If Livingston were considered unlucky not to take something from their recent double-header with Hearts, they were fortunate not to be on the end of a real walloping at the Falkirk Stadium on Saturday.
Goals from the home side’s Kieran Duffie and Will Vaulks were enough to condemn the Lions to their 16th defeat of the campaign, their misery compounded by Alloa’s 2-0 triumph over Cowdenbeath. That result leaves Livi six points from safety at the foot of the table.
Mark Burchill’s men were simply toothless in the opening 45 minutes at the weekend, unable to make any sort of an impression on a Falkirk outfit that should have, in truth, been home and dry by the interval. Yet the hosts cut their opponents some slack with some wasteful finishing coupled by a fine display from Darren Jamieson in the visitors’ goal.
A much-improved second-half performance provided some respite for the Livi No.1, although Jamieson’s opposite number and former Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald was rarely called into action – a decent block to deny Keaghan Jacobs late on his only real notable contribution.
Falkirk manager Peter Houston described his own side’s performance as “Jekyll and Hyde” and was rather disappointed that a greater margin of victory hadn’t been achieved as his team moved level on points with Queen of the South in fourth position.
From a Livi perspective, it’s a subtle reminder that relegation is a serious danger should this kind of display continue between now and the end of the season.
“The damage was done in the first half,” Burchill moaned. “The performance in the first 25 minutes simply wasn’t good enough. We had spoken to the players over the last couple of weeks about how well they had competed and how well they’d played against Hearts. We felt that the gap between the top and the bottom had been closed.
“But I think the players felt they just needed to turn up to win here so the first half was completely unacceptable. We lost goals cheaply and, if I’m honest, we were lucky at half-time it wasn’t three of four. The second half was scrappy and we had the odd chance to perhaps get back in the game but we fell way short of the kind of performance that is going to keep us in the division.”
The 189 ardent supporters who had made the journey from West Lothian were subjected to some ghastly defending as both Duffie and Vaulks were allowed ample room to steer their efforts home inside 16 minutes.
John Baird then found a huge gap through the middle of the Livi defence and could have made it three just minutes later had it not been for Shaun Rutherford’s timely intervention.
Further efforts on the visitors’ goal ensued before referee Calum Murray’s half-time whistle brought a welcome break to the men in yellow.
Jordan White should have done better after the break when he miscued his shot wide when it seemed easier to score, but Livi simply didn’t do enough to warrant anything from what proved to be a rather uninspiring trip along the M9.
On Alloa’s precious victory over relegation rivals Cowdenbeath, Burchill added: “It doesn’t affect us. We want to try and get out that play-off place so it was always going to be that. A couple of weeks ago it was three points [the gap at the bottom] and I felt we were progressing but now it’s back to six. We’ve got 11 games left and Alloa to play twice so we need to focus on that.
“I think they’re all must-wins. We need to start picking up points but, however we do it, I still think we’re going to get those six points back.”
Falkirk: MacDonald, Duffie, McCracken, Vaulks, Taiwo (Smith 73), Sibbald (Alston 87), Kerr, Grant, Leahy, Loy, Baird (Morgan 65). Subs: Bowman, Dick, Maybury, Blair.
Livingston: Jamieson, Sives, Fordyce, Keaghan Jacobs, O’Brien, Gallagher, White, Glen (Hippolyte 46), Mullen, Sekajja (McKenna 46), Rutherford (Pittman 77). Walker, Cole, Beaumont, Donaldson.
Referee: Calum Murray.