Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The James O'Neill Memorial Match 2013

The annual James O'Neill Memorial Match will take place at 2pm on Sunday 12th May at the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium.

The match sees Livingston FC supporters team FC Livingston GS take on Olympique Lion in memory of the late James O'Neill.

James O'Neill was the SNP Councilor for Livingston North under the old Lothian Regional Council, before becoming the West Lothian Councilor for Carmondean.

Born with physical disabilities which most of us would find unbearable, James didn't let that hold him back and he became a much respected member of West Lothian Council aswell as an ardent Livi fan from day one, seldom missing a game.

He was only 40 when he was taken from us far too early in 1997. A good number of the Livi players and officials attended his funeral, which goes to show his level of standing at the club.

After his death, the memorial match was set-up and has been contested ever since with the occasion used to help raise money for various good causes.

GS go into the game looking to win the trophy for a third year in a row after 3-1 and 5-1 wins in the last two years.

Entrance to the game is free but there will be a bucket collection on-going before, during and after the match for donations with all monies raised on the day being split between the Livingston for Life Supporters Trust and SAMH - the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

The Stadium Bar will be open for a few drinks after the game and there will be a raffle on the go too.

So although the first-team action finished last weekend, why not come down on Sunday for your fix of Livi football whilst helping to raise funds for the club, and for charity.

Raith Rovers – Saturday 4th May 2013

We close out the season today by welcoming Grant Murray and his Raith Rovers side to the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium.

A win for the Starks Park side will ensure a sixth place finish – one place higher than last season so Murray will be keen to pick up the three points and show that the club has made some progress over the campaign.

However a defeat coupled with a Dumbarton victory over champions Partick Thistle and Rovers would finish in seventh place, one point worse off than last season.

It’s been a tough end to the season and Raith haven’t managed a win, or a goal for that matter, in the last four games so the side will be desperate to end that run and finish the season on a high.

A 0-0 stalemate at Starks Park back in August is the only point Raith have picked up in the ties between the teams this season with the other two fixtures ending in 2-1 and 2-0 victories for the Lions.

A home point last weekend courtesy of a 0-0 draw with Falkirk would have been welcomed after a lacklustre performance at New Douglas Park the weekend before saw the Accies canter to a 2-0 win.

Despite drawing a blank in the last four games, Raith have fire power in the shape of Brian Graham who’s netted on 25 occasions this season – one of which came here back in January. He’ll likely be joined upfront by Greig Spence whose 15 goals contribute to a total of 40 strikes from the Rovers front pair.

The reliance on those two for goals often means that when they don’t score, Raith don’t score.

Murray will be hoping his main men have their shooting boots on today and help contribute to taking a final day three points back to Kirkcaldy. 
Dave Black

As published in 'ROAR' - the Livingston FC matchday magazine.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A shift in power or a one season wobble?

If you backed 4-0 and 4-1 wins for the Germans over the past two nights then drop me a line with your lottery predictions for Saturday!

Although many fancied Bayern to get a result at home to Barca, I think everyone was taken aback by just how easy they got it. Likewise, an even tighter affair was expected in Dortmund so for Lewandowski to run riot the way he did and put his team within touching distance of a Wembley final place was a shock for most.

Of course, with these results comes the usual bandwagon where everyone and their dog tells you that they've fancied the Germans for years and how German football is superior to anywhere else just now and so on.

There's a couple of ways to look at it though.

Firstly, we've only witnessed the first legs in Germany so far. The Nou Camp and Bernabeu will be a tough, tough trip for the Germans and having already seen Barca come from a first leg deficit to stick 4 past Milan at home, I wouldn't completely rule out either of the two Spanish giants. Albeit 4-1 is a thumping, that Ronaldo goal gives Madrid more than a glimmer of hope and if they manage an early goal on Tuesday night, that tie could be completely turned on its head.

Of course, with these big advantages, neither Bayern or Dortmund need to go chasing the game next week and given how organised they both looked, they'll be huge favourites to just sit in tight and run down the clock.

