Livingston FC: The 2019/20 Season Recap
June and July: Pre Season and the Betfred Cup
After a successful first season back in the top flight with minimal threats of being relegated, the 2019/20 season looked set to be a lot tougher for the Lions. The end of the 2018/19 season saw the early confirmations that defensive duo Declan Gallagher and Craig Halkett would be departing to join Motherwell and Hearts respectively. To make matters worse, the early season saw the loss of Nicky Cadden to Morton, Shaunn Byrne to Dundee and Liam Kelly to English Championship Queens Park Rangers. If you include Ryan Hardie's loan ending, that is 6 players who were vital in the club's recent resurgence and a good core of a team ripped out. Any team suffering such losses would have a tough task on their hands, especially with the instrumental form that the likes of Gallagher, Halkett and Kelly showcased during that season.
With the losses to the squad and before a ball was kicked, many started to nail Livingston on as relegation candidates - even myself ashamedly tipping us for an 11th placed finish. The hole left by the old guard was deemed impossible to fill as pre-season started. Of course, this saw plenty of new faces join the club.
In goals, Montegran Matija Sarkic came in on loan from English Premiership club Aston Villa whilst young Cece Pepe and former Ayr United and Walsall right-back Nicky Devlin joined the club. Coming in directly from Ayr United was midfielder Robbie Crawford and attacking French-born Aymen Souda who looked to add more quality on the ball. The highest-profile acquisition was that of Hibernian's experienced defensive midfielder Marvin Bartley, which seemed to be quite the coup for the West Lothian side. Alongside Bartley was Lyndon Dykes returning from a loan spell at Queen of the South after having signed a pre-contract in January 2019. To many, these signings didn't reinstate the confidence back into the club following the departures and a much tougher season was expected.
With weeks of pre-season, the official season started with the Betfred Cup, Livingston being drawn in Group G, alongside Championship side Ayr United, League 1 sides Falkirk and Stranraer and Lowland League outfit Berwick Rangers. The first match came away to Falkirk, with a Lyndon Dykes finish not enough as the Lions drew 1-1, winning the bonus point on penalties against the Bairns. Three days later, Livi squeezed past Ayr, thanks to a late Ricki Lamie winner that followed up on Aymen Souda's opener. Following this, the Lions again won 2-1, defeating Stranraer thanks to another goal from Souda and a Steven Lawless penalty. The Lions eventually topped the group, thanks to an expected resounding win over Berwick Rangers with a solitary Alan Lithgow goal and doubles from Craig Sibbald and Ricki Lamie securing a 5-0 victory.
In all honesty, despite topping the group, the Betfred Cup failed to install a great level of confidence in this team, with close encounters against teams in lower leagues showing weakness. Nonetheless, the Lions were importantly through to the next round which definitely took some of the heat off their backs.
Goals Conceded: 3
Top Scorers: Ricki Lamie (3), Craig Sibbald & Aymen Souda (2)
Assists: Nicky Devlin (3), Alan Lithgow, Steven Lawless, Scott Robinson, Lyndon Dykes & Scott Tiffoney (1)
Average Possession (via BBC Sport): 54.75%
Average Shots/Shots on Target: 13.5/6.25
The 3rd of August saw the return of Scottish Premiership action, as Livingston welcomed Declan Gallagher and his new Motherwell side to the Tony Macaroni Arena on the first day of the season. A 0-0 draw with Aymen Souda coming closest with an acrobatic overhead kick settled some nerves as they more than competed with a solid Motherwell side. The next week saw the Lions first away League game and showcased what fans would get used to a lot during the course of the season. Away to St Johnstone, Livi roared into a 2-0 lead, with goals from Scott Pittman and Steven Lawless putting the Lions in control. This lead was squandered, with defensive mistakes and a last-minute penalty from Lyndon Dykes costing Livi what would have been a very valuable three points at the start of the season.
It seemed clear that Livi still required some defensive help as the club recruited Jon Guthrie on a free transfer who was immediately thrown in for the Lions second-round victory over Forfar Athletic. Goals from Dykes and Pittman saw off the League 1 side but again, it was a close scoreline against another team from the third tier.
