Livingston don’t half make life difficult for themselves. But, when they do get it right, they are one of the most competitive teams in the Championship.
Second-half goals from Jordan White and on-loan Hibs midfielder Sam Stanton gave the Lions a precious three points at Falkirk on Saturday to move David Hopkin’s men to within two points of eighth-placed Dumbarton – fuelling optimism around West Lothian that Livi can steer themselves clear of the relegation play-off spot.
However, it proved anything but a routine win.
After substitute and Hibs loanee Stanton had doubled the visitors’ lead with a fine strike from 20 yards in the final minute of normal time, not even Mystic Meg could have predicted the drama that ensued in a pulsating three minutes of stoppage time.
After Will Vaulks’ header offered some faint hope for those in the rather sparsely populated stands, a point suddenly appeared well within the hosts grasp as Lee Miller was hauled to the ground by Jackson Longridge with referee Nick Walsh pointing to the spot.
But despite youngster Longridge being sent off for a second bookable offence, the points were finally deemed safe as goalkeeper Marc McCallum denied John Baird from 12 yards – the Bairns frontman opting for power over precision.
“Those last few minutes were absolutely crazy,” Stanton admitted in the aftermath. “It was a massive three points for us with the games we’ve got left. I’m just concentrating on Livi but it’s nice to think I might have helped Hibs out as well.
“I felt sick and could have broken into tears when they got the penalty but it was a great save from Marc. I can’t remember ever being involved in a more frantic ending to a match. We’ve been doing well the last few weeks picking up some good wins so it bodes well for the run-in.”
The first half was laboured, with neither side offering much in the way of an attacking threat. Luke Leahy’s drive across goal was, however, just inches from finding the foot of Bob McHugh in the fifth minute.
Darren Cole’s intended header back to McCallum fell woefully short and although McHugh looked destined to capitalise, Ben Gordon got back to intervene on the goal-line.
Livi almost snatched an unlikely lead on the half hour mark when Liam Buchanan’s cutback was met by the onrushing Scott Pittman, whose shot had to be parried away by Deniz Dogan Mehmet.
Vaulks had one final effort of the first half but his rasping strike from 30 yards cannoned off the top of McCallum’s crossbar.
Baird spurned a glorious opportunity from a Blair Alston cross after the restart but the sucker punch arrived in the 76th minute for the home side as Buchanan’s cross was expertly turned in by White, who sent the 219 Livi fans behind the goal into raptures.
White should have made it two from a Pittman cutback just minutes later but was denied by the Falkirk No.1.
A poor kick out from Dogan Mehmet then provided Mark Fotheringham possession and he slipped the ball into Stanton, who took one touch to steady himself, before sending an unstoppable left-footed drive into the far corner.
But, the excitement was far from over as Vaulks headed in from a corner a minute later and then just seconds after kick-off, Miller went crashing to the turf from Longridge’s challenge, the former Stranraer defender subsequently shown a red card having been booked earlier for dissent, but McCallum produced his heroics to deny Baird the resulting spot-kick.
Falkirk: Dogan Mehmet, Muirhead (Hippolyte 63), Watson, McCracken, Leahy, Alston, Vaulks, Kerr, Sibbald, McHugh (Miller 60), Baird. Subs: McMinn, McCann, Taiwo, Smith, Shepherd.
Livingston: McCallum, Halkett, Gordon, Cole, Longridge, Mullin (Stanton 46), Pittman, Fotheringham, White, Telfer (Sheerin 61), Buchanan (Neill 79). Subs: Quinn, Kakay, Currie, Knox.
Referee: N Walsh.