Game 1: Livingston 1-1 Dunfermline Athletic

Saturday, July 2, 2011 @ Braidwood Motor Company Stadium, Livingston

It lasted sixteen days, my close season, but it was still too long.

Although there was a cosmopolitan mix of telly football on the go during my fallow period, it’s not the same as seeing a game in person.

Sure the CONCACAF Gold Cup final was a decent game but there’s nothing like the real thing, especially when it involves your own team.

Often, the first pre-season friendly is a bit of a non-event, with most managers keen to break their players in gently, but there’s always a few talking points to digest afterwards.

New signings tend to sit at the centre of the post-match bar room conversation with their involvement scrutinsed in painstaking detail.

Yesterday afternoon’s opener against Dunfermline differed from the norm in that we had no new faces to run the rule over, but the game itself was a decent spectacle too, more competitive than most at this early stage of the campaign.

I feared the worst when Dunfermline listed two entirely separate sides to contest a half each, a measure which tended to suggest that they saw the game as little more than a glorified training session.

Happily the game had some bite, almost from the word go.

Both of the goals came within the first nine minutes and I had the misfortune to miss both.

Keen to do my bit for the cause, I took a stint on turnstile duty meaning that I didn’t get to my seat until just after Iain Russell equalised Martin Hardie’s opener for the Pars.

The Pars goal was a controversial one by all accounts. The consensus was that the ball didn’t cross our goalline, but that ref Mike Tumility gave the goal rather than reprimand Iain Russell who stopped Hardie’s effort on the line with his hands.

A victory for common sense, given that this was merely a friendly, or an odd deviation from the Laws of the Game, you decide!

Russell’s goal, which I hope to see when the LIVItv highlights appear, was a good finish apparently, set up nicely by teenage striker Marc McNulty, a player we’ve got high hopes for.

While that was it in terms of scoring, both sides were committed to attack and there was plenty of passing football on display. The pitch helped – our groundsman has got it looking like a bowling green at the moment.

The referee evened up his decision not to punish Iain Russell when he let Martin Hardie off with some blatent retaliation on Jason Talbot, the Pars midfielder flicking out a boot in Beckham v Argentina 1998 style.

Predictably the game broke up a touch in the second half as the Pars ‘second half’ side tried to get a foothold in the game while we mixed things up and gave some of our latest youth team graduates a run.

Bobby Barr hit the top of the bar and there were a couple of reasonable saves, but the 1-1 scoreline was the right one come full time.

So what did I take out of the game as a Livingston supporter?

Well, we played some good stuff at times, and got stuck in about Dunfermline when we needed to. Our fitness levels looked good, even for this early stage, and that’s encouraging with the first competitive game not too far away.

A few of our fans are concerned about the lack of depth in the squad given that we let a few bodies go at the end of the season and haven’t yet brought anyone in.

Financial necessity is the main cause behind that, but what yesterday showed is that we’ve got a talented young side that stands a decent chance of holding their own in the First Division this season.

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