However, the Lions followed up on their progress in the Betfred Cup with a visit away to Dingwall. With the Lions weak away league record last season, nobody was expecting Livingston to go to an in-form Ross County and win, never mind doing so in such convincing fashion. New signing Jon Guthrie put the Lions ahead as Lawless and Dykes followed up to put the Lions 3-1 up at half time. After the break, another new signing Jack Stobbs entered the frame and in spectacular fashion. Following a tremendous long pass from Lawless, Stobbs calmy and beautifully volleyed the ball into the top corner with his first touch in a Livingston shirt, affirming him straight away as a cult hero. One of the best goals in a Lions jersey, I have no idea as to how this did not win Goal of the Season.
Livi followed up this impressive win with a 2-1 victory at home to St Mirren, with Lyndon Dykes getting his third goal in as many games and new captain Alan Lithgow netting again against the Buddies. 4 games into the season, the Lions were unbeaten, sitting 3rd - the highest the club would reach during the season. Including the Betfred Cup, the Lions were unbeaten in 9 games, an impressive feat to say the least.
Goals Scored: 10
Goals Conceded: 5
Top Scorers: Lyndon Dykes (3), Steven Lawless & Scott Pittman (2)
Assists: Steven Lawless (3), Scott Pittman (2), Robbie Crawford, Keaghan Jacobs, Marvin Bartley, Aymen Souda & Alan Lithgow (1)
Average Possession (via BBC Sport): 44.4%
Average Shots/Shots on Target: 13.6/6.6
Player of the Month: Steven Lawless
Following a couple of fairly successful months, September would prove to be the Lions worst month, losing every single game in this run. In fairness, a doubleheader against Rangers with Aberdeen in between is a run of three games that would cause trouble to every team in the country. Alongside this, the absent enigma that is Dolly Menga was confirmed to have been sent out on loan to his native Angola, leaving the Lions with Lyndon Dykes, the young Scott Tiffoney and the injured Lee Miller as the main striking options. The first game of the month was away to Ibrox, where the Lions have never won before, yet things were looking good after a Steven Lawless penalty gave the away side the lead. Unfortunately, Rangers came back into it with an impressive Alfredo Morelos performance capitalising on a Lyndon Dykes red card.
Following a strong showing at Ibrox, the Lions welcomed their Premiership bogey side of recent times, Aberdeen. Despite a very strong performance where a loss was not merited, the Lions were downed 2-0 by the Dons, with goals from Andrew Considine and Sam Cosgrove taking the three points back up North. The Lions would again fall short at home, as they faced Rangers for the second time in September, this time in the Betfred Cup. A strong display from the Lions couldn't cancel out an early Nicky Devlin own goal in a game where Lyndon Dykes earned heaps of praise from the BT Sports panel, especially from Scotland and Rangers legend Ally McCoist.
Following a couple of tough games, the Lions faced Hamilton away which was the perfect opportunity to get back on track. An Alan Lithgow goal looked to be a bright spark but ultimately, Livi succumbed to a poor defeat against Accies. With this, those worries from earlier started to return, as losing to Hamilton showed that the away form still needed a lot of work done to it. Still, the Lions sat in the top 6 despite a month where they picked up no points.
Goals Scored: 2
Goals Conceded: 8
Top Scorers: Steven Lawless & Alan Lithgow (1)
Assists: Lyndon Dykes & Aymen Souda (1)
Average Possession (via BBC Sport): 44%
Average Shots/Shots on Target: 8/1.5
Player of the Month: Lyndon Dykes
With the season starting, a lot of noise is always made about departures and new signings. For Livingston, one of the most interesting aspects was that of Steven Lawless, a player who stayed for a second season in West Lothian. In his first season, Lawless was asked to do a job as a wing-back and succeeded in doing so. Due to this, he was forced to sacrifice some of his attacking play in order to help out defensively. The arrival of right-back Nicky Devlin seemed to signal a change though, as last season the club never had a proper right back to cope at this level. This allowed Lawless to push forward into his favoured position on the wing where he truly shone. Lawless featured in each of the Lions 13 games by the end of September, producing 4 goals and 4 assists, a great attacking input. The Lions required a lot of input going forward from defenders last season, but being placed in his natural position, Lawless filled the void and then some by the end of the season. Finishing the season with 11 goals and 8 assists in the league, with another three goals in cup games to follow. Lawless was able to show this season the attacking quality he possesses, whilst never losing that tenacity and hard work ethic. Moving on at the end of his contract, Lawless was a tremendous servant for Livi over his two years and I'm sure everyone connected to the club wishes him the best for the future.
