Thursday 3rd August 2017

AS part of Sons 24, we are once again taking an in-depth look at the nine teams who stand between Dumbarton and the points they need to achieve their goal this season.

The second team in our line-up is Livingston. Unlike fellow promotion winners Brechin City, the Almondvale side are used to life in the second tier, having returned to it as champions after only one year away. After what was initially a tight race, Livi won League One convincingly last season, and should be capable of providing Dumbarton with the same test as they have done on many occasions.

Please note that the views in this article are not necessarily those of Dumbarton FC, its board or any staff.

Dumbarton v Livingston: Saturday, December 9; Saturday, March 31.

Livingston v Dumbarton: Saturday, September 30; Saturday, January 27.

Previous meetings with Dumbarton: The teams were last in the same division, the Ladbrokes SPFL Championship, in season 2015/16.

Saturday, October 3 2015 – Dumbarton 2 Livingston 1
Saturday, December 19 2015 – Livingston 1 Dumbarton 1
Saturday, January 30 2016 – Dumbarton 1 Livingston 0
Saturday, March 5 2016 – Livingston 2 Dumbarton 0

Season 2017/18 so far: Betfred League Cup sectional matches –

Saturday, July 15 – Livingston 1 Partick Thistle 1 (Livingston won on penalties)
Tuesday, July 18 – St Mirren 0 Livingston 1
Saturday, July 22 – Livingston 2 Airdrieonians 0
Tuesday, July 25 – Stranraer 2 Livingston 4

Signings: Neil Alexander (Aberdeen); Ross Brown and Scott Robinson (East Fife); Dylan Mackin (Motherwell); Josh Peters (Forfar Athletic); Nikolay Todorov (Hearts).

First four league games: Dunfermline Athletic (H); Brechin City (A); St Mirren (H); Morton (A).

The run-in (last four league games): Morton (H); St Mirren (A); Brechin City (H); Dundee United (A).

Analysis: From the moment Jamie Longworth put away the goal for Stranraer that completely condemned Livingston to League One football last season, the third tier title pretty much had the Lions’ name on it.

As the team from the superior division, and a completely full-time outfit, Livi were expected to take care of the 2015/16 play-offs and cement their place in the Championship for the following season. They didn’t even get past the first hurdle despite huge drama after a 5-2 defeat at Stair Park. The penultimate minute of the return leg arrived with Livingston only 2-1 up on Stranraer and needing two goals to progress. The Sheringham/Solskjaer ending materialised, forcing extra time, but it was the Blues who struck the next blow and, with virtually the last kick of the 120 minutes, sealed it through Longworth.

Livingston immediately started the rebuilding process and the impact was immediately seen when Stranraer, having failed to win promotion themselves, returned to Almondvale on the opening day of the league season. Having won the semi-final 4-1 after 90 minutes, Livi went one better, defeating the Blues 5-1, and for most of the season, were pretty relentless on the rest of League One. The first half of the season saw them sustain some surprising defeats, and at the end of the first quarter they were third, a point behind Alloa and Brechin City. But by the turn of the year, Livi were seven points ahead, as despite still losing the odd game, no other side had the consistency to keep up with them. Their case was further boosted by how regularly they found the net – eight of Livingston’s first 16 league games saw them score three goals or more. Everything was adding up.

By the beginning of April, Livingston had a 13-point lead at the top and the next Saturday, a 2-1 win at home to Alloa saw them officially over the line. They ended up 19 points clear of the second-placed Wasps and were more than worthy of a return to the Championship, a division which, until last season, they had pretty much made their home. Not that they took their foot off the accelerator from there – they won their remaining four games, meaning that they start the league season on a run of nine straight victories. East Fife were the last team to take any points off them, doing so by winning 1-0 at Almondvale on Saturday, March 11. Livi also produced a very strong Betfred Cup performance to further enhance their prospects this time around – although a decent cup section doesn’t necessarily mean all is great in the league.

The majority of last season’s squad has been retained and, having been such convincing champions, Livi may fancy that they don’t need to make too many changes for a comfortable mid-table finish this time around. However, the loss of top scorer Liam Buchanan to Raith Rovers is a massive blow, and one they probably hadn’t reckoned on sustaining when they won promotion. There is also the usual step up to be made and Dumbarton, especially with their record at Almondvale, will be confident of meeting the challenge. Prior to losing 2-0 on their previous visit to West Lothian, they had taken five wins and a draw on their previous six trips. Pretty much all of these games were nerve-shredding encounters and it is set to be the same again.

Verdict: Aiming to make the same impression in their first season back as Dunfermline did last time out. Won’t make too many waves in the promotion race, but enough about them to consolidate and their Betfred Cup performance suggests they will ruffle a few feathers.

Join the debate @dumbartonfc and #sons24

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