It was a cold, dour and damp afternoon in West Lothian and unfortunately the football wasn’t much brighter as Livingston and Dunfermline played out a 0-0 draw.
Livingston were unchanged which meant that new forward signings Ryan Hardie and Lee Miller started up front while former Par Shaun Byrne began in midfield. Fellow ex-Dunfermline defender Gregor Buchanan had to make do with a place on the bench.
On the other hand, Allan Johnston made 3 changes with captain Callum Morris, midfielder Nat Wedderburn and attacker Joe Cardle all dropping to the bench; Lee Ashcroft, James Vincent and Andy Ryan came in as the Fifers shook things up to try and get some improved results.
The first real chance fell to Livingston as Hardie spun and shot towards goal but the on-loan Rangers forward was denied as his effort deflected behind for a corner.
The first chance for the visitors came as Declan McManus was set free on the right side of the box and his shot across goal went behind for a goal kick as Dunfermline began to get a grip of proceedings.
Nicky Clark was next to have a go as he had a dig from outside the area. The Pars’ top marksman fired an effort inches wide of former Rangers colleague Neil Alexander’s left-hand post after the striker was gifted too much room at the edge of the area.
Mideay through the opening period, Byrne picked up a nasty facial injury after a collision in the middle of the field. A free-kick was awarded to Dunfermline and a yellow card was shown to the number 6 but he was forced off through a cut below his eye. David Hopkin brought on Steven Boyd to try and provide a little bit more of a goal threat.
Ryan continued the dominance of the away side as he cut inside of Declan Gallagher before his right-footed effort was blocked: the ball fell kindly to Clark who rifled in a driven effort which Alan Lithgow headed superbly off the line to keep the game scoreless.
Just before the break, a header deflected off Jason Talbot from a set-piece which called the Pars fans to inhale a deep breath but Lee Robinson was alert to the danger.
The final effort of the half fell to Clark, with the Dunfermline captain firing straight at Alexander from 18 yards. Greg Aitken blew his whistle to signal the interval with Dunfermline in control but neither keeper had been overly worked.
Early into the second-half, McManus received the ball after Livi failed to clear a Craigen free-kick cross. The striker looked set to score but Alexander done well to stand up tall and deny the forward from 5 yards out.
Ryan had got on the end of Alexander’s party but his scissors kick attempt went high and wide on this occasion as Allan Johnston’s side carried on from where they left off during the first-half.
In a rare foray forward, Nicky Cadden’s delivery from the left caused danger as Jean-Yves M’Voto sliced his clearance which spun towards goal, but, once more Robinson was anticipating all outcomes and was quick to get down low to his right to stop an own goal occurring.
McManus nodded Craigen’s corner straight at the Livingston keeper before matters worsened for Hopkin’s side; the ball fell loose in the middle of the park and in a similar incident and position to that of the Byrne tackle earlier on in the game, this time Jordan Thompson lunged in on Ryan which this time produced a straight red card for the youngster as the Lions were reduced to 10 men.
Daniel Armstrong came on for his debut, replacing Ryan and it was his pass from the right which allowed Craigen to get an attempt on goal from 22 yards out but the strike was straight down the throat of Alexander.
Livingston had defended strongly all afternoon and they didn’t let up in the closing stages. With Dunfermline failing to create any clear cut chances, it was shots from range or a set-piece which looked the likeliest way a late winner would occur.
Tom Beadling flashed a left-footed shot wide before McManus hooked over the bar late on as time run out for the Fifers to pick up a vital three points.
Speaking after the match, the West Lothian sides’ manager, David Hopkin, said:
“I’ve just watched the sending off, and it never is a sending off. It is embarrassing – the referee is miles away; Jordan [Thompson] has lost his footing; one foot is still on the floor and the other foot half hits the boy [Andy Ryan] but he [referee Greg Aitken] couldn’t wait to get the red card out. I thought his performance was inept, to say the least. I felt he let things go, that he shouldn’t have let go – for both sides – and there’ll be a few comments going into John Forming [SFA Referee Chief] on Monday morning as it was a really poor showing. I am delighted with a point.
When you have both sets of fans shouting at the referee, it tells you everything. Even the one by big [Jean-Yves] M’Voto on [Lee] Miller: he headers the ball away but his elbow goes into the back of his head and it was just a yellow card. Then the one where Nicky Clark does Shaun Byrne, nothing, but our player then gets a yellow card: Shaun Byrne is now away to hospital to get 7 stitches in his face because of a tackle but nobody gets booked…it is a wee bit frustrating but I’ll forget about that now as I’m absolutely delighted with a point – we played a very good team, a very experienced team with very good players, so, considering we played the last 20 minutes a man down, without Shaun Byrne and two wingers playing centre midfield, I am absolutely delighted with a point as I thought they done excellently for me.
We have got Deccy [Declan Gallagher], Craigy [Craig Halkett] and Al [Alan Lithgow] all playing extremely well right now. IG you analyse the goals we have lost here recently, one is an own goal against Falkirk and one is a mistake against Queen of the South, so, from that perspective we are delighted. It was a feisty game today with a lot of tackles, so there was a lot of stop-starting and teams are coming here and doing that right now, which is frustrating; if I was a Dunfermline fan I’d be going home saying that wasn’t great.”
In contrast, Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston was frustrated only picking up one point from Saturday’s re-arranged match.
“Maybe that is why Livingston are ahead of us in the league, the way they defended towards the end: they were throwing bodies in front [of the ball] and they got the clean sheet despite us purring a lot of pressure on them. I think it is 2 points for us but there were a lot of encouraging performances there today.
I thought James Vincent was excellent in the middle of the park, he showed a lot of quality. There was a lot of good play out there, considering it was a bit of a battle as well.
We had to do the ugly side of the game, it wasn’t always pretty because, you know that when you come here, you are going to be in a bit of a fight. We are disappointed not to get the three points: we know this is a hard place to come, but, when you see how far Livingston are ahead of us, we take encouragement from that when you see the performance that we put in today; with the quality of player that we have got, we have a real chance of catching them if we can put a run of results together.”
FULL-TIME: Livingston 0-0 Dunfermline Athletic
1. Neil Alexander
31. Declan Gallagher
26. Craig Halkett (Captain)
4. Alan Lithgow
6. Shaun Byrne (Steven Boyd 26′)
24. Jordan Thompson
8. Scott Pittman
23. Raffaele De Vita
11. Nicky Cadden
9. Ryan Hardie (Scott Robinson)
18. Lee Miller (Jack McMillan 72′)
20. Gary Maley (GK)
2. Jack McMillan
3. Jackson Longridge
5. Gregor Buchanan
7. Josh Mullin
10. Steven Boyd
17. Scott Robinson
25. Lee Robinson
2. Ryan Williamson
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
6. Lee Ashcroft
14. Jason Talbot
28. James Craigen
31. Tom Beadling
26. James Vincent
9. Declan McManus
10. Nicky Clark (Captain)
16. Andy Ryan (Daniel Armstrong 72′)
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
5. Callum Morris
8. Nat Wedderburn
11. Joe Cardle
12. Daniel Armstrong
17. Fraser Aird
27. Dean Shiels
Referee: Greg Aitken