Again though, if these two German sides reach the final, all the calls of how German football is taking over are still premature for me. For the past six years or so, Spanish football has ruled all. Everywhere you turn, you've got teams trying to do things 'like Barca' - pass it 'like Barca', keep possession 'like Barca'. That hasn't just changed overnight. Only a couple of weeks ago I watched Barca destroy Mallorca and take a 4-0 lead into the break. They were absolutely frightening that night and that was without their star man.

Ok - Mallorca aren't the toughest of opponents and Bayern too have had plenty convincing wins this season but the point is, just this month, I read tweet after tweet about just how good Barca were and a few weeks later after one poor showing, I'm being told that the Germans have taken over?

Let's see the Germans win something on the International stage before we all jump on this particular bandwagon. German football, like the rest, have been in Spain's shadow for years now. Just last Summer at the Euros, we watched as the Germans fell to an average Italy side in the semi-finals before that same Italy team were thrashed 4-0 in the finally by Spain.

There's no doubt that German football has improved and looks to continue to do so but by having their two top teams, likely, meet in the Champions League final doesn't quite mean World domination just yet. It was only 2008 where Man Utd met Chelsea in Russia in the final of the same competition and that certainly didn't mean that English football was streets ahead of the rest.

For me, Spain and Spanish football is still at the top of the game we all love. The big test will be seeing how Bayern and Dortmund get on next season - that'll be when they can prove if the Germans are back in power or if this season has just been a bad day at the office for the Spaniards.

Dave Black

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Has Suarez bitten off more then he can chew?

After watching Spurs fight back to batter Man City on Sunday, I thought the fall out guy from the weekend was going to be Emmanual Adebayor. After yet another lacklustre performance from the big striker, I imagined that the focus of the game was going to circle round how ruthless AVB's men became when Adebayor was hooked.

Fast forward an hour or two and you'd have almost forgotten Spurs and City had even played earlier, let alone moan about the latest lazy shift from Manu.

A run of the mill defender vs striker coming together looked to have nothing in it until Suarez decided to have a gnaw on Branislav Ivanovic's arm as the pair fell to the ground. Unbelievable.

Twitter went into meltdown. Footballers and pundits had their say, Mike Tyson followed Suarez and there was a 'menu' of footballers doing the rounds - Bacary Lasagne being my personal favourite.

Within hours of the full-time whistle, Suarez was issuing apologies, Liverpool were releasing statements, Jamie Redknapp's suit was still too small for him and Arsene Wenger still hadn't seen anything to do with anything.

Suarez should find out the length of his ban today sometime but whatever he's hit with, you'll have some flk arguing it's too much and some folk arguing that nothing less than the death penalty will suffice.

Suarez already served a seven game ban three years ago for the very same thing whilst playing for Ajax. Yet Jermain Defoe escaped with just a yellow card after biting Javier Mascherano back in 2006.

In the grand scheme of things, there was little damage caused to Ivanovic. There's been tackles where players have been left with broken legs and the culprit served no ban. I'm sure there'll be players out there who've suffered that sort of nasty injury who would have loved to have swapped that for having Suarez nibble on their arm.

With that said though, the images of the incident have circled worldwide and the FA would be slaughtered for not punishing Suarez one way or another.

As far as I'm concerned, with only 4 games left until the end of the season, I'd issue him with a ban for those 4 games and look to offer some sort of help via anger management or such like. For the guy to have done it twice now aswell as being caught up in other incidents, he could clearly do with the help.

A ban for the last four games also puts it to bed and means that Suarez can start next season with a clean slate (to a degree).

There's always an over the top reaction to these sort of controversial incidents but for me, four games is more than enough of a punishment on top of any fine handed to him by Liverpool and an agreement to attend some sort of anger classes.

He's undoubtedly an incredible footballer and the quicker Liverpool help him to work on getting rid of the idiotic side of his game, the better for everyone.

Dave Black - @LiviLion21

Greenock Morton – Saturday 20th April 2013

In our penultimate home game of the season, we welcome Allan Moore and his Greenock Morton side to the Braidwood Motor Company stadium today.

