The weekend game choice was at Livingston’s Braidwood Motor Company Stadium, though probably better known to football fans as Almondvale, and will likely be the last ground’s tour of 2012.
The home team have former Hibernian winger Gareth Evans in temporary charge following John Hughes’ recent departure to take up the unenviable Manager’s post at League 1 side Hartlepool United. The visitors Dunfermline would be looking to take advantage of the fact one of their closest title challengers, Partick Thistle had their game away at Cowdenbeath postponed due to a frozen pitch.
Not long before we set off, my eldest lad had a pubescent teenager moment and decided not to travel with us. So far this season he’s been to the likes of Clyde, East Stirling and Cowdenbeath yet chooses to swerve this game, which, on paper is probably this biggest to date. Strange boy, but it is a democracy we live in after all!
We arrived in good time and found a decent parking space in what looked like a high school gym or leisure centre and made the short walk across a bridge down to the ground. After a quick browse of the small club shop we set about getting tickets. Although not a vain person, I really need to consider the hair dye now as the woman dealing with the parent and child gate asked if I was my mate’s old man!! What’s the old saying, sarcasm is lowest form of wit! I feel the need to clarify at this point that she was indeed at the wind up!
The stadium and set up are very similar to both Falkirk and Hamilton Accies, and it is evident that all three clubs have previously modernised their facilities to meet the SPL stadium criteria during their respective spells in the top flight. Having established a good vantage point to watch the game, it got underway a few minutes later in front of a 1,495 crowd.
I’ve seen both teams play already this season which helped with identifying most of the players. Dunfermline were in their red change strip and probably started the brighter of the two sides. Both had put some crosses into the box and had some shots flashed across the goal, but had nobody on the end of them to capitalise and make the break through.
The game was turned on it’s head after 20 minutes when Livi’s very impressive live wire, Stefan Scougall wriggled past a couple of defenders and was heading into the penalty box before being scythed down by Callum Morris. Although our view was some distance away it was like young Morris had decapitated the boy and it left the Pars to play 70 minutes with a man less. From the subsequent free kick, Liam Fox hit the underside of the bar and the rebound was cleared to safety.
Not long after, Livingston had an even better chance to take the lead but the chance was passed up again in what was one of the worst misses i’ve seen for a while. Striker, Marc McNulty capitalised in some slack defensive play by the visitors, he dummied the keeper, Hrivnak leaving him grounded and with the empty goal gaping he somehow contrived to hit the bar! In fairness I think he simply ran out of puff and was losing his balance as he went to pull the trigger.
Both teams went into the interval on level terms and the second half started much the same as it ended, with Livi doing most of the pressing. Notable incidents in the second period were Pars Craig Dargo being booked for taking a dive in the box, though from our position it looked a legitimate penalty in real time. Then having seen miss of the season, just after the hour mark we were treated to one of the finest goals of the season so far.
Under no pressure, the Dunfermline players stood off Jesus Garcia Tena and the big defender cracked a shot from a good 30 yards, and it flew like a dart into the bottom left hand corner of the net. Some fans near us started up the hilarious chant of “we’ve got Jesus, we’ve got Jesus, we’ve got Jesus on our side”. Dunfermline tried to up their game in response to going a goal down and push for an equaliser, managing a couple of decent efforts on target but without success.
In the closing stages the ball went out of play for a throw in near us and am ashamed to admit it took me the best part of 75 minutes into the game to establish that the visitors left back was none other than Stephen Jordan who i’d seen play for Manchester City on a number of occasions some years ago.
In the last couple of minutes, Livingston made their final substitution, bringing on Danny Mullen for the influential Scougall. As he made his way into the box he was in the right place at the right time to tap home from two yards out for Livi’s second goal, just at the start of injury time in what was his first touch of the ball!
Thinking it was job done, we left early to get a head start on the traffic. The radio signal we picked up was Forth FM and now a couple of miles down the road we looked at each other confused as their reporter at the game mentioned two sendings off and three goals! What went on when we left the ground?! Well, once home I checked out the ‘gospel’ aka the sportinglife.com website and established that Andrew Barrowman had scored a consolation penalty and that Craig Barr must have seen red for his part in conceding it.
This was a decent game to watch and enjoyed the day out. Both teams have a decent blend of youth and experience and although Dunfermline have been near the top of the table throughout the campaign so far, I think Livingston will have a major input on the outcome of the First Division title.