Livingston are on the verge of a remarkable season-ending survival mission.
Having spent the best part of five months rooted to the foot of the table, Saturday’s heroics at Stark’s Park has lifted the Lions off the bottom and out of the automatic relegation spot for the first time since November.
That said, Livi might have been preparing for life in League One had they lost to Raith Rovers and Alloa had picked up a point at Easter Road.
However, with Alloa losing heavily and Hearts’ last-minute winner against Cowdenbeath, Livingston will retain their Championship status should they defeat Saturday’s visitors Queen of the South at the Energy Assets Arena and Cowdenbeath fail to beat Alloa.
However, with just one point separating the league’s bottom three, Livi would be relegated should Queens emerge with the points and their nearest rivals claim a share of the spoils at the Indodrill Stadium.
Nonetheless, a Blue Brazil win over the Wasps will mean Livi will finish in the play-off place, irrespective of the outcome against James Fowler’s outfit.
With emotions expected to run high over the course of Saturday afternoon, the race for survival promises to be one of the most eagerly contested for a number of seasons.
But having incurred a five-point deduction for tax irregularities this season, boss Mark Burchill says it is an incredible feat by his players to even be in this position with just one game to go.
“It would be a massive achievement to stay up,” he stressed after his side’s 4-0 triumph over Raith. “With the circumstances of how I took over the job and what we’ve had to go through this season, it’s been very, very difficult for the players. So to get to this stage and still be in with a fighting chance going into the last game at home is testament to the boys.
“I’m happy and we’re delighted to be off the bottom. But Saturday is a massive game that we need to go and try and win. We were in the position against Raith that we were 3-0 up quite early on so my thoughts had already turned to Queen of the South and what we have to do there.
“Who knows how the Alloa Cowdenbeath game is going to go, but we need to take care of our own business. We’re on a good run of form, so hopefully we can take that on.”
Similarly to Livi’s last jaunt to Stark’s Park in December when they thrashed Rovers 5-1, as good as the visitors were, the hosts were toothless from one to 11 and unable to pose any threat to Darren Jamieson’s goal, a second-half penalty the Lions shot-stopper palmed away being their only notable effort on target.
But Livi were home and dry by then, goals from Callum Fordyce, Craig Sives, Danny Mullen and a Craig Barr own goal condemning the Fifers to another heavy defeat in what is fast becoming an increasingly disgruntled home support.
“I was delighted with the performance,” Burchill said. “The guys have been working so hard in training but we had to come here and do a job and that’s what we’ve managed to do.
“We had to try and get a goal as early as we could and I think we had five or six corners within the first five minutes or so.
“We were on the front foot right from the start and I felt there was only ever one team that looked likely of winning.”
With Queens having cemented fourth place and a promotional play-off first-round battle still to come against either Rangers or Hibs, Burchill is hoping the Doonhamers don’t arrive in West Lothian all guns blazing. “Queens are obviously a very difficult side to beat, but I don’t know what James Fowler is going to do with the team. We just need to concentrate on what we do, but it’s definitely better they’re not coming to us needing to win to get into the play-offs, that’s for sure,” the Livingston manager added.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, Watson, Fox, Stewart (Vaughan 78), Elliot (Nade 11), Callachan, Conroy, McKay (Anderson 62), McKeown, Barr. Subs: McGurn, Hill, Scott, Vaughan, Matthews.
Livingston: Jamieson, Sives, Talbot (McKenna 73), Fordyce, Kyle Jacobs, Keaghan Jacobs (White 57), O’Brien, Hippolyte (Glen 53), Gallagher, Mullen, Pittman. Subs: Walker, Donaldson, Boulding, Sekajja.
Referee: Kevin Graham