Liv­ingston’s won­der­ful year of 2018

West Lothian Courier - - Review of the Year -

One pro­mo­tion. Two di­vi­sions. Three man­agers.

Even by the crazy stan­dards of Liv­ingston FC, 2018 was quite the year.

The only thing that has been con­sis­tent through­out the past 12 months is their con­tin­ued abil­ity to prove the doubters wrong.

They started the year with ev­ery­one be­liev­ing the bub­ble was about to burst and they would fall short of the Cham­pi­onship play-offs.

They end it within touch­ing dis­tance of the Eu­ro­pean qual­i­fi­ca­tion places and there’s no sign of this baf­fling and breath­tak­ing jour­ney end­ing soon.

The Li­ons went into the new year sit­ting third in the Cham­pi­onship fol­low­ing a start few thought pos­si­ble.

Af­ter de­feat at home to Queen of the South in early Jan­uary, they even fell out of the top four. But then things just got bet­ter and bet­ter. And bet­ter.

The ar­rival of strik­ers Lee Miller and Ryan Hardie would prove to be re­mark­able pieces of busi­ness.

A stun­ning Fe­bru­ary kicked off with ar­guably the best per­for­mance of the sea­son as they tore Falkirk to shreds in a 3-1 away win. The month also fea­tured home vic­to­ries over the top two sides as St Mir­ren were bat­tered 4-1, be­fore Hardie net­ted an in­jury­time win­ner from 20 yards in front of the TV cam­eras against Dundee United.

Four wins and a draw from five games in Fe­bru­ary all but en­sured a spot in the play-offs. Sec­ond place was se­cured with two games re­main­ing thanks to a win over rel­e­gated Brechin – but even then fans didn’t dare dream.

The Li­ons suf­fered a ma­jor blow head­ing into the play-offs as they would have to make do with­out top scorer Hardie.

A fran­tic start on a Mon­day night at Tan­nadice saw Livi take the lead af­ter two min­utes through Raf­faele de Vita, only to be pegged back mo­ments later.

With 13 min­utes left, a 2-1 away loss hardly rep­re­sented the worst re­sult.

But that’s when the Li­ons would roar their loud­est. Scott Pittman played a de­light­ful ball through to Josh Mullin, who strolled through tack­les and prod­ded home the equaliser be­fore Shaun Byrne ha­rassed the United de­fence into giv­ing the ball away, found Pittman and the away stand erupted as he gave his side the lead and the fans a night they will never for­get.

The lo­cals flocked to the re­turn leg a few days later – so much so that fans were stream­ing into the ground as Alan Lith­gow headed Livi into an early lead as they booked their place in the fi­nal against Partick This­tle.

Once again, David Hop­kin’s heroes fought against all odds. They fell be­hind in the first leg, but pro­ceeded to take a 2-1 lead to Firhill as Mullin’s pin­point cross was slammed home by Pittman in the lat­ter stages.

Then, on to Sun­day in Mary­hill and a chance to re­turn to the elite in Scot­tish foot­ball for the first time in 12 years. Close to 2000 fans made the jour­ney and they would not be dis­ap­pointed as Ja­cobs curled an ef­fort home mo­ments into the sec­ond half to com­plete a re­mark­able story.

And the drama wasn’t even fin­ished.

They were dealt a blow in the close sea­son as Hop­kin turned down a new con­tract and was re­placed, even­tu­ally, by Kenny Miller. The for­mer Scot­land striker lasted less than two months be­fore he left and in came Gary Holt.

If you thought wee Liv­ingston would strug­gle in the top flight, then you clearly knew noth­ing about this group of play­ers.

Wins over Hibs and Rangers, along with a draw against cham­pi­ons Celtic, showed they could mix it with the big boys. And then came that win against Hearts. 5-0. Five goals in 14 min­utes.

Just add that to the list of never-tobe-for­got­ten games served up in 2018.

You’d be a fool to think 2019 won’t pro­duce more of the same.

Ja­cobs curled an ef­fort home mo­ments into the sec­ond half to com­plete a re­mark­able story

The only way is up Liv­ingston cel­e­brate their in­cred­i­ble pro­mo­tion to the Premier­ship

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.