The situation is by no means critical for Livingston, but even the most optimistic of Lions fans will admit that the club is in a rut and in dire need of win in the Championship.
John McGlynn’s men are now eight games without a victory following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat away at Alloa. They haven’t tasted that winning feeling in the league since the end of August – ironically, when they vanquished the Wasps 4-0 at home – and any bounce from reaching the Petrofac Training Cup final has dissipated. Crucially, they’ve slumped to second-bottom in the league and are only a point ahead of basement boys Cowdenbeath.
This latest loss at a sodden and windswept Indodrill Stadium was an improvement on their shock Scottish Cup exit at the hands of League 2 Annan two weekends ago. Livingston probably deserved a point on the balance of play, but they failed to take their chances and at times defended like amateurs. The back-line is fast becoming their Achilles’ heel and it won’t be helped by a suspension for Declan Gallagher, sent off late on in this match, and another injury to skipper Simon Mensing, who wasn’t fielded due to a calf strain and won’t be fit for a few weeks.
McGlynn was stoic in his after-match assessment of proceedings, insisting that his team played well, “didn’t deserve to lose” and despite giving away a cheap goal to Alloa’s Liam Buchanan, should have taken their chances.
“I thought we put a lot into the game, especially in the first half,” said the Livingston manager. “We probably could have been two or three-nil up at that point. Unfortunately that’s the story at the moment. We’re not taking our chances and we’re losing soft goals. For the goal, we’ve had opportunities to clear the ball and we’ve not done that. They’ve scored and we’ve had to chase the game. We’ve made openings – a lot of half-chances – but not converted them. We just couldn’t get the goal back. I thought we didn’t deserve to lose that match.
“It’s now very tight down there now. From Raith Rovers down, there’s only six points between us. It’s still there for anyone who wants to put a wee run together and get away from the bottom. I honestly feel we are capable of doing that and be competing at the other end of the league.”
Livingston probably shaded the first half and, as McGlynn pointed out, could have been well ahead come the interval. The chief culprit for the score remaining 0-0 was Jordan White. The lanky striker is the club’s top marksman in the league with five goals, but his finishing abilities have deserted him recently. On three minutes he should have at least hit the target rather than heading over a decent Burton O’Brien free-kick and then, just after the half-hour mark, he skied a tremendous opportunity, ballooning a fine Gary Glen cutback well over Craig McDowall’s crossbar. He then completed his hat-trick of misses just before half-time. Glen scampered through on goal, McDowall deterred him and just as White looked like he’d convert the rebound, Ben Gordon flung himself in front of the ball to block the goal-bound effort.
Alloa had only threatened sporadically in the first period, but within three minutes of the restart they had punished Livi’s profligacy. It was a lesson in how not to defend. Neither Gallagher or Callum Fordyce could clear a Wasps attack properly and when the ball fell to Kevin Cawley, he slid the ball through to Buchanan, who prodded it beyond Darren Jamieson and into the net. Gallagher claimed for offisde, but he and Fordyce were far deeper than their full-backs and slackly played Buchanan onside, who has scored five goals in his last six games.
The match then ignited, with both sides having plenty of opportunities to add to the scoreboard. Alloa had an incredible three efforts scrambled off the line, two by O’Brien and one by Kyle Jacobs from efforts by Daryll Meggatt, Ben Gordon and Stephen Simmons. At the other end, Danny Mullen would have netted had it not been for a full-length lunge from Gordon to block his shot, Glen shot agonisingly wide with an angled effort, while Kyle Jacobs almost scored directly from a corner, McDowall just managing to punch his delivery round the post.
Livingston’s fortunes got worse in stoppage time when first, Gallagher was sent off for a foul-mouthed tirade at the stand-side assistant referee and then Mullen felt he should have been awarded a penalty when he crumpled underneath what appeared to be a more industrial than intelligent challenge from Meggatt in the box. Referee Mat Northcroft waved away the appeals and blew the final whistle.
McGlynn had no sympathy for Gallagher over his ordering off. The former Dundee defender has just returned from a two-month injury lay-off after falling down the stairs and will now miss two matches for his indescretion. “It was a totally stupid red card,” lamented McGlynn. “He’s just come back from injury and now he’s going to have two-game ban. It’s not good for him and it’s not good for the team. He played very well - in fact, he strolled through the game - and now he’s going to be missing for a couple of matches.”
Next up for the Lions is Dumbarton at home this Saturday. At this moment in time, nothing less than a win will do.
Alloa: McDowall; Doyle, Gordon, Marr, Meggatt; Tiffoney, Simmons, Holmes (Docherty 45+1), Weatherston (McCord 71); Cawley (Hetherington 90+1), Buchanan. Unused subs: Couser, Ferns, Asghar.
Livingston: Jamieson; Ky Jacobs, Fordyce, Gallagher, Talbot; Ke Jacobs, O’Brien (Hippolyte 82), Robertson (Burchill 71); Glen (McKenna 71), White, Mullen. Unused subs: Grant, Sives, Praprotnik, Beaumont.
Referee: M Northcroft.