There’s no disputing Bradley Donaldson’s patience has been severely tested this season.
While Livingston have had to contend with the threat of relegation since incurring a five-point deduction in November for tax irregularities, a punishment they have so far been unable to overcome as they remain three points adrift at the foot of the Championship with just two games left to play, Donaldson has been left to watch on from the sidelines in utter disbelief.
However, the defender finally made his first start of the season for the Lions in Wednesday night’s 3-1 defeat by Hibs – ten months after signing a one-year deal last June.
A combination of septicemia and a recurring ankle problem has limited the 20-year-old to just three appearances in the league this season, coming on as a late substitute in the 2-1 victories over Falkirk and Cowdenbeath respectively earlier this month.
After finding himself surplus to requirements at Easter Road following the Capital club’s relegation to the Championship last season, Donaldson was quickly snapped up by former Livi boss John McGlynn last summer.
It was then somewhat fitting that after having to wait until mid April to make his first start in a yellow jersey this season, his moment would finally arrive against his former employers.
“It was strange to be making my full debut against Hibs, without a doubt,” Donaldson told the Evening News. “They’re obviously one of the best teams in the league, but you’ve just got to take it in your stride I suppose.
“But first and foremost, it was just good to be back playing again. Wednesday was my first competitive match in a very long time, almost two years, so it was good to get back on the pitch although the result was really disappointing.
“The under-20s games don’t really compare to first-team football if I am being honest, the tempo is just so much quicker than say playing on a Tuesday night.
“It’s been so frustrating at just getting back to playing now. Having signed for Livingston in the summer things were looking good to start with.
“But with an injury to not have healed as I thought and then crop back up again is a killer. I’m glad to be back now so hopefully I can do my best to help the boys and the club stay in the league.
“We’ve got to kick on and pick up the points in the last two games.”
Donaldson has been seen around the fringes of the first-team for a number of weeks now, although a change in fortunes triggered by the Petrofac Training Cup final win at the beginning of the month has made life difficult for the youngster to force his way into Mark Burchill’s starting XI.
That said, having been handed a taste of Wednesday night’s action from the off, Donaldson is now hoping he has done enough to retain his place for tomorrow’s crucial encounter away to Raith Rovers.
“We didn’t start the game against Hibs anywhere near the tempo we had in our previous matches against Falkirk and Rangers,” he admitted. “All the boys are disappointed with how we played, particularly in the first half, both when we had the ball and without. We should have dealt with both Hibs’ goals [in the first half] but we’ll look to try and get that back for tomorrow’s game and the Queens game the week after.
“The next two games are monumental, absolutely huge. We knew having Rangers last week and Hibs this week was going to be a huge task to get any points whatsoever. We’ve came away with one from those two games, yes we would have liked more but this is where we’re at.”
Livingston simply destroyed Rovers at Stark’s Park on their last visit across the Forth in December, a 5-1 thrashing in a game that saw current boss Burchill head in Livi’s second of the afternoon en route to a hugely satisfying victory in Kirkcaldy that particular afternoon. “The last game there certainly gives us good confidence ahead of tomorrow’s match,” Donaldson admitted.
“They were on a good run up until their last few games but essentially they’ve got nothing to play for now so hopefully we can take advantage of that. People are writing us off already but we’re going to give everything we have got left in the tanks.
“When you’re at the wrong end of the table you don’t get the rub of the green at all.
“We’re fortunate Alloa and Cowden are playing against both Hibs and Hearts this weekend but we’ve just got to concentrate on what we do for 90 minutes tomorrow and try and get a result.”