Following a tough month, it certainly didn't look to get any easier for Livi, as next up to visit the Spaghettihad was the Champions Celtic. The Hoops were in fantastic form, winning six and drawing one of their seven league games with an impressive 22 goals scored. Celtic were also coming off the back of an impressive and dominant win over Romanian outfit Cluj in the Europa League, leaving many to fear for the worst. However, what was to come would be a special moment of history.
Despite the form of both teams, the Lions deservedly stunned Celtic, with a two-nil victory securing the Lions first-ever victory against the triple treble winners. A Ryan Christie red card opened the way for Scott Robinson and Lyndon Dykes to permanently put their names in legendary status as the Lions pulled off a shock result. It was a phenomenal team performance, with goalkeeper Matija Sarkic cementing his place in the starting XI with an assist, whilst Marvin Bartley proved to critics that he is still more than capable in the top flight, with a dominant performance over the Celtic midfield.
The game is also famous for Lyndon Dykes' performance against £7 million man Christopher Jullien, with the Lions number 1 giving Jullien a torrid time, making him look like a complete novice, a shadow of what he'd been showing domestically and in Europe. The delicate dink over 6ft 7 Fraser Forster won Goal of the Season for Livi and is one that will be a moment carried on by all fans forever. This first loss for Celtic saw them surrender their spot at the top of the league, the only time this would happen for the entire season. A monuments occasion for the club and a single game that achieved legendary status for this squad.
October also saw us take a moment to celebrate the great tenure of Keaghan Jacobs at the club. With 11 years and over 300 games of service, Jacobs was more than deserving of recognition as our record appearance holder and a true fans favourite. A game matched up of the current squad facing against players from the past such as Marvin Andrews, Stuart Lovell, Roddy MacKenzie, David Bingham and Iain Russell as well as being coached by the great Jim Leishman, it was a great celebration of not only Jacobs but the clubs relatively short history. With messages coming from the likes of Oscar Rubio, Manu Dorado and Declan Gallagher, there was a lot of reminiscing with great talent, all for a superb cause. With several events including a golf day, celebratory dinner and of course, the main game, a lot of funds were raised in the name of a definite club legend.
Despite the huge League result against Celtic, the Lions were brought back down to earth the following week, narrowly losing out away to Kilmarnock with a late own goal giving the Lions a consolation goal. The Lions then faced off against Hearts at home and couldn't replicate the 5-0 drubbing from last season. Livi were putting pressure on the Jambos before a shocking refereeing performance saw Livi be denied a penalty and receive a red card for Aymen Souda within the same passage of play. Thankfully, the Lions were able to remain resilient and secured a point in a 0-0 that was far from a classic.
The following Wednesday saw Livi travel to the other Edinburgh side, away to Easter Road against a troubled Hibernian. Like the Lions did earlier in the season against St Johnstone, they pummeled Hibs for the first half, with goals from Lawless and Craig Sibbald putting the side comfortably ahead at half time. For the second half, you could immediately tell something had changed as the Lions sat off Hibs a lot more, encouraging them to come back into the game. A blatant Scott Allan dive saw another poor refereeing decision go against Livi in the one week as he won and put away a penalty. Livingston could not blame anyone other than themselves for the equaliser, though, with a long clearance catching the Livi defence napping as the returning Martin Boyle secured a draw, seeing Livi poorly dropping another two points from a strong position. With another tough set of fixtures on the horizon, this could've been a massive lost opportunity.
