Cuba’s most recent celebrity visitors sang “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” That could have been the sentiment in the home ranks after anafternoon of sheer frustration, stubborn resistance and unbelievable drama in a finale that no scriptwriter could have imagined.
There were no three points to add to the lead over Hibs, and manager Peter Houston conceded that David Hopkin’s side had come with a game plan and had effectively “done a job on” the promotion hopefuls.
But what a finale. On the 90th. minute, Livingston led 2-0 and many had seen enough. Those who headed for their cars and buses missed a goal, a penalty, a red card, a penalty miss and a couple of close calls from long range efforts. It is debatable if there was ever a more frenetic or frantic end to a game, and a real journalistic nightmare. Copy had been written, fingers were poised over the send button- and then it all brokeout.
Falkirk came back at Livingston and Will Vaulks gave a glimmer of hope when he headed a ball past McCallum and the visiting keeper knewhe should have done better. 1-2 and referee Walsh showed no signs of blowing for full-time. Hippolyte crossed from the left and Miller was clearly
brought down by Longridge. The defender was shown a red card for histroubles, having been booked earlier and the ever-willing John Baird walked
up to take the kick.
Keeper Marc McCallum had been studying film of the Baird penalty- taking technique and he stood firm, correctly guessing that Baird would hit it strongly into the centre of the goals. There was hardly time to restart before the celebrations broke out among the 219-strong Livingston support and Falkirk left the park with heads bowed.
It had all started so well for the Bairns after long periods of possession football that left Livingston funneling back and conceding possession in the midfield areas. Kerr was in dominant mood and nearly all the play was in the visitor’s half. Baird, Sibbald and Vaulks all had chances that they might have put away on another day and after 30 minutes play, Mehmet could easily have taken a seat in the South Stand, so rarely was he called into action. His one bit of action came in 34 minutes when he pulled off a good stop from Pittman.
Muirhead almost knocked keeper McCallum over with a thunderous volley from all of 35 yards, and then Vaulks was only inches away from scoring the Goal of the Season with a trade-mark long-range effort.
Falkirk had been all over David Hopkin’s side, but -significantly- had no goals to show for it.
The second half started in the same fashion, with Livingston content to sit back and draw Falkirk onto them. Falkirk had a great chance to open the scoring when Muirhead released Alston down the right and his cross into the box gave Baird a gilt-edged opportunity. Inexplicably, the top scorer missed the target with keeper McCallum nowhere to be seen.
Alston was causing havoc down the right but there was an obvious surge of confidence in the Livingston ranks. They started to hit on the break and Watson did well to block one effort that was going in. Gordon’s header was too close for comfort as the home support started to feel restless. After Hippolyte replaced Muirhead, there was more of a threat, but there were gaps at the back as Falkirk went all out in search of the win they sought.
The moment that the anxious home supporters had been dreading arrived after 76 minutes, after a break down the Livingston right. Alston dived into a tackle and the ball was cut back for ex-Bairn Jordan White to rifle home. The big striker, who hadn’t enjoyed the best of times at Falkirk certainly enjoyed his moment in the spotlight.
Some home fans were already heading for the exits as the 90th. minute came around.
Mehmet’s kick out wasn’t the best and the ball from Fotheringham broke to Sam Stanton, who hit a left-footed shot from outside the box whichgave the keeper no chance. That was the signal for a mass exodus from the home support, but those who left missed one of the most dramatic and action-packed five minutes of football ever seen at the stadium.