Livingston boss Mark Burchill has branded his side’s start to the Ladbrokes Championship as “unacceptable” after the Lions suffered their third consecutive defeat in Saturday’s match against Falkirk.
Despite the 2-1 scoreline suggesting a balanced affair at Almondvale, Peter Houston’s players, in truth, had their hosts on the ropes for long spells and should have had the points wrapped up by half-time.
Luke Leahy opened the scoring with a truly sensational volley after 16 minutes, taking one touch to control Will Vaulks’ pass before sending an unstoppable effort beyond Darren Jamieson into the goalkeeper’s top left-hand corner.
And, despite Danny Mullen bundling home an equaliser seven minutes after the restart, Vaulks struck a well-deserved winner just ten minutes later to leave Livi, along with Alloa, as the only sides in the division without a point after three games.
Burchill alluded to last Tuesday’s exertions that saw Livingston prevail over Queen of the South in extra time in the Petrofac Training Cup as a possible factor in his side’s lacklustre display, but was honest enough to admit his players simply weren’t good enough.
“We’re three games in and without any points so I’m not happy,” the Lions manager said. “It’s not acceptable. The guys know that in no uncertain terms, so they realise that.
“I thought we looked very lethargic and that’s probably due to the 120 minutes we played the other night.
“We reassessed at half-time and I thought we started the second half pretty well.
“We got a wee bit of luck to get ourselves back in the game and you’re thinking ‘can we go and build on it?’. But we conceded a poor [second] goal and that knocked the confidence out of the guys.
“The one good thing is we have a game tomorrow and the win last week [against Queen of the South] gave a lot of confidence to the guys.”
Livi will have to improve substantially if they are to beat St Mirren tomorrow night in the second round of the League Cup, although Saints are also finding life difficult in Scottish football’s second tier following their relegation from the Premiership in May.
Nonetheless, Burchill’s players were alarmingly poor in the opening phase of Saturday’s encounter, Bairns frontman David Smith flashing the ball across the face of goal three times within the first ten minutes.
And, although Livi could do nothing to prevent a simply stunning opener from full-back Leahy, the goal did nothing to instil some fight into Burchill’s players.
Falkirk continued to press forward, with Mark Kerr pulling the strings in the engine room as the Bairns went in search of a second goal.
It took until the 35th minute for the home side to register their first effort on goal, Ben Gordon smashing the ball just wide of the near post after being teed up by Jordan White.
Referee Andrew Dallas then somehow managed to miss goalscorer Leahy crashing over the advertising boards and continued to play on despite pitchside photographers calling for medical assistance as the player lay dazed in the stand behind the goal.
Livi were rightly booed off at half-time but were quickly back on level terms after the break when substitute Gary Glen’s cross to the back post was completely missed by Danny Rogers in the Falkirk goal and there was Mullen to knock in the equaliser from six yards out.
However, the visitors went agonisingly close to regaining the lead just 60 seconds later when Craig Sibbald headed against the post from John Baird’s cross.
Falkirk continued to press forward and found themselves deservedly in front again after 62 minutes when Vaulks, from Smith’s clever cutback, smashed the ball beyond Jamieson from ten yards out to restore his side’s lead.
Jamieson then tipped over a stinging shot from Vaulks after the defender had received a knock down from Tom Taiwo before Baird deflected the ball over the bar from Peter Grant’s initial effort.
But despite a hugely disappointing outcome, Burchill was defiant as ever, insisting: “We’ll be fine and sort ourselves out very quickly and get ready for St Mirren over the next two games.”
Livingston: Jamieson, Gallagher, Gordon Sives, Longridge (Sheerin 67), Faria, Cole, Georgiev (Glen 46), Hippolyte, Mullen, White (Buchanan 67). Subs: Gould, Millen, Neill, Gibbons.
Falkirk: Rogers, Vaulks, Grant, Watson, Leahy, Taiwo, Kerr, Alston, Baird, Sibbald, Smith (Muirhead 83). Subs: Bowman, McCracken, Miller, Shepherd, Blair, Cooper.
Referee: Andrew Dallas.