Livingston boss Mark Burchill insists he will continue to play jail-threatened Declan Gallagher after the defender made his first start of the season in Saturday’s 1-0 Scottish League Cup first-round victory over Clyde.
It was the Lions’ second successive win over the Bully Wee in just seven days after Livi kicked off their defence of the Petrofac Training Cup with a 2-1 triumph last weekend.
Gallagher, 24, was a notable inclusion in Burchill’s starting XI at Almondvale on Saturday despite being convicted of assault in June, where he was sentenced to three-years in prison after attacking Steven Findlay with a baseball bat outside a Lanarkshire hotel in April 2013.
However, with the former Dundee player’s legal team having lodged an appeal in a bid to overturn the verdict, Gallagher has taken up the option to re-sign for Livi while he is out on bail – a decision that manager Burchill fully supports.
“I gave him my word that I would back him,” a defiant Burchill explained. “Since I’ve been at the club his professionalism has been exemplary and his attitude first-class. I can only judge him on what I know and he has been fantastic for me. He was a big factor in us staying in the division last year so I told him right from the first minute that I’d back him and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
The club’s decision to afford Gallagher the opportunity to earn a living while the court considers his appeal has been widely criticised, Livi’s main sponsor Energy Assets withdrawing their sponsorship for the forthcoming season last week after the club announced its stance on the matter.
Gallagher, though, was deployed in the right full-back position and impressed like several of his team-mates, Kieran Gibbons, in particular, turning in an assured display in the heart of the Livi midfield.
The hosts penetrated the visitors’ back four during an entertaining opening spell with Clyde goalkeeper John Gibson in inspired form as he somehow kept out Ben Gordon’s net-bound header from a Danny Mullen corner.
Jordan White, so often Livi’s goal hero last season, tried his luck from 25 yards after a neat lay-off from Spas Georgiev, but the frontman could only screw his effort wide of the target.
The visitors were struggling to contain the home side’s directness and Mullen again forced a fantastic point-blank save from Gibson as his header from six yards was tipped away by the Clyde shot-stopper.
Barry Ferguson’s side began to impose themselves on the Livi rearguard after the interval and David Gormley brought out a fine stop from Darren Jamieson after the striker had connected with a deep Scott Linton cross from the left.
With a midfield battle ensuing, chances were at a premium in the latter stages, although White did go close with a fizzing shot from distance after substitute Jordyn Sheerin had teed his strike partner up.
Scott Ferguson then went down under the challenge of Jackson Longridge and despite the youngster’s plea for a penalty, referee John McKendrick waved play on.
However, with less than ten minutes remaining of extra time, White duly delivered for the hosts as he rifled in the winner from 20 yards to send the Lions into round two.
Ahead of Saturday’s Championship opener with Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park, Burchill disclosed his concerns over squad availability with a handful of first-team players carrying knocks.
He said: “Every fit player at the club was in the squad today so I don’t have a lot of choice. What you see is what you get. The five or six guys who were left out are injured so they weren’t even considered. I am hopeful of maybe bringing in one or two this week because I think if you look at the bench we are very light.”
Livingston: Jamieson, Gallagher (Millen 107), Sives, Gordon, Longridge, Georgiev (Neill 120), Pittman, Gibbons, Mullen, White, Buchanan (Sheerin 85). Subs: Quinn, Auriemma, Fraser, Smith.
Clyde: Gibson, Smith, M McLaughlin (Ferguson 58), Bolochoweckyj, Linton, S McLaughlin, Murray (Campbell 79), Gormley, Higgins, Brisbane (McQueen 79), Mitchell. Subs: McMillian, Marsh, Lynass, Fisher.
Referee: John McKendrick.