Ladbrokes Championship: Livingston 1 Dunfermline 1: 05/08/17

The opening match of the Ladbrokes Championship season took Dunfermline to Livingston as the home side returned to the second tier of Scottish football after an absence of one season.

With Nicky Clark out after an ankle operation, striker Declan McManus serving a two league matches suspension and David Hopkirk just returning from injury, manager Allan Johnston was lacking options upfront. New signing Fraser Aird went straight into the team with Kallum Higginbotham expected to play further forward. The only other change was Jean Yvette M`Voto replacing the injured Callum Morris.

Livingston showed one change from the side they fielded against Cardiff City in their most recent friendly. Josh Mullin coming in for Raffaele De Vita. That meant that Shaun Byrne lined up against his former club.

Ahead of kick off Livingston proudly unfurled the League One champions flag. Dunfermline had performed the same ceremony only 12 months previous and led out by Sean Murdoch they formed a guard of honour for the Livi heroes. Their captain Craig Halkett was followed out by his team and the Chairman Robert Wilson who with more than one tug required, performed the happy task.

The home side kicked off attacking the goal at the north end of the Toni Macaroni Stadium and within 13 seconds Josh Mullin tested Murdoch from 25 yards out and the all green keeper dived to his left to make a fine stop. Almost but not quite the perfect start for the Lions.

As more room was created to accommodate the larger than expected travelling support, play continued in the direction of the Pars keeper. For several minutes Livi kept play in the Dunfermline half with powerful headed clearances required from Ashcroft, Paton and Wedderburn.

It was the 11th minute before Neil Alexander was called into action. Higginbotham collected the ball on the right side of the Livi box but his pass in failed to find Callum Smith and the keeper had no trouble in gathering.

A fine cross from Josh Mullin on the right was defended out only as far as Dale Carrick who shot at the angle and again Murdoch was forced in a necessary save. Then two minutes later, in 19 minutes the first corner of the afternoon allowed Mullin to send in a dangerous cross that Murdoch fisted away. That was quickly fed back to him on the left and his shot was deflected behind for another corner that this time Murdoch held at his back post.

Right back Declan Gallagher tried a blast from distance midway through the half but it was further outside the right upright than the home support in their stand thought.

A Livi corner on the right after 30 minutes led to the opener. Taken short to Scott PITTMAN who cut inside and released a low shot from the edge of the box that travelled through all the legs and into the Fifers net. 1-0

Dunfermline won their first corner of the match in an immediate response but Livingston cleared. A goal in arrears and devoid of much joy in attack the Pars manager made a substitution five minutes before the break, David Hopkirk coming on for debut boy Aird.

Before the half time whistle there was one opportunity made by Higginbotham cutting back from the right byeline but M`Voto could not get enough on his header to trouble the keeper. The half ended with possession showing 52% to the visitors but Livingston had tried five shots to the Pars none. The large travelling support were certainly hoping for better in the next 45 minutes.

Half time: Livingston 1 Dunfermline 0

The half time talk seemed to rally the visitors intent and they did show more urgency from the restart. Jackson Longridge dumped Williamson on the touchline to earn the Pars an opportunity for Higginbotham to pump a free kick into the Livi box. That was initially cleared but then a cross came in from the left and a 52nd minute penalty was denied when Hopkirk was pushed off the ball as he rose to challenge in front of goal.

From a 56th minute corner from the left Carrick headed powerfully on target and the ball was cleared at the right goalpost by Cardle. Then Williamson`s cross towards Smith earned the Pars a corner on the right but when that came over neither Wedderburn nor Cardle could control the ball and Livi broke.

Then in 63 minutes Joe Cardle was taken down on the right side of the box and this time referee Alan Newlands pointed to the spot. Kallum HIGGINBOTHAM grabbed the ball and then stuck it past Neil Alexander. 1-1

Dean Shiels replaced Callum Smith and Livi brought on Raffaele de Vita for Dale Carrick. Both teams made lively attempts to get the next goal. Williamson has another sortie up the right and at the other end both Mullen and Mullin tried crosses from the right.

In 73 minutes Byrne found himself in good position deep into the right side of the Pars box but fortunately Williamson swept away the threat. Two minutes later Josh Mullin delivered a good ball from the right and de Vita scooped that good chance over the bar.

Cardle and Gallagher were yellow carded after an off the ball incident before a Cardle cross set up Hopkirk at the far post but his attempt was kept out by the defence.

An 80th minute free kick caused real problems for Dunfermline and Mullen looked like he might have sneaked the ball in but between then Murdoch and M`Voto denied the Livi number ten.

Then five minutes from the end M`Voto`s challenge on Mullen on the left side of the box earned the home side a penalty kick. Mullen assumed responsibility and sent his spot kick attempt right. Murdoch dived the right way low and pushed the ball away.

So it was to be a point apiece, a result that pleased the hosts more than the visitors. The first half performance was well below the expectations at Dunfermline Athletic something that the manager would speculate a consequence of soaking up too much praise following the good day at Tynecastle in the previous match.
LIVINGSTON: Neil Alexander: Declan Gallagher, Craig Halkett (c), Alan Lithgow, Keaghan Jacobs, Josh Mullin (Nicky Cadden 84), Scott Pittman, Shaun Byrne, Daniel Mullen (Nikolay Todorov 90+2), Jackson Longridge, Dale Carrick (Raffaele De Vita 67).
SUBS NOT USED: Matthew Knox, Scott Robinson, Josh Peters, Gary Maley (GK)
SCORERS: Pittman (30),
YELLOW CARD: Mullen (44), Gallagher (78), Longridge (89)

DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch (c): Ryan Williamson, Jean Yves M`Voto, Lee Ashcroft, Lewis Martin: Fraser Aird (David Hopkirk 40), Michael Paton, Nat Wedderburn, Joe Cardle: Kallum Higginbotham, Callum Smith (Dean Shiels 65).
SUBS NOT USED: Scott Lochhead, Aaron Splaine, Jason Talbot, Conner Duthie, Cammy Gill (GK)
SCORERS: Higginbotham (63 pen.)
YELLOW CARD: M`Voto (76), Cardle (78)

REFEREE: Alan Newlands
WEATHER: Sunny 16C

NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship: (home) v Inverness Caley Thistle, Saturday 12th August 2017. 3.00pm kick off at East End Park.

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