Livingston goalkeeper Darren Jamieson was critical of referee Mat Northcroft’s decision to award Raith Rovers a first-half penalty as the Lions succumbed to a 3-0 defeat at Stark’s Park in their Ladbrokes Championship opener.
With the visitors having fallen behind to Mark Stewart’s close-range effort in the eighth minute, Northcroft incensed Livi when he pointed to the spot just after the half-hour mark when penalising defender Craig Sives for deliberately handling in his own box from a Grant Anderson cross. Ryan McCord netted the resulting spot-kick to double Ray McKinnon’s side advantage to leave the Lions with a mountain to climb.
And, despite a gritted second-half display, Rovers substitute Mitch Megginson added a third in stoppage time to condemn Mark Burchill’s men to an opening-day defeat.
“I’m not going to say too much but personally I don’t think it was a penalty,” said 24-year-old Jamieson.
“I was right behind it and Sivvy [Sives] was standing with his hands by his side when the cross came in.
“Referees always say to us that, if you move your hands towards the ball, then it’s a penalty so I could understand if he’d moved. But he was standing still with his hands by his side so it shouldn’t have been a penalty.
“Referees and linesmen have an almost impossible job and I know how hard it can be for them. But decisions like that completely change games. If we go in at half-time 1-0 down then we come out with a lot more to play for.”
Jamieson was critical of his side’s performance but is confident things will improve.
“We must be sharper and get the ball rolling on the ground and not start the game fifteen minutes in,” he said. “We wanted to play our passing game but there were a lot of slack touches so I think the boys were nervous, to be honest. But once we got ourselves into the game I think we were the better side.
“Every game is massive but we’ve got the squad to compete and one that can certainly keep us in the league.”
Livi found themselves trailing within the first ten minutes after a well-worked free-kick, aided by a slight deflection off Jordan White, found its way to Stewart, who took one touch to control before finishing the ball into the far-left corner.
Stewart again went close for the home side before the visitors really should have levelled things up.
A neat turn and control from Liam Buchanan inside the Raith box created space for the former Alloa frontman to pick out strike partner White, who could only blast his shot wide with just Kevin Cuthbert to beat.
Danny Mullen produced a moment of magic as he flicked the ball over a closing defender before driving a terrific left-footed volley across goal which was tipped round the post by an alert Cuthbert.
The game’s major talking point then arrived on 32 minutes. After evading a challenge from Jackson Longridge in his own half, Anderson surged forward and into the Livi penalty area where his cross was inadvertently handled by former Hearts defender Sives.
And, although Craig Wighton managed to pick up the loose ball and get his shot away on goal which just went past the far post, referee Northcroft pulled the play back much to the dismay at those in yellow, who had surrounded the official pleading Sives’ innocence.
Sives was subsequently booked for his protests as McCord stepped up to send Jamieson the wrong way from 12 yards.
Buchanan had a great chance to reduce the deficit shortly after but his tame effort was straight at Cuthbert.
Jamieson’s left-hand post bore the brunt of a stinging effort from Anderson after the interval as the Kirkcaldy outfit chased a third before Livi substitute Gary Glen followed suit with a fierce drive from 20 yards which cannoned off the top of the crossbar.
Livi huffed and puffed as they fought to find a route back into the game and, despite the Raith goal-frame being struck for a second time from captain Darren Cole’s cross-cum-shot, Megginson pounced in stoppage time to add Rovers’ third.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, McKeown, Bates, Toshney, Callachan, Anderson (Davidson 70), McCord (Megginson 70), Craigen, Wighton, Stewart (Petrie 90). Subs: McGurn, Matthews, Ford, Campbell.
Livingston: Jamieson, Cole, Gallagher, Sives, Longridge (Glen 46), Pittman, Gibbons, Hippolyte, White, Mullen (Georgiev 52), Buchanan (Sheerin 76). Subs: Quinn, Neill.
Referee: Mat Northcroft.