Livingston’s wonderful year of 2018
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