Goals Scored: 5
Goals Conceded: 3
Top Scorers: Scott Robinson, Lyndon Dykes, Own Goal, Craig Sibbald & Steven Lawless (1)
Assists: Robbie Crawford & Matija Sarkic (1)
Average Possession (via BBC Sport): 40.75%
Average Shots/Shots on Target: 9.5/3.25
Player of the Month: Robbie Crawford
As previously mentioned, the fixtures on the horizon were not pretty, with away visits to Motherwell and Celtic, with a home game against Rangers in the middle. As probably predicted by many, the Lions lost out on all three occasions, with the seasons top three sides showcasing their quality on each of the occasions. In amongst this, the Lions lost Lee Miller, who returned to Falkirk to take up a co-manager/player position. It was a shame we never got to see more of Miller in the top flight as he was instrumental in getting us to the top flight and a player whose efforts will always be appreciated. One positive though was the arrival of Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, adding to the defence as Nicky Devlin remained sidelined after suffering an injury that would rule him out for the rest of the season.
Despite these losses, the biggest disappointment came in the shape of a 0-0 draw at home to Hamilton. A dire game with little creativity saw Livi leave with only a point, making it one point in two games against Accies. As well as this, the West Lothian side were winless in 7 games and it being made clear that Livi were not capitalising on their dominance in certain games. With 15 shots in the game, only 3 were on target showcasing the lack of clear cut chances being created. Despite an overall rough couple of months, Livi still sat in 7th place but only sat three points above the automatic relegation spot. It wasn't quite alarm bells but has to be said, looked like the Lions may be starting to get dragged into a relegation battle.
Goals Scored: 1
Goals Conceded: 8
Top Scorers: Steven Lawless (1)
Assists: Scott Tiffoney (1)
Average Possession (via BBC Sport): 38.75%
Average Shots/Shots on Target: 8.5/2.25
Player of the Month: Marvin Bartley
Coming off November, it was a bottom half clash for Livingston as they faced local Hearts. Both teams were not having the best of luck and neither team could capitalise on key chances to steal the win. Marvin Bartley's first goal in Scottish football in front of the Tynecastle faithful was the highlight as the Englishman certainly enjoyed notching against the Jambos. Once again, though, Livingston had surrendered a lead away from home and dropped points.
December also saw the injury to club captain Alan Lithgow that would rule him out for the rest of the season. Following surgery to remove his appendix and further tests on his bowels, Lithgow continued to put himself forward to do a job despite what was going. Showing great character and having been a tremendous servant, we hope to see Lithgow back in a Livi jersey soon.
Despite the poor form, now 8 games without a win, December 7th seemed to be a massive turning point for Livi's fortunes. A criticism of the Lions was not taking chances and finishing teams off when they were in control and something fans were starting to be concerned about. On the 7th, Livingston welcomed Kilmarnock in wet and windy conditions where a blistering second half saw Livi come out with an astounding 3-0 victory. Goals from Guthrie, Dykes and Lawless saw the Lions finally end their endless run and in convincing fashion. From here on, the Lions would look to be a lot more clinical in front of goal.
The following matchday saw Livingston net three times yet again, but once again surrender a two goal lead to draw 3-3 away from home, this time against St Mirren. Aymen Souda shone with a double either side of another Jon Guthrie goal. The last game before Christmas brought a brilliant present, with Livi thrashing an abject Ross County 4-0 at the Tony Macaroni Arena. Lyndon Dykes once again put himself into the history books, with a stunning perfect hat-trick, the first from a Livingston player in the top flight. Ricki Lamie also netted as Livingston went up to 6th place and 10 points ahead of bottom-placed Hearts. This spell of games was definitely a turning point, as the groove back at home started to come back with very impressive performances.
Despite this, Livi narrowly lost out again away from home, this time to Aberdeen on Boxing Day. Lyndon Dykes netted late on as Livi gave a good account of themselves away from home, yet falling just short of a positive result. Aberdeen remain to be the Lions bogey team since returning to the top flight, being the only team the West Lothian side have failed to defeat.
The year and the decade rounded out with a 2-0 win over Hibs - a scoreline we're quite familiar with, with a bizarre brace from Jon Guthrie sealing the win. A vital win that saw Livi jump above Hibs into 5th place. To signal how big a deal this was, the Lions entered the decade coming off the back of a 2-1loss to Forfar Athletic in the then Scottish Third Division (Now League 2) and were now sitting as the 5th best team in the country. With this, those worries about a potential relegation battle suddenly disappeared.
