Almondvale, SPFL Premiership, 5/12/21
Entrance – £25 Me, £10 Wee Man
Attendance – 5597
Pie – £9.10 Pie x 2, Coffee, Fanta
Pint – Bar at capacity on arrival
Livingston Football Club
Founded – 1943 (1995 name change to Livingston)
Nickname – Livi
Honours – League Cup-2003/04, First Division-2000/01, Second Division/League 1-1986/87, 1998/99, 2010/11, 2016/17. Third Division – 1995/96, 2009/10. Challenge Cup – 2014/15. Qualifying Cup – 1973/74
Random Fact – On application for a place in the league set up in 1974, Ferranti Thistle beat off challenges from a host of Scottish clubs but also English side Gateshead United who tried their luck for a place in Scotland’s leagues after numerous failed attempts for the English League after being voted out.
My first top flight Scottish game since the 26th of January 2019 when I last used a Pittodrie season ticket (0 v 0 v Kilmarnock). A few reasons made the decision to chuck the Dons and one was Wee Man telling me he didn’t want to go to big games anymore. This meaning the bigger crowds. Out went Pittodrie in came a lot more travelling to Juniors and lower league games. The reason for the rare top flight outing was Wee Man again. Last week he asked if we could go to Livingston while I was watching their televised game. He again asked when we saw the highlights of Aberdeen v Livi midweek. As he was the only one wanting to hang out with me today I told him Livingston were at home to Hearts and he was more than up for it. This the third match of a brilliant weekend triple header.
The drive down was hellish, the sun was at an awful angle and a horrible brightness leaving me completely blind at times. This time of year is a bastard, if its not hurricanes it is snowy then it is eye burning winter sun. We made it to West Lothian unscathed with a bit to spare but unfortunately the bar was at capacity so no pre-game pint and juice. Not to worry though as Wee Man was gifted a Scottish Fitba sticker album so we spent time in our seats looking at that, with me obviously being roped into having to buy some stickers tomorrow when he is at school. In this time during the warm up I was asked a heap of questions in regards to the surrounds. On being “why is that man putting a Union Jack on the seats”. I am not sure he would understand the whole “without a bus fare” explanation. (this bunch don’t do themselves any favours with the stereotypes for the record).
On the way down we had our usual guess the score chat. Wee Man went 3 v 0 Hearts and I went 3 v 1 Hearts. We were well off the mark because Livingston were excellent, especially in the first half. The came flying out the traps and Hearts could not cope so much so you could constantly see the Hearts support gesturing to get up the park with their hands. The first decent chance fell to Alan Forrest but his effort was well wide. The same man sliced one wide not long after. I am not sure and will have to check Sportscene but should Boyce have been given a pen? In a rare piece of action in the Livi box in the first half , Parkes seemed to get wrong side of the Hearts striker and looked to bring him down. Did he get the ball? I am not sure but I would love to see it again. As I said Hearts rarely got up the park and Livi dominated them for the entire half. They were streets ahead in all areas and showed a more fight in every challenge and won every second ball. Forrest was looking good, Omeonga was even better and Hearts just could not settle. They were also dealt a blow when Michael Smith was injured early and replaced by Taylor Moore. The Jambos will also be thankful for having Scotland’s number one in between the sticks because he was superb throughout but especially on the twenty minute mark when he thwarted Andrew Shinnie from close range by making himself huge in front of the Livi man. His defenders could not clear and he watched Sibbald’s effort thunder off the post Livi picked up the rebound and Holt rasped an effort goal bound with power and the big keeper pulled off a stunning save onto the same post that had just been rattled moments earlier. He followed that up with a couple of lesser saves to clear the danger. He was up on his feet celebrating like he had scored and rightly so, a great few seconds from Gordon. Livi kept coming but just couldn’t get it right in the area. This led to the Hearts fans booing their team, after only twenty five minutes. Hearts were poor and when Devlin put his effort out the ground over the South Stand roof it summed up the Edinburgh sides half. David Martindale must have been gutted the half came as it would ruin the momentum of his team.
HT 0 v 0
At half time in the pie queue we got speaking to a couple behind us. We were full of praise for Livi but he was worried that they have not taken the chances. I half jokingly said “aye watch this, Boyce has been utterly shite, bet you he scores early in the second with his first chance. It would be bloody typical”. As Wee Man and me walked back to our seats, the inevitable happened. Boyce scored with his first chance of the game, after a great ball from McKay. Should Stryjek have saved it? Another for me to see on Sportscene. This did not deter Livi from trying to play the same game as the first half but Hearts had definitely come out better in the second half. They had the ball in the net again when McKay struck home but he was judged offside by the linesman. Livi had their best chance of the half not long after when Forrest was in space bearing down on goal but again that man Gordon got down well to save. Another chance went a begging soon after for Livi when substitute Montano fired just wide of Gordon’s left hand side. Hearts were getting more and more into the game as the half went on and should have doubled their lead when McEneff worked his way into the box but his effort was poor and cleared the bar. The game had changed and Livi were not as threatening. I also think that Omeonga tired which left more time for the Jambos to get the ball passed about. The Belgian was the best player on the park in the first half but was done for the day and substituted after maybe seventy minutes. Hearts created more chances and got the ball in to the home box more and more but did not do anything with it but time was running out for Livi and so was their energy despite the Martindale’s attempts on the sideline to keep his boys running. Time ran out and Hearts took the three points the short distance back to Tynecastle.
A couple of things from the day. First of all Livingston have a lot of detractors. I am not one. The only thing that gets me is the shitey pitch but at the end of the day this is a club in the heart of glory hunting Union Jack waving territory. Every fan of the club should be commended, especially those who were not Meadowbank before and have only known Livingston. The didn’t choose the easy option which is highly commendable. The plastic pitch makes sense as the home fans only get one stand and the average cannot be high. Meaning the income cant be huge. Other funds are needed and renting the pitch out is one way to achieve that. Everyone we spoke to were totally sound and we great with Wee Man. From the guy in the club shop to the fans we spoke to during the game. There are teams in the league I would much rather see away than Livi who to me are completely inoffensive, which they really seem to be in the eyes of others.
If Hearts lose Gordon or Boyce through injury or suspension the will lose points. The guy that came on for Boyce is a carthorse and Gordon is the best keeper in the country and cannot be replaced. With Boyce going off injured today. Lets see how that pans out.
Another thing. There has been a lot of talk on refs this season. Not good talk either. Well this is my first experience in ages of a “top ref” and let me say Kevin Clancy is poor. Although he did not make a huge Madden-esque fuck up, he seemed to get a lot of the simple and little decisions wrong. Bookings that were not bookings for both teams. Fouls that were not even close to fouls and he seemed to not want to talk to players. He just wanted to show his authority. I thought he was very very poor and a bit of a prat.
Visiting Almondvale took me to three shy of the forty two league grounds. Something I was looking to achieve years ago but pretty much abandoned as I was more focused on Junior fitba. Its now back on. With Palmerston and Almondvale ticked off in the last fortnight I will complete by the end of the season. St Mirren, Hamilton and Stranraer, here I come. Its not often I am in a Stadium, rather than a ground these days but I enjoyed that today. So did Wee Man who asked “where to next?” on the way up the road. A sure sign he had fun. Rutherglen Glencairn on Friday seems most likely for the record.
Me 218, Wee Man 87