Livingston supporters didn’t know what to expect from their side when Livingston travelled to Dunfermline to play on the Pars artificial pitch for the first time. David Fernandez returned to the squad after being out since the start of December, but the on-loan Celtic started the match on the bench as Davie Hay decided that Fernandez wasn’t fully match fit.
Livingston looked quite at home playing in the artificial surface, and they were the better side early on in the match, matching Dunfermline in every area of the park, and were first to the ball 90% of the time. Stevie Crawford was the Pars most dangerous player, but with Dunfermline having Craig Brewster out through injury, Marvin Andrews started the match surprisingly at right back.
Nothing much happened in the opening minutes, Rubio had a half-chance in the 5th minute, but apart from that, both goalkeepers, Stillie in the Dunfermline goal, McKenzie in the Livi goal were pretty quiet.
The Pars defence had to be on their toes when David McNamee sprinted down the right onto the end of a perfect Lee Makel pass to cut back for his strikers on the six yard box but Stillie gathered the ball on the 6 yard box.
But it was the home supporters that were to see Livingston take the lead right in front of the Norrie McCathie stand in the 15th minute. Lee Makel got a hold of the ball on the bye-line, he brilliantly found David McNamee who was sprinting into the box and the former Blackburn man gave Stillie no chance hammering the ball to the roof of the net. A great goal from an ever-improving player, and nothing more than Livingston deserved.
The impressive Barry Nicholson sent Stevie Crawford clear of the Livi defenders in the 25th minute, but his ball across the face of the goal was taken off Darren Young's toes by David McNamee just before the former Aberdeen player could react to the cross.
In the 32nd minute Darren Young sent Crawford clear of the Livingston defenders on the right side, but Rubio somehow managed to backtrack and deflected Crawford’s shot wide for a corner. Great play from Rubio, but Crawford was getting more and more dangerous.
There wasn’t much goalmouth action to report, Livingston had the better of the play, but Dunfermline had Pasquinelli and Lilley well marked, and Livingston kept Crawford and Young quiet, but it was a moment of madness that was to give Dunfermline the equaliser with 10 minutes of the first half remaining. The Pars had a corner on the left hand side, the ball was crossed over, but Rubio forgot he was meant to head the ball, and instead blatantly handled the ball right in front of the referee who had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Former Rangers player Barry Nicholson stepped up and sent McKenzie the wrong way and levelled the score. A poor goal to lose, and Rubio was 100% to blame, and he will be the first to admit it.
Nothing much after that, and the sides went in at half time level.
Dunfermline carved out a chance in the 50th minute when Dempsey found Crawford on the left, he found Darren Young unmarked 25 yards out, but the former Aberdeen player narrowly hit his powerful shot wide.
Livingston changed things around in the 60th minute when David Fernandez replaced penalty sinner Oscar Rubio, and Davie Hay instructed the players to switch to a 4-4-3 attacking formation. A bold move from the Livi manager, and one that would pay off in spectacular style.
The Lions took the lead on the 62nd minute when Andrews picked out Fernandez with a header, and the Spaniard jinxed his way down the right hand side, leaving the Pars players on their backsides, and the little magician kept his composure and brilliantly picked out Lee Makel, who’s first touch wasn’t the best, but he managed to toe-poke the ball past the Pars keeper to give the Lions the lead once again. Great play from Fernandez, and a great move from Hay to bring Fernandez on.
Livingston should have scored a third when Dempsey lost possession to O'Brien on the half way, Burton played a through ball which sent Pasquinelli one on one with the keeper, but Pars defender McDermott just got back and timed his tackle to perfection and sent the ball out for a throw-in. Unlucky, but Fernando didn’t look that confident, and didn’t have the pace to punish Dunfermline.
Livingston won a free kick with 18 minutes of the match remaining, when Fernandez again skilfully jinxed past a couple of Dunfermline players, but the Pars defenders were starting to get frustrated that they couldn’t get near him, and they blatantly chopped Fernandez down right in front of the referee. Lee Makel and Burton O’Brien lined up the free-kick, but it was Makel who opted to strike it, and the shot left the keeper rooted to the spot, but the ball crashed off the outside of the keepers left-hand post and went out of play to give the Pars a throw in.
When Livingston have the chance to kill the match, and they don’t take it, you start to fear the worse, and the Lions handed Dunfermline the equalizer with only ten minutes remaining on the clock. The ball was cleared by Dunfermline, and Noel Hunt out jumped Marvin Andrews, who hadn’t won a ball all day, Stevie Crawford was first to react to the ball, and the striker calmly rolled the ball past McKenzie and into the back of the net. A blow for Livi, but the defence had been shaky all day, and the usually impressive Andrews was having a shocking match.
The sides could have finished the match with ten men each as Quino stupidly got involved with Tod, and the Livi mad raised his hand to the Pars defender, and although it was only a push, the referees in Scotland are a joke, and had it been the big bald stupid one, he would have shown both the red card.
The Pars finished the match the better side, hassling the Livi defence, but for once they stood firm, and the referee blew the full time whistle after playing 3 minutes added on time. This was a match Livingston should have won, and in the end it is two points lost.
Man of the match – LEE MAKEL
Dunfermline: Stillie, McDermott (Hunt 69), Skerla, Tod, Bullen, Nicholson, Darren Young, Mason (Grondin 75), Dempsey, Crawford, Derek Young.
Subs Not Used: Ruitenbeek, Byrne, McNicol.
Booked: Skerla, Tod.
Livingston: McKenzie, Rubio (Fernandez 58), Andrews, Dorado, McNamee, Makel, O'Brien (Quino 77), Lovell, McAllister, Pasquinelli (Brittain 88), Lilley.
Subs Not Used: Main, Scott McLaughlin.
Booked: McAllister, Pasquinelli, Quino.
Referee: M McCurry (TUBE)
Livingston manager Davie Hay commented in the post match media conference:
"We made our goal well and took it well then Dunfermline could have crept in. We gave away a silly penalty to say the least; you could hear it never mind see it. It allowed them to get the equaliser to go in lifted after we controlled the earlier part of the game.
"They came out the brighter team in the second half then we made the changes and I thought we took control of the game again. When we went 2-1 up I thought that maybe we could have gone on and won it. We hit the post with the free kick that would have killed it.
"To be fair to Dunfermline they threw caution to the wind a bit to get back into the game. Through that they got the other goal and probably over the piece a draw was about right.
"It shows that this league is getting tighter and tighter outside the Old Firm. There is a pack coming together. Hearts are up there with Dunfermline looking like the favourites for Europe but there are another four or five teams that could come into that equation."
Davie Hay would not be drawn into criticism of the artificial surface:
"I thought that the players might slip occasionally but it probably makes for an exciting game to be honest. The pitch is the pitch; I do not make excuses about it. It is there and you just have to get on with it."