Goals Scored: 14
Goals Conceded: 6
Top Scorers: Lyndon Dykes (5), Jon Guthrie (4), Aymen Souda (2)
Assists: Steven Lawless (3), Lyndon Dykes (2), Ricki Lamie, Craig Sibbald, Jon Guthrie, Marvin Bartley & Steven Lawson (1)
Average Possession (via BBC Sport): 46.5%
Average Shots/Shots on Target: 13.3/5.2
Player of the Month: Lyndon Dykes
There were question marks over Livi going into the season with Lyndon Dykes being the only main forward available in the team. The Australian born Dykes had done well at Queen of the South, however, was never the main man and played well off Stephen Dobbie. At Livingston, he was seen to now be the main focal point of the attack and the jury was still out. Thankfully, Dykes has proved to be one of the best pieces of business the club has done in recent times, and that is saying something. A big and intimidating presence, Dykes was unfairly attributed as a big brute with little else to his game which couldn't be further from the truth. Although a great nuisance up top and a threat in the air, Dykes has shown plenty of class on the ball. His link-up play is remarkable and can dribble past players with ease, showcasing a wide range of finishes. Dykes simply has all of the attributes you could want in a modern striker, with pace and power combining with genuine skill and talent. By the end of December, he sat with an impressive 10 goals and 4 assists to his name, with loads of plaudits. It's no wonder that he has been linked with Celtic and Rangers as well as call-ups to the Australian and Scottish National Teams. Dykes has undoubtedly cemented himself into the history books and in one season, has done a lot to merit an incredibly high status in regards of Livingston players. A season cut short Dykes still managed 12 goals alongside 8 assists in a terrific campaign that hopefully, we'll see more of next season.
With the winter break underway, the Lions travelled to sunny Spain for some warm weather training, leaving the baltic Scottish winter behind them. Sadly, Aston Villa recalled on loan keeper Matija Sarkic due to injuries suffered in their first team. Sarkic was in fine form, keeping 7 clean sheets and notching an assist in his short stint at the club. With the transfer window reopening, the Lions acted quickly to obtain a new goalkeeper, opting for Huddersfield's Ryan Schofield. Alongside Schofield saw the return of Northern Ireland International Ciaron Brown to add more options to the Livi defence. Brown would go on to start in each of the Lions remaining 11 games, proving to be quite the addition to our squad. Our warm weather training saw us face off against Ajax Jong (3-1L) and well-known Belgian giants Anderlecht (1-1) in a couple of friendlies before returning home for Scottish Cup action.
The first proper game of the year and the new decade saw League 1 Raith Rovers take a shock lead at half time in the Scottish Cup Fourth Round. A bizarre handball led to a Steven Lawless penalty, levelling the tie with less than 15 minutes to go. Another defensive mistake saw Scott Robinson win the ball back and play through the in-form Lyndon Dykes who cooly curled the ball into the back of the net. Livi secured the win after Chris Erskine was fouled in the box, leaving Lawless to slot home his second penalty of the game.
An unforeseen injury to new loanee Schofield saw Livi bring in Robby McCrorie on loan from Rangers, who went straight into starting a day later against St Johnstone. It was an inspired debut has McCrorie shone, with Lyndon Dykes assisting Scott Pittman for the solitary goal to see off the Saints in what was a great three points against Tommy Wright's resurgent side. This victory also meant that the Lions had won each of their last 4 home games, with an incredible aggregate score of 10-0. The Spaghettihad was very much that fortress created last season once again, with great, consistent performances going forward and in defence.
