Saturday 3 December 2016, 15.00, Cliftonhill
The early kick off in Motherwell meant we had plenty of time to make our way to Coatbridge for the Scottish League One clash between Albion Rovers and Livingston.
Albion Rovers were founded in 1882 as the result of an amalgamation of two teams in the town, Albion FC and Rovers FC. They joined the Scottish Football League initially in 1903 before the league became a single division in 1915 with the second division scrapped. They were re-elected to the league in 1919 and in the same year they moved into their current home.
Their first season upon their return saw them finish bottom of the league, but they made the Scottish Cup Final for the only time in their history where they lost out to Kilmarnock. Local folklore has it that Joe Shortt, the Rovers keeper had to be released from police custody on the morning of the Final and that his subsequent performance in the game had been affected by the effects of his alcohol consumption the night before.
Those heady days are long since past and the team’s successes have been in the lower echelons of the Scottish League pyramid. They won the league in the fourth tier in 2014-15 and were runners-up in 2010-11. They won the third tier in 1988-89 and won the second tier once in the 1930s as well as 3 other runners-up finishes in that division.
After their promotion to League One in 2014-15, they finished last season in sixth place. A mid table finish seems likely again judging by their form. Much of the talk around the ground was about their forthcoming Scottish Cup tie against Celtic.
Livingston’s roots go back to the Ferranti Thistle works team, formed in 1943. Upon admission to the Scottish Football League in 1974, they renamed themselves Meadowbank Thistle and made Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh their home ground.
The club was relocated west to Livingston in 1995 and renamed after their new home town. The early part of this century saw the club’s most successful period and they were promoted to the top league in 2001 and qualifying for Europe after their first season in the Scottish Premier League.
They beat Hibs to lift the 2004 Scottish League Cup. Following the cup win, financial problems hit and they were relegated in 2006. 2009 saw the club face further financial problems and were on the verge of liquidation before a deal was struck. Livingston were subsequently demoted to the Scottish Third Division, but the club achieved consecutive promotions and regained its place in the second tier. They narrowly managed to avoid the relegation playoff in 2014-15 but lost in the play-offs last season to find themselves in League One.
They sit top of the league coming into the game against Rovers. Rovers won the corresponding fixture in Livingston in October.
There were 413 in attendance.
There was little of note in the opening exchanges and the first effort at goal came in the tenth minute when Wallace struck a shot from the right hand side of the box which went past the left hand post of the Livingston goal.
Gilmour was the next to shoot at the Livingston goal, in 11 minutes, but he was also wide of the target.
Livingston’s Cadden, who was showing some invention had their first effort on goal in 17 minutes, his shot from outside the box though was too central, and it was easily saved by Stewart.
The teams then exchanged shots over the bar, with Rovers’ Davidson shooting too high from outside the box in 21 minutes before Cadden followed suit for Livingston from inside the Rovers box in 23 minutes.
A Livingston corner in 30 minutes gave Lithgow a half chance, but he couldn’t direct his header on target.
Cadden, who was looking the most likely player for Livingston shot from 20 yards in 37 minutes, but Stewart got down well to save.
Lithgow had a better chance from a Livingston corner in 38 minutes, but couldn’t get his header on target from close range.
Further long range efforts before the end of the opening 45 minutes from both sides, with Willis for Rovers and Pittman for Livingston all trying their luck without causing any undue concern to either keeper. Davidson’s effort from 25 yards was a lot better however, his well hit shot forcing a very good save from Kelly in the Livingston goal.
There was very little of note in the first half, with Rovers having more possession and looking a little more dangerous, but neither side really created anything clear cut.
In 50 minutes, De Vita tried his luck from distance but Stewart was down to save again and keep the Rovers goal intact.
Watt’s cross into the Rovers’ danger area in 59 minutes was cleared to the edge of the box, where Pittman met the ball with a first time volley but his effort flew over the bar.
The fare on show wasn’t improving from the first half, although it was Livingston who were seeing more of the ball as the half progressed.
Davidson had an effort at goal in 63 minutes, but it wasn’t on target and he couldn’t quite replicate the power and accuracy of his strike at the Livingston goal in the first half.
With 83 minutes gone, Carrick played in Buchanan for Livingston, but the striker’s shot from a tight angle was parried by Stewart with De Vita unable to connect well with the rebound.
As the game moved into the final minute, Carrick received the ball with his back to goal in the Rovers box. As he controlled the ball, he was bundled over by a clumsy defensive challenge. It’s one I’d like to have seen again as it looked a bit soft, but the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty.
Cadden stepped up and blasted the ball down the middle and into the net to win the game for Livingston.
There was still time for Reid to reduce the home side to ten men, when he picked up a second yellow card in injury time for bringing down De Vita as Livingston broke forward.
To say it had been a scrappy affair would be an injustice to the word scrappy. It had a tough act to follow after the entertainment of the game we had been at earlier in the day, but this one would have been bad regardless.
Had to feel sorry for the home side who gave as good as they got only to lose to a last minute penalty, which may have been dubious.
Davidson was probably the best for Rovers while Cadden was the only one in the Livingston team that looked like he might create some excitement.
A big result for the leaders but a sore one to take for Albion.
Full Time: Albion Rovers 0 Livingston 1
Albion Rovers: 1 Ross Stewart, 2 Alan Reid, 6 Michael Dunlop, 5 Ross Dunlop, 3 Scott McBride, 7 Ross Gilmour (Ferguson 57), 4 Gary Fisher, 8 Ross Davidson, 10 Steven Boyd (Stewart 75), 11 Paul Willis, 9 Ryan Wallace. 12 Kevin McCann, 14 Mark Ferry, 15 Calum Ferguson, 16 Ross Stewart, 17 Daniel Potts, 18 Paul Archibald, 19 Daniel Lightbody.
Livingston: 1 Liam Kelly, 26 Craig Halkett, 5 Sean Crighton, 4 Alan Lithgow, 3 Jackson Longridge, 6 Shaun Byrne, 8 Scott Pittman, 21 Liam Watt (Carrick 79), 23 Rafa De Vita, 9 Liam Buchanan (Neill 87), 11 Nicky Cadden. Subs: 7 Josh Mullin, 15 Morgyn Neill, 16 Matthew Knox, 19 Dale Carrick, 20 Ryan Currie, 30 Gary Maley, 38 Jack Ogilvie.