Dunfermline Athletic 3 - 1 Livingston: Pars close gap at top

Kallum Higginbotham in action for Dunfermline. Picture: SNS/Sammy Turner
Kallum Higginbotham in action for Dunfermline. Picture: SNS/Sammy Turner
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A combination of bizarre and brilliant saw the Pars go back to second top of the Championship and inflict the first away defeat of the league campaign on high-flying Livingston.

Two first-half strikes by Kallum Higginbotham and one from the outstanding Fraser Aird, put the Fifers on easy street, and such was their domination of the second period, they should have added considerably to that tally in front of a very healthy crowd of more than 5,000.

Delighted Pars boss Allan Johnston said: “We knew it was going to be a hard game as they’ve been the surprise package. We passed the ball well and I was delighted with the performance and even in the second half we restricted them to very few opportunities.

“We were more of a threat going forward and had more shots and were back to the standards we set at the start of the season.”

Dunfermline, previously without a victory over the West Lothian side for more than five years, took the lead after just two minutes in the most bizarre of circumstances. Defender Jackson Longridge was short with a pass back to goalkeeper Neil Alexander, forcing the ex-Ranger to race from goal to clear, but instead the keeper smashed the ball off the in rushing Higginbotham, pictured, and the ball rebounded into the net much to the blushes of the Livi defence.

Three minutes later, at the other end, the West Lothian side might have been level when Josh Mullin, lurking six yards out at the back post, lashed a fierce volley on target, but Pars ‘keeper Sean Murdoch produced a wonderful instinctive stop to turn the ball round.

The Pars almost made it two in six minutes when Aird showed pace and vision, but his 20-yard dipping effort drifted just over the crossbar.

Livingston, previously six league games unbeaten, saw that record all but come to an end on the half hour mark when Aird doubled the Pars lead with a sensational strike. The ex-Rangers midfielder cut in from the left, looked up and curled a fabulous 25-yard right foot shot high past Alexander,.

There was nothing bizarre about Higginbotham’s second in 38 minutes when he ran on to a superb pass from Aird, gathered the ball 20 yards out, and crashed a magnificent shot past Alexander to ensure the points and end a three-game winless streak.

David Hopkin rang the changes for Livi at the interval bringing on Declan Gallagher and Jack McMillan for Mullin and Dale Carrick and soon after Rafaele De-Vita for Longridge, but it did little to change their fortunes.

Dunfermline continued where they left off with a game plan laced with slick movement and directness and in 52 minutes should have added a fourth when Higginbotham and Nicky Clark combined down the right to set up Callum Smith, but the striker swept the ball over from 12 yards.

The Pars, the league’s top scorers, continued their incessant pressure and in 58 minutes Aaron Splaine teased the Livi defence but shot over, and three minutes later Clark had a shot that hit the outside the of the post after great work by Jason Talbot. Clark came close again in 66 minutes with a flashing header, but Alexander reacted to tip the ball over.

Chances continued to come and go for the Pars and in 69 minutes Splaine was again just of target with a low 25-yard shot. Livi scored a consolation three minutes from time when James Penrice swung over a corner from the left that was headed down by Nikolay Todorov for Danny Mullen to volley home.

Dejected Livi coach Hopkin said: “The first goal was criminal. I thought we were the better team in the second half and if we had scored a bit earlier I think we would have got a point.”