The month ended with an away game to Hamilton, who Livi had failed to beat on two occasions this season. With a questionable away record, this seemed as if it could be one of those games that got away from the Lions and it started to look a lot like that. Shaun Want put Accies ahead and those bad memories of away games started to return. However, Livi struck back almost instantaneously as a long throw was headed towards the penalty spot where Craig Sibbald fired home a tremendous first-time volley to level things up. The Lions continued to put the pressure on and deservedly took the lead on the half-hour mark. Our two full-backs linked up excellently, with Jack McMillan putting a dangerous cross which evaded the goalkeeper, allowing Aaron Taylor-Sinclair to capitalise with a tap in. A mistake at the back allowed Hamilton to equalise before Livi were awarded a contentious penalty, a decision that easily could've been given as a free-kick for Accies. Nonetheless, Steven Lawless regained the lead from the spot with his third penalty of the month. Livi created a bit of distance as similar to against St Johnstone, Lyndon Dykes set up Scott Pittman for a first-time finish. Now Livingston, away games and two-goal leads have been a recipe for disaster this season but thankfully, the Lions maintained the pressure and came away with their second away League win of the season, Hallelujah!
As January and the transfer window were coming to a close, there were rumours of a cult hero soon returning to the Tony Macaroni Arena. A player who certainly catches the attention and has devastating pace, Menga would provide another option going forward for the remainder of the season. As well as this, our own Gary Holt deservedly won Manager of the Month for January, with impressive performances in an unbeaten run gaining him some recognition. Still sitting in 5th place, Holt and his team have clearly done a fantastic job, outdoing the likes of Hibs and Kilmarnock with fewer resources.
Goals Scored: 8
Goals Conceded: 3
Top Scorers: Steven Lawless (3), Scott Pittman (2), Lyndon Dykes, Craig Sibbald & Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (1)
Assists: Lyndon Dykes (2), Scott Robinson, Chris Erskine & Jack McMillan (1)
Average Possession (via BBC Sport): 54.3%
Average Shots/Shots on Target: 8.7/4.7
Player of the Month: Marvin Bartley
As previously mentioned, The Tony Macaroni Arena was a fortress and teams knew they were coming for a very tough game where they'd be lucky to pick up any points. This was showcased best as Livi produced arguably their best performance of the season, in an utterly dominant victory over Motherwell. Despite only being 1-0, the Lions dominated and a world-class performance from Well keeper Mark Gillespie stopped this from being a mauling. Livi thankfully got the very-deserved winner as Aaron Taylor-Sinclair headed home a Ciaron Brown long throw that evaded everyone in the box to the back post. Livi played some truly excellent football against the League's third-best team and on another day, could've easily hit 4 or 5. Nonetheless, this was an excellent performance and is right up there with the victories against Celtic and Ross County for best of the season.
Following the great Motherwell performance, Livi were hit with a double sucker punch in away games, losing 2-0 to Ross County and disappointingly being knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Championship side Inverness. The two trips to the highlands brought no reward as our away form continued to cause us problems.
There was no time to lull over these disappointments as St Mirren were next to visit West Lothian, looking for their first win against the side they were promoted alongside in 2018. Lyndon Dykes was bundled over to allow for yet another Steven Lawless penalty to open the scoring, before the Australian doubled the lead shortly after half time, after a delightful through ball from Keaghan Jacobs. Dykes and Lawless now both sat with 7 assists apiece with Dykes edging him on goals, 12 to 11. Following this, a resilient Livingston side couldn't hold on as they were bested by Rangers at Ibrox, with local lad Scott Arfield notching the games only goal.
A few days after the Rangers result, Livingston pulled off the astonishing signing of former Celtic and Hibernian defender Efe Ambrose. After a spell at Derby County, Gary Holt and team were able to convince the African Cup of Nations Winner to join the Lions in what was a remarkable signing. A player of that experience and quality would improve basically every team in the country, great credit must go to the team for making this move happen.
The last game of the month saw Ambrose make his debut against his old team, away to Hibernian. A fairly drab game saw another goal from Aaron Taylor-Sinclair drown out a Christian Doidge opener, as Livi went three games unbeaten against the Leith side. This also ensured that the Lions stayed above Hibs in the league table as the split was on the horizon.
