A Day To Fourget
The new management team at Livvy saw their new charges win big against a misfiring Raith side.
The fans gathered at whatever the ex-works teams ground is called this year, to learn that it had been snowing earlier locally.
At 2:49 it started snowing again and at 2:53 the sun came out, though it continued to snow. The game kicked off with the Rovers starting eleven unchanged as the snow eased. It was chilly and this was made all the worse by a breeze into the faces of the Raith support. The wind confused things at times as did the pitch which didn’t look too bad but the bounce was unpredictable and John Baird changed his boots early on.
With new bosses, the Livvy players would have been expected to start well, but it was the Rovers who looked the better side in the early exchanges. A header was easily taken by McGurn then Pat Clarke shot wide from 22 yards. Hamill was on an old stomping ground and he sent a dangerous ball forward which Clarke nearly got on the end of. In the 12th minute a Rovers corner to the back post was half headed down semi bouncing at Davidson’s feet, in space, Iain took a moment before he was able to try to shoot but the chance was gone much to the relief of Andy McNeil in the Livvy goal.
The ex-Rovers back-up was then quickly off his line bravely taking the ball as Casalinuovo raced onto another great pass from Hamill.
As the Rovers looked to maintain the pressure Grant Murray made a mistake, and breaking, the home side looked to capitalise, but Barr’s shot was pushed away well by McGurn. The ball went towards the edge of the box into the path of Jacobs who, relishing his good fortune, shot. Murray tried desperately to block the effort but only succeeded in deflecting the ball and wrong footing McGurn in goal. 1:0 to the home side in the 16th minute.
The goal lifted Livingston and they had more purpose. In the 23rd minute their front man, McNulty, caused problems but Jacob’s cross shot went tamely across goal. The home sides defence were using all their guile to reduce the threat of Clarke and Casalinuovo up front and benefitted from a couple of decisions which surprised the travelling fans. In the 26th minute a Livvy man had a chance to fire in a long range shot but the pitch was such that he missed the ball completely. McNulty did connect 3 minutes later having taken a good touch in the box, the shot looked high but McGurn made sure finger tipping it over. Livvy youth product McNulty caused problems for Murray again when a ball that looked Bert’s ended up with a half chance for the home side. The last effort of the half came from Williamson who had run at the heart of the home side and did well to get into a shooting position – his effort however did not match the build-up.
At the half the Rovers shifted from 4-3-1-2 to 4-4-2 with Clarke getting to stay in the warm and Jamie Walker coming out for the second half – Baird joined Damian up front. Allan Walker delivered a free kick into the box just behind Baird who couldn’t get his header on target. The home side went up the park and McNulty got space again and despite Davidson’s efforts to close him down he put a shot across goal into the side netting for 2:0.
The Lions tried only 2 minutes later to add to their tally when McGurn made a good save with the help of the bar then an effort from the re-bound was blocked and the man with the gloves was able to save the third attempt.
In the 56th minute, as a Rovers corner was cleared, Iain Williamson – who’d put in a tenacious performance up till then – went down with no-one near him. It looked as if he had tried to turn but the pitch didn’t let him. He was clearly in pain, and frustrated, to be stretchered off, being replaced by Callachan.
A moment later it was Jamie Walker’s turn to miss the ball completely.
In the 60th minute the Rovers won another corner which was cleared and Barr broke up the field putting the ball across McGurn’s goal to the back post where McNulty slid in the third goal. A sucker punch if ever there was one.
Oddly after a Livvy defensive clearance a quick throw by the Rovers was foiled as a small child insisted on carrying the ball, one step at a time, down from the top of the stand to the front, to hand it to Willie Dyer! The wee man knew no better, but the officials had more than enough time to get another ball on…
McGurn took a Jacobs shot down low with no fuss then the Rovers played out with good passing and movement from Dyer deep in his half – arguably their best passage of play – but Big Casa couldn’t quite get onto the final ball. This was followed by a less subtle, but more effective, ball to McNulty who went down under a challenge inside the box by Davidson. The referee awarded a penalty and sent off Davo. Iain was guilty only of trying to get the ball and avert danger – there was no malice or recklessness.
Was it a penalty?…Or did Davo get the ball?
McGurn was booked for some reason as the penalty was lined up. Dave went to his right but the ball to his left as McNulty sealed his hat-trick.
With only 10 men Damian was removed and Laurie Ellis went into the back four.
Iain Russell had replaced McNulty and his low shot across goal went just wide in the 75th minute. Jamie Walker shot from 22 yards trying to capitalise on Callachan’s interception but the attempt didn’t threaten the untested McNeil. As time ran down and some of both sets of fans headed for the exit the home side saw a shot cut out by Ellis then a drive from a home defender well blocked by one of his team-mates. At the death a home man cut into the box and shot over.
A pair of ex-Hibs managers joining a First Division side sounds unusual but the Hibernian Manager’s Office is the closest thing Scottish football has to a revolving door. Hughes and Collins will see how accurate a reflection of their new team today’s result was over the next few weeks.
There were few positives but I thought young Ross did well coming on in such circumstances and that Shed was trying to make things happen. Dave McGurn again did well and despite the fact he always seems to do so he deserves a mention.
This was clearly not a good day at the office for the Rovers. Adding to the mix the sending off of Davidson and what could be a bad injury for Williamson decorum prevents me summing up the game in only one or two, erm, choice words… However the Rovers still have 13 games, more than a third of the season, to go and fat lady hasn’t even called the taxi to take her to the concert hall yet.
Written by John Mainland
Pictures by Jim Foy