At time of print, league leaders Partick Thistle hadn’t yet played their game in hand against Raith Rovers but a win in that game would mean the Glasgow side were crowned Champions. In all fairness, even if they did slip up, Morton would require Archibald’s men to lose their last three games whilst winning all three of their own remaining matches to be able to snatch the title away.

So with all that said, despite a terrific season in which Morton have pushed Thistle all the way, there will undoubtedly be a feeling of disappointment within the ‘Ton squad. However, back at the start of the season, it’s fair to say that not many would have tipped Morton to still be in the title hunt in April.

After winning the second division title back in the 2006/2007 season, Morton’s highest finish in the first division over the past five years has been sixth and that came back in 2008/2009. Just last season, Morton finished in eighth place, only four points above Ayr United who occupied the relegation play-off position. So with that in mind, as much as being pipped so close to the end by Partick for the title, to even be fighting up there is an achievement in itself for Moore and his men.

An opening day draw with ourselves didn’t get the season off to a perfect start and with a draw and a defeat to follow; many would have been expecting another season of flirting with relegation for Morton. However, three times over the season the Greenock side went on seven game unbeaten runs with the Christmas period proving a happy time with back-to-back wins over Partick and Dunfermline really making people sit up and take notice.

As we entered April, Morton sat at the top of the pile but knew that the advantage was with Partick as they had games in hand and were winning them one at a time. It really all came down to the game ten days ago where Morton travelled to Glasgow to play in front of a packed Firhill, knowing that three points would see them sitting one point above Thistle with only four games remaining.

Partick had just played 120 minutes here against Queen of the South in the Ramsdens Cup final just the Sunday before and many thought that the defeat they suffered there might just hand Morton a slight advantage when coupled with tired legs.

A tight game was contested but it wasn’t to be for Moore and his men as a James Craigen goal for the Jags just before half-time was enough to put Partick back in full control.  

The disappointment from that result appeared to linger over to last weekend as a depleted Dunfermline side went to Cappielow and managed to end a nine game winless run with a 1-0 victory.

It now looks like it’s just a case of crossing the t’s and dotting the I’s before Partick are crowned champions but Morton, who are assured of second place at least, can look back on the season knowing that they ran the Champions close.

Moore will now look to see out the campaign on a high by winning the remaining three fixtures before attempting to strengthen his squad over the Summer and push again next season. The experience of coming so close this year might just give the ‘Ton that added incentive to go one step further come the end of next season.

Dave Black.
As published in 'ROAR' - the Livingston FC matchday magazine.

Hamilton Accies – Saturday 13th April 2013

Today we welcome Alex Neil, Frankie McAvoy and the Hamilton squad to the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium. Strangely enough, thanks to the weather, this is the first time we’ve played host to Hamilton this season despite only having six league fixtures left to play. Infact, it’s over a year since Hamilton last made the trip to Livingston, where they recorded a 4-0 victory back in March 2012.

They pushed on from that win to clinch a fourth place finish last season, one place above us, and many thought the Accies would be one of the sides battling it out up the top this season, looking for a return to the SPL.

That hasn’t proved to be the case though and at time of print, Hamilton sit in 7th place,  having only recently pulled away from the relegation places with three wins in their last four outings.

A slow start to the season meant it was October before the Accies registered their first win in the league, a 4-0 success away to Airdrie. However, this was quickly forgotten as back-to-back home defeats followed against ourselves and Raith Rovers.

Into November and, the since departed, Billy Reid seemed to have been getting more out of his players – so much so that he was awarded the manager of the month award for November. An impressive 1-0 win away to Morton was outdone by an even more impressive victory at home to league leaders Partick Thistle. The game, played on a Friday night as part of the SFL Friday night football trial, was watched by a season high 2,450 spectators and an Ali Crawford goal direct from a corner kick was enough to secure three home points for the first time this season.

It looked like a clean sweep of November wins were on the cards the following week as Hamilton led Falkirk by a goal to nil going into the last ten minutes at the Falkirk Stadium but strikes from
Conor McGrandles and Lewis Small meant the Accies managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

December didn’t start until the 15th for Hamilton due to the weather pulling the plug on a couple of scheduled games before then but seven points from a possible nine ended the year on a high.

