Jordan White was the hero as Livi’s quest for the ‘Great Escape’ gathered momentum with a battling victory of relegation rivals Cowdenbeath at Central Park, their third win in six days.
In front a boisterous travelling support, the gallant Lions came from behind to win in the league for the first time this season to remain just three points behind Alloa, who won easily against a Dumbarton side with nothing to play for, and close to within only five points of today’s opponents with games in hand on both sides.
Manager Mark Burchill made one change from Wednesday night’s draining win over Falkirk, bringing White in for Burton O’Brien as he looked to continue his side’s fine recent run. The Lions started brightly and an early cross from Callum Fordyce looked inviting for White but it just eluded him and Cowden were able to clear. A long throw from Myles Hippolyte was then flicked on by Declan Gallagher but home keeper Robbie Thomson was able to gather.
Cowdenbeath forced their first chance on five minutes with a free kick awarded just outside the Livi box. Colin Marshall curled in a fine effort which beat Darren Jamieson but cracked off the crossbar on its way over. After that bright start, the game became a midfield slugfest, though Hippolyte was unlucky with a through ball towards White that was just cut out by a Cowden defender. Jason Talbot then picked up the game’s first yellow card on 19 minutes for one word too many out of turn towards referee Crawford Allan.
Keaghan Jacobs then came close to the opener with a long range free kick which bounced up in front of Thomson and he could only fumble the ball over the bar with the sun in his eyes. Scott Pittman then sent a high ball into the box but White could only loop his header wide. A carbon copy of an earlier move then saw Gallagher flick another long Hippolyte throw into the hands of Thomson.
There was then a bizarre, and hugely controversial, moment as referee Allan awarded Livi a penalty for a foul on Danny Mullen, only to be called over by the far side linesman who adjudged that there had been a foul by Mullen before the tackle that had seen the spot kick awarded, much to the fury of the Livi players, coaches and fans alike. Mark Burchill revealed after the game that the referee had apologised and admitted he’d got the decision wrong and should have awarded the penalty.
Livi won another free kick 30 yards out on 43 minutes but Hippolyte’s terrific effort flew inches over the bar as the sides went in at the break all square.
The second half got off to the worst possible start as far as Livi were concerned as Cowden took the lead within two minutes of the restart. A corner from the right wasn’t cleared and the ball broke to centre-half Nat Wedderburn who finished with all the prowess of a striker, neatly volleying his effort across goal and into the far corner of the net. Cowden then made their first change almost immediately, replacing Sean Higgins with Chris Kane.
The game once more became a midfield scrap as Cowden tried to hold what they had and Livi, knowing victory was imperative, looked to get back into the game and it wasn’t until the 63rd minute before there was another effort of note. Fortunately for Livi, that was the equaliser as patient build-up ended with Hippolyte curling in a beauty of a cross for White to bullet home a downward header for the vital equaliser. There was no time for celebration though as the players headed immediately for the centre circle to get things back underway.
Livi were instantly lifted and almost took the lead immediately from the restart as a mix-up in the home defence allowed Mullen to go clear but his effort lacked power and Thomson got a vital touch to divert it inches wide. The resulting corner fell to Gallagher but he was forced to snatch at his effort and could only send it high over the bar. The Lions continued to press and Pittman teed up Keaghan but he could only send his effort straight into the arms of Thomson.
It was all Livi now and Mullen came agonisingly close to putting them in front on 69 minutes as he expertly controlled a ball over the top and, as the Cowden defence appealed for offside, fired in an acrobatic volley that cannoned back off the post with no one able to follow it up. Sensing blood, Burchill then made a double change on 76 minutes as Gary Glen and Rory Boulding replaced Hippolyte and Pittman while Robbie Buchanan replaced Colin Nish for Cowden as Jimmy Nicholl attempted to stem the tide.
Within two minutes the changes paid dividends as Livi stormed into the lead. A scramble at the edge of the box ended with Boulding prodding the ball into the path of White and the big striker showed great composure to bring the ball out of his feet before arrowing an effort across Thomson and into the far corner of the net to spark wild celebrations among the terrific away support that made up at least half of the total attendance. The on-pitch celebrations were equally as fired-up as the players queued up to hail their goal hero.
A final Livi change saw Brad Donaldson, sporting his new haircut, replace the exhausted Mullen as Livi went to a five-man defence to see the match out. They managed to do with the utmost comfort as, after three minutes of added time, ref Allan blew the final whistle to spark more jubilation among the travelling support. The passionate celebrations of manager and players alike further emphasises the belief that this relegation battle is one that is there to be won.
All roads lead back to the Energy Assets Arena on Wednesday night as Livi entertain playoff-chasing Rangers with the chance to climb off the foot of the table and to within two points of Cowdenbeath if they can put a dent in their visitors’ promotion hopes.