SIX weeks ago Livingston looked down and out of the Scottish Championship. Six points adrift at the bottom of the table and heading for a 2-1 defeat at fellow strugglers Alloa, there seemed no way back for Mark Burchill’s side. Few watching that day could have envisioned Rory Boulding’s late equaliser prompting a miraculous turnaround which yesterday culminated in a 1-0 victory over Queen of the South that retained the club’s existence in the second tier.
It really has been a remarkable run. Over their final six league matches, Livingston picked up 13 points, hauling themselves off the bottom and finishing the campaign in the safety of eighth position.
The hero on the final day was Kyle Jacobs. After Lewis Kidd was adjudged to have fouled Danny Mullen, he showed nerves of steel to fire his late penalty high into the keeper’s left-hand corner.
It wasn’t the best of games, with the occasion seemingly getting to the home players in the first half. However, the manner of victory mattered very little to the joyous Livingston manager.
“It’s hard to really care now about how we played, if I’m honest,” said Burchill. “I couldn’t give a monkeys!
“If you’ve listened to my interviews you know that I believed we would make up the points. I firmly believed from day one and I’m thoroughly delighted.
“It’s massive financially. I think it’s worth an extra £125k just staying in the league, and that’s almost our full wage budget.”
A chance hadn’t even been created at Almondvale when news filtered through that Alloa had taken a 12th minute lead over Cowdenbeath. The Queen of the South fans used the information to bait the home support by chanting “1-0 to the Alloa”. It was a strange taunt since an Alloa win or draw meant Livingston’s survival was now in their own hands.
Of course, by the same token, an Alloa result and Livingston loss would relegate the Lions automatically. But even though Queens caused their hosts some problems in the first half they still failed to create a clear-cut opportunity.
It took until the 53rd minute for the game to get going, with Craig Sives being bailed out by his central defensive partner Declan Gallagher after a slip almost allowed Aidan Smith a clear run at goal.
This seemed to instil a little urgency in the hosts who immediately went up the other end and were denied by a superb Zander Clark save from Myles Hippolyte. Keaghan Jacobs then had a shot from the edge of the area spilled wide by Clark, before Gallagher had a close range header from a corner kick deflected over the bar.
Then came the moment which perhaps influenced referee Willie Collum into giving the later, decisive penalty. Mullen flicked the ball around Mark Durnan in the box and immediately hit the deck. Contact appeared to have been made, though Mullen was theatrical in going to ground. Collum waved play on, but he pointed to the spot four minutes later when Mullen repeated the same trick on Kidd.
Kyle Jacobs stepped up and kept Livingston in the Championship.