Since the turn of the year, it’s fair to say that their results under Billy Reid had been average across the board. From fourteen league ties in 2013, the Accies have won five, lost five and drew four. That sort of form represents the league position of seventh that Hamilton currently occupy – not good enough for a title push but no bad enough for a relegation scrap.

With that in mind, many were surprised by the announcement last week that the club had parted company with Reid, with the official statement saying that both Reid and the Club were in need of a fresh challenge.

With that news coming less than 24 hours after the Accies had just secured a big win away to Dumbarton, it was left to Neil and McAvoy to take the side to East End Park last Saturday where they fought back to grab a fine 3-2 win over the depleted Fife club.

As it stands, the duo are only in place until the end of the season but they could put themselves in the frame for the job on a long-term basis with a strong end to the season, starting with back-to-back wins over us in the next few days.

It was a mixed bag of results when the sides met on five occasions last season - four times in the league and of course the Ramsdens Cup semi-final at New Douglas Park. Two wins each and a draw sums up how close the sides were, aswell as the fact only a point split us come the end of the season. A 2-1 Livi win and a 1-1 draw at NDP earlier in the season were both just as close so another tight encounter is expected here today.

Dave Black.

As published in 'ROAR' - the Livingston FC matchday magazine.

Falkirk – Tuesday 2nd April 2013

Today sees John Hughes line up against Steven Pressley for a second time this season with ‘Yogi’ looking to claim a second victory over ‘Elvis’ after his Livingston side ran out 2-1 winners at the Falkirk Stadium back in September.

However, such is the fast moving pace of football these days, the two won’t be clashing here at the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium and rather Hughes will take his struggling Hartlepool side to the Ricoh Arena for Pressley’s first home game in charge of Coventry City.

Instead, it’ll be the battle of the interim managers as Alex Smith brings the Bairns to Livingston looking to inflict a first defeat on the Lions under the temporary leadership of Richie Burke.

It’s not an ideal situation for either club but that’ll not stop both Smith and Burke going all out to make sure it’s their team that pick up the three points come full-time today.

Smith had possibly the toughest start to his reign with a trip to title contenders Morton and the Greenock side proved to be too much for Falkirk as goals from Archie Campbell and Peter McDonald sealed a comfortable 2-0 win.

With only six points separating ourselves in third and Falkirk in fifth, Smith and his players will be desperate to move on from that loss and look to close that gap as the season end draws near.

It’s just over three weeks since Lyle Taylor’s double was enough to secure all three points for Falkirk against us at the Falkirk Stadium. It wasn’t an evening for great football with the pitch not being in the greatest of conditions but grinding out that win will be something that Smith will be reminding his players of as he looks for more of the same this afternoon.

Of course, although finishing as high up the table as possible will be of huge importance to Smith, his players and the Falkirk fans, you could forgive the Bairns players for having their heads full of Scottish Cup thoughts.

It’s only four weeks today until Darren Dods will lead the team out at Hampden Park as Falkirk face up to Hibs in the last four of this season’s tournament. Some favourable draws have seen the side march to the semi-finals and having avoided cup favourites Celtic in the draw, there’s a real buzz around the team knowing they stand only ninety minutes away from a Scottish Cup Final.

With five league games to play between now and then though, Smith and assistant Stevie Crawford will be doing all they can to make sure that’s put to the back of the mind for the time being and that full focus is given to getting points on the board. Not only that, five games is plenty opportunity to impress the manager so the incentive of a place in the starting line-up that day might be enough to ensure Smith gets the best out of his players until then.

The last time the Bairns visited us here at the BMCS, a late Conor McGrandles goal wasn’t enough to spark a fight back as Gareth Evans guided us to a 2-1 victory in his first game in charge. Today sees Alex Smith looking for his first win in charge of the Bairns whilst Richie Burke looks to continue his 100% record to date.

As always proves to be the case between these sides, a tight affair is very much anticipated.

Dave Black.
As published in 'ROAR' - the Livingston FC matchday magazine.