Livingston are hanging on for dear life in this season’s continuing fight against relegation from the Championship.
A well-deserved point at Ibrox 13 days ago had brought some renewed optimism that Mark Burchill’s men could still kick off the new campaign in August with their Championship status intact.
However, those dark clouds that have continued to hover over the Energy Assets Arena for the majority of the season made an unwelcome return last weekend as Dumbarton came from a goal down to snatch all three points with two strikes in the final ten minutes – a result that has left Livi perilously close to the drop – six points adrift of tomorrow’s opponents Alloa and Cowdenbeath with just seven matches left to play.
Factor in a five-point deduction for defaulting on tax obligations in November as well as the departure of former manager John McGlynn just a month later, Livingston supporters have had little to cheer about in Scotland’s second tier this season.
That said, performances on the park have been far too inconsistent for the club to be in a position to challenge elsewhere in the table with now less than a quarter of the season remaining.
“It’s like anything else, for 80 minutes we were doing well but then make two mistakes and we’re punished, for it,” said assistant manager David Hopkin in light of last Saturday’s 2-1 reversal at home to Ian Murray’s visiting outfit.
“We’ve watched the game over a couple of times and the two mistakes have just killed us. It wasn’t great on Monday morning when everyone was in reflecting on what happened. We would have been disappointed before last weekend’s match to only have taken a point so to take nothing was hugely deflating. But we’ve just got to get on with it.”
Getting on with the job in hand they must however, with four of their seven matches to come against the league’s bit hitters in Hibs, Rangers, Falkirk and Queen of the South.
However, if Livi harbour any ambition of reeling in their nearest rivals for an end-of-season scrap then anything other than three points tomorrow’s encounter with the Wasps would surely be a bridge too far.
“We’ve had a good week of training and hopefully we can get back on track tomorrow,” Hopkin stressed.
“I think the last five or six weeks, anybody that has watched us can see a big improvement in the team but it’s the individual errors and silly mistakes that are costing us. We’re creating a lot of chances ourselves but we’re not taking them.
“To win games you’ve got to take risks. Games in the Championship are mostly won on errors so if you can cut them out then you’ve always got a chance of winning games.”
Come the end of the season, though, those explanations will fall on deaf ears should Livi find themselves plying their trade in Scottish League 1.
Indeed, opponents Alloa are fighting to preserve their Championship status and have proved already this term to be no pushovers on their own patch – a 2-1 victory over Alan Stubbs’ Hibs in August as well as a 3-2 win over Rangers in the semi-final of the Petrofac Training Cup perhaps their most notable results.
“Alloa are decent side and they always give teams a tough game, especially at home so we know what to expect,” Hopkin continued. “They will see an opportunity to put a real gap between them and ourselves so it’s going to be difficult. But we know we have to go there and put in a performance and try and get a result. The gap will close to three points if we can get the points and then it will really pull them in.”
The West Lothian side’s demise in the league this season has put a dampner on their exertions elsewhere – a Petrofac Training Cup final appearance to come next Sunday at McDiarmid Park being the one positive spin on an otherwise disappointing campaign.
However, cup fever has very much been put on hold within the Livi dressing-room these past few weeks as survival remains the utmost priority.
“Cup finals are always one-off games and usually take care of themselves on the day, so tomorrow is so much more important. I expect next week’s match will be a real open game as it’s got to be played to a finish. But we cannot allow ourselves to look too far ahead and are just concentrating on one game at a time.
“It’s been a very difficult Championship this year and given the position of both clubs in the league at this moment in time, both teams deserve enormous credit for getting to the final itself,” Hopkin added.