Burchill ready to bolster squad for survival fight

Andy Dowie's header flies past Livingston goalkeeper Darren Jamieson
Andy Dowie's header flies past Livingston goalkeeper Darren Jamieson
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Livingston boss Mark Burchill has confirmed he intends to strengthen his squad during this month’s transfer window in hope of boosting the club’s chances of survival.

Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to play-off hopefuls Queen of the South – Burchill’s third defeat on the bounce since replacing John McGlynn last month – leaves the West Lothian outfit seven points adrift of safety at the foot of the Championship, although nearest rivals Alloa and Cowdenbeath also lost at the weekend.

A transfer embargo – punishment for failing to pay tax on undeclared bonuses – has now been lifted after the club settled the matter with HMRC.

That breach of SPFL rules also led to a five-point deduction for Livingston in November, but Burchill now plans to delve into the market for some much-needed reinforcements.

“I am hopeful I can get a couple of new faces in to try and freshen things up,” the rookie manager revealed. “It’s always good to do at this time of year, especially at a club down at our level where there’s not a lot of confidence. So if I can get a few fresh faces in then hopefully that will lift the place.

“We’ll wait and see what’s available but there are a few options. We’re doing a lot of things right [with the squad we have] but we just need to get the last few pieces of the jigsaw.”

Livi were caught cold at Palmerston in the early stages, falling behind to Andrew Dowie’s 31st minute header from an Ian McShane corner with striker Gavin Reilly guilty of passing up two clear-cut opportunities to extend the home side’s advantage.

Jordan White restored parity for the Lions six minutes before the interval when he capitalised on a bad error from defender Mark Durnan and glanced a header over the exposed Zander Clark into the Queens’ goal. But the visitors were left to rue the opening half of the second period, White himself failing to net when through in a good position, a Myles Hippolyte effort deflecting onto the roof of the net and youngster Danny Mullen also striking the frame of the goal from close range.

“We got ourselves back in it at one each at half-time but I think for the first 20 minutes of the second half we were the best team,” Burchill said.

“Danny Mullen hits the post from a yard out, Jordan White has two good opportunities so at that point I felt we were going to go on and win the match. But Queens have caught us on the counterattack with two more goals and that’s the disappointing thing, that we didn’t get that second goal when we were on top. We are fragile because we’ve not won a lot of football matches so that’s one thing I need to try and work on with the guys. I am trying to make sure they play with a bit of freedom.”

Livingston were entitled to have some grievances over the hosts’ second, however. Substitute David Robertson had clearly been impeded in his own half before Queens seized possession and broke at pace, Reilly driving up the left before cutting the ball across goal for Derek Lyle to dispatch beyond Darren Jamieson from just a couple of yards out.

The killer punch then arrived 14 minutes from time when Declan Gallagher was dispossessed and Lyle threaded a perfectly weighted pass through to former Livi favourite Iain Russell, who had time to compose himself before finishing into the bottom corner.

With Cowdenbeath and Alloa next to visit the Energy Assets Arena this Saturday and the following weekend respectively, the outcome of these two fixtures are likely to go a long way in determining the club’s fate. Burchill, however, disagrees. “I don’t think they are must wins,” he said. “We’ve got 17 games to try and catch them so I believe we’ll do it. We don’t want them getting further away so we need to try and win those matches, of course. Even though we’ve lost the last three matches, we’re creating chances and doing the right things.”

Queen of the South: Clark (Atkinson 52), Dowie, Durnan, Higgins, Holt, McShane, Carmichael, Reilly, Russell (Dzierzawski 88), Lyle (Paton 78), Kidd. Subs: Hooper, Smith, Pickard, Baird.

Livingston: Jamieson, Mensing, Fordyce, Kyle Jacobs, O’Brien (Praprotnik 87), Hippolyte (Ogleby 76), Gallagher, White, Glen (Robertson 35), Mullen, Rutherford. Subs: Grant, Sives, Beaumont, McKenna.

Referee: Greg Aitken

Attendance: 1940