Goals Scored: 4
Goals Conceded: 6
Top Scorers: Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (2), Lyndon Dykes & Steven Lawless (1)
Assists: Ciaron Brown, Lyndon Dykes, Keaghan Jacobs & Steven Lawless (1)
Average Possession (via BBC Sport): 46%
Average Shots/Shots on Target: 10.2/3.2
Player of the Month: Ciaron Brown
The Livingston Defence
A lot of noise was made early on about how Livingston would cope defensively this season, with the massive highlight on the players who departed. Moving from a complete focus on a settled back three, Livingston shifted towards having several options, meaning they could stick with the back three or change up to a flat back four if need be. The Lions tried to do so on some occasions last season but didn't quite have the proper personnel to do so. The arrival of Nicky Devlin had a benefit on Steven Lawless' form but Devlin was a tremendous acquisition from the get-go, with great pace allowing him to bomb forward whilst also getting back into defence easily. On the other side, Livi could deploy Ricki Lamie or the returning Jack McMillan, who had a fantastic season back at the club after a loan spell away. The arrival of Aaron Taylor-Sinclair also meant that Livi had proper full-backs for the first time in a few seasons, having done fine with wing-backs and centre-halves filling into those positions. The benefit of this saw more creativity from the defence, adding more of an attacking threat rather than just at throw-ins and set pieces. With Steven Lawson also available at full-back, the Lions had plenty of depth with similar quality, meaning many options to similar effects. The same can be said for centre back, as the Lions ended up finishing the season with 5 solid options as well as a few prospects. The article below showcases how our personnel have adapted with different opposition, formation and selections.
It was always going to be hard for Livi to replace Gallagher and Halkett, two players who will be remembered for years and arguably would get into an all-time Livi XI. In saying this, though, we've been absolutely blessed by a couple of our new signings filling that gap tremendously, none more so than Jon Guthrie and Marvin Bartley. Guthrie was a straight swap into the same position and has instantly become a fans favourite. With tremendous displays in defence, Guthrie has also shown great leadership and replicated the likes of Halkett on the goalscoring front with 6 goals before the season was cut short. Guthrie has been superb and this was showcased at the Player of the Year awards, where he scooped up Directors & Coaches Player of the Year, Livi Lions SC Player of the Year and Supporters Player of the Year in an impressive first campaign.
Bartley isn't a defender like the aforementioned player but his contributions to the defensive record cannot be questioned. The arrival of Bartley meant Livi had a little more steel in the midfield following a successful first season back in the league where despite a lot of energy and tenacity, the club lacked a complete defensive midfielder. With great experience, strength and determination, Bartley was a fantastic addition, which was highlighted throughout the entire season. Taking up the captain's armband for most of the season, Bartley's presence in the side assured calmness and protection to the backline. Looking at how his old team Hibs started the season, Bartley's absence from their squad was highlighted as he went from strength to strength at his new club. Bartley has also proved to a great presence in the changing room and as an ambassador for the club, showcasing his humorous side on social media by taking digs at the likes of the Old Firm as well as his current teammates. The recent world events have also showcased how much of a class act Bartley is, with him doing his bit to help aid communities during these times. His recent words on the current racism issues have also been very commendable and enlightening with intelligent insights packing a powerful punch. Simply said, we're lucky to have someone with as great character as Bartley at our club, and with him doing his coaching badges, is someone I hope is attached to the club for many more years to come.
The home form of Livingston was about to face its toughest test, as Celtic returned looking for revenge after losing earlier in the season. The Glasgow side had started to run away with the League title and would not want to slip up at a crucial stage of the season. A great initiative was set up by the club to send out tickets to local sports teams and schools in order for some more of the locals to get a taste of what they can expect, with some top players on show. Celtic started off well, with Calum McGregor giving them the lead, the first goal Celtic scored at Livingston since Livi's promotion in 2018. Again, Livi showed how difficult they can be at home, with Jon Guthrie netting an equaliser after a fortunate Fraser Forster fumble levelled things up before half time. Livi wasted no time in the second half, as Lyndon Dykes punished Christopher Jullien yet again, this time laying off the emerging Scott Robinson who scored his second goal of the season, both coming at home to the Champions. A late Tom Rogic equaliser saw Celtic fans rush onto the pitch, jubilant at earning a point at the Tony Macaroni Arena. Whether they like to admit it or not, each team knows getting points at our ground is a challenge and is something worth celebrating over, which is a great credit to the club. Others like to say that Livi add nothing to the league, with a fifth-place finish and taking half of the 10 points Celtic dropped this season, I think it's clear to see what we bring to the table and is what a lot of teams would like to replicate.
