

John Baird duly stepped up to convert from 12 yards to restore parity.

Livi were just as hungry in the opening to the second half, a long throw-in from Hippolyte finding its way to the back post and from Scott Pittman’s ball across goal, Mullen miscued his effort wide when it seemed easier to score.

However, Falkirk almost grabbed the lead just 30 seconds later when goalscorer Baird pounced on Darren Cole’s weak header, but after receiving a lucky break from goalkeeper Darren Jamieson’s chest, the striker somehow hit the outside of the post with the goal at his mercy.

Nevertheless, the hosts deservedly regained the advantage in the 54th minute in what proved to be the winner. Hippolyte, with another trademark long throw-in of his, picked out the head of Declan Gallagher whose flick-on was expertly directed away from MacDonald into the far corner by the rising Mullen for his second of the evening.

Livi boss Mark Burchill was delighted with his players’ attitude in what was a much-welcomed three points.

“It was a good win but I’m not going to get carried away,” he said. “I think three or four of the performances were outstanding so it was a great display. I’ve been saying for 14 games now that we’re going to stay in this division and somebody else is going down. I’m not changing my tune now so we’re onwards and upwards from now on.

“If we keep sticking to our game-plan then we’ll be fine.

Livingston: Jamieson, Talbot, Cole, Fordyce, Kyle Jacobs, Keaghan Jacobs, O’Brien, Hippolyte (Glen 84), Gallagher, Mullen (White 77), Pittman (Donaldson 90). Subs: Walker, Boulding, Beaumont, Sekajja.

Falkirk: MacDonald, Muirhead, McCracken, Vaulks, Alston, Sibbald, Kerr (Morgan 67), Grant, Leahy, Cooper (Smith 64), Baird. Subs: Morrison, Taiwo, Dick, Blair, O’Hara.

Referee: Euan Anderson.

Attendance: 1047.