Following the late drama midweek, the Lions were downed by St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park which would, unfortunately, turn out to be the final game of the season. The emergence of the Coronavirus led to the postponement of the Scottish Football Leagues, with 8 games to go as well as the remainder of the Scottish Cup tournament. With this, the league was called early, with the Lions finishing in 5th place, the second-highest in the club's history. Thankfully, the proceedings in making the decision to end the season early went smoothly, with no delays, cock-ups, conspiracies, lack of leadership, ineptitude or toys being chucked out the pram...
Goals Scored: 2
Goals Conceded: 3
Top Scorers: Jon Guthrie & Scott Robinson (1)
Assists: Lyndon Dykes (1)
Average Possession (via BBC Sport): 35%
Average Shots/Shots on Target: 8/3.5
Player of the Month: Lyndon Dykes
2019/20 Season Stats:
Goals Scored: 56
Goals Conceded: 46
Top Scorers: Lyndon Dykes (12), Steven Lawless (11), Jon Guthrie (6)
Most Assists: Lyndon Dykes & Steven Lawless (8), Nicky Devlin (4), Aymen Souda (3)
Average Possession: 45.3%
Average Shots/Shots on Target: 10.8/4.1
You can catch up on every goal and key highlight over the season on the Official Livingston FC YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9vcpgb4CYDEBM2XfGRTMBQ
The Aftermath of the Season
With the season ending a no income coming into the club during the Virus, the club acted quickly, creating a fund for fans to contribute to over the course of the next 14 months. The supporters of the club have come together to raise what will become over £100k over this period of time, with donations eventually being converted to shares. This is a great turnout which seems to also have been replicated in early season ticket sales. The club has also stepped up and helped out with the local community, from supplying meals to simply having players do phone calls to fans for a general chat. There has also been a good presence of charity, with the unique Gary Maley saga leading to around £2,500 being raised for the John O'Byrne Foundation. As well as this, there have been a lot of fans initiatives such as raffles and making branded face masks available that have done a lot to raise funds for the club and community during these tough times. There's a lot of unsung heroes at our club behind the scenes and I'm sure all of us can't thank them enough for their constant updates, help and initiative.
You can find links to these different causes here: https://www.facebook.com/johnobyrnefoundation/
With the season rounded up, the club was forced to adapt and did so pretty excellently with the Zoom unveiling of new signing Allan Forrest. Signing on a pre-contract, Forrest is a tricky winger and brother of Celtic and Scotland International James Forrest. Having proven his class in the Championship, Forrest will join up with the Lions on a two-year deal and we'll hopefully get to see him in action soon.
With the end of the season also means that there are players leaving and sadly, we'll be saying goodbye to Steven Lawless, Ricki Lamie, Chris Erskine and Craig Henderson. Henderson was a good youth prospect whilst Lawless, Lamie and Erskine featured more so for the first team, more than playing their part in the 2019/20 season. Each player leaves with the best wishes, having created great moments and memories during their time here.
The last course of action for the season was with the end of season Player of the Year awards, unfortunately, having to be done online. With a whole load of awards to be given out, the night was perhaps most famous for the Marvin Bartley meltdown. With good spirits all around, the club successfully managed yet again to adapt to the conditions.
Alongside these winners, the whole squad deserves a lot of credit for a fabulous campaign. The likes of Craig Sibbald, Robbie Crawford and Scott Robinson have had great seasons that have somewhat gone under the radar but were equally important. As well as this, massive credit must go to Gary Holt - who was nominated for Manager of the Year - and his coaching staff. Yet again, they've exceeded expectations and delivered an amazing season. With the squad we have, the good feeling around the club and some tweaks - away form, please - next season could be another highly enjoyable one for the West Lothian club. I'm incredibly excited for next season as we all should be and can't wait for it to return. Hopefully, in the upcoming weeks, we will see more normality returning and we can all get back down to the stadium and cheering on our team. Until then, keep safe and doing what you can to help others. There's a lot to be proud of from this club and our supporters this season and in recent times, long may it continue!