Last Christmas I gave you my cash, and then the very next day you lost to Partick away!
Davie Hay gives Santa a ring to see if he can do a turn up-front.
Remember that anyone? Three excellent straight wins against Hearts, Rangers, Hibs and then a right royal humping from Partick Thistle on the 27th of December. Well how about this year we enjoy a role reversal. After four straight painful defeats, how about we enjoy a nice wee (or big) win on the 27th of December. Come on lads you know it makes sense. Lets be honest however, Monday’s game against Livingston doesn’t exactly look like an easy three points for the Pars, and with many Pars fans no doubt choosing the warmth of their home as opposed to the sub-zero outdoor December temperatures, Monday’s fixture could well bring about the lowest East End crowd of the season so far. For Christ sake’s though, it’s only Livingston we’re playing, they’re not exactly a top European side like Hafnarfjordur are they?!
After their Lothian derby with Hearts fell foul to a frozen pitch – at least that’s one good thing about the East End carpet! – newly appointed Livingston gaffer Richard Gough finds his side languishing at the bottom of the SPL, albeit with a game in hand. Although with such a narrow margin separating the bottom sides at this stage of the season, a whole series of twists and turns somehow don’t seem to far around the corner. With their awful start to the season under the two Alan’s (Preston and Kernaghan) still in memory, a lack of confidence may well still be present at the Almondvale stadium – or whatever they’ve decided to call it this week. After beginning his management career with a decent home win, Gough was brought back down to earth with a crash after his side’s defeat to Terry Butcher’s Motherwell side the week after. However with Gough’s Livi team containing a fairly decent calibre of player – Jim Hamilton and Craig Easton to name but none – Pars fans and players will no doubt be hoping that the Undertaker – have you seen that jacket he wears?!! – is unable to hammer another nail in the Pars coffin.
Since the moment when Meadowbank became Livingston in the mid-90’s, the Pars have only faced the Lothian side seventeen times (two of which were in the Scottish Cup). In these encounters, the Pars hold a favourable grip over the Livi Lions, winning seven and losing only four. Even more encouraging is the Pars East End record against Livingston, the Pars winning six times out of a total of eight encounters, losing just once. Any pessimists out there however, would do well not to look at the Pars’ more recent record up against Richard Gough’s side, with the Pars not managing a win in the last four meetings.
One of those four unsuccessful encounters incidentally, was the Saturday the 16th of October Almondvale meeting between the sides. In arguably the poorest performance of the season – although there have been several other contenders – the Pars went down very tamely in a 2-0 loss to a very poor Livingston side. Losing out to a Scott Wilson own goal and a Robert Snodgrass – labeled afterwards as the new Wayne Rooney, presumably because he spends all of his time in brothels, because he’s certainly not done anything on the pitch since – strike, a small (is it ever anything else) Pars travelling support witnessed one of the most dire, depressing performances produced by the Pars in recent memory. In fact the match was such an embarrassment for the Pars that it led to Livingston fans singing “Can we play you every week?” Hardly a glorious return for ex-Livi manager Davie Hay was it?! One humorous thing to come out of the fixture however, was the fact that a few Livingston fans had the gall to call the Pars away support “shocking”. Ha ha, that’s brilliant coming from the team who regularly bring an away support of two men and a drum!
Far from laying out the welcome mat for Davie Hay’s former side, you’d have to wonder whether or not the Pars can lay on a starting eleven to welcome Livingston to East End, such is the extent of the Pars injury list. Discounting long-term injury victims Greg Shields, Derek Young, Ritchie Byrne, and Simon Donnelly, the Pars yet again face fresh injury worries following Saturday’s last-gasp defeat to Hibs. After pulling up with, what looked like, a hamstring injury, influential captain Scott Thomson will no doubt face a race against time to make Monday’s starting lineup. A race which, more than likely, Barry Nicholson will also face after clearly struggling with the flu in the fixture against Mowbray’s boys – boys being the operative word! Question marks will also no doubt hang over the fitness of Billy Mehmet and Thomas Butler, this despite the fact that the latter made a late substitute appearance at Easter Road. All in all, the immediate future certainly doesn’t look too bright at East End Park, although the performances of youngsters Greig Ross, Patrick Scullion and particularly Ian Campbell in the Easter Road defeat were certainly very encouraging.
With time fast running out for Davie Hay in his effort to drag the Pars out of the relegation mire, every single game for the Pars now, without doubt, represents a must-win game if trips to Broadwood and Broomfield are to be avoided next season. With four straight losses under the belt, sitting one point off the foot of the SPL at this time of the year is quite simply unacceptable. Although, the result aside, if Saturday’s performance at Easter Road was to become a regular feature, then survival (ambitious or what!)could well be a real possibility for Hay’s side this season.
Extreme examples such as Graeme Souness and Jose Mourinho canceling Christmas for their respective sides is a tad over-the-top, although lets just hope that the Pars players don’t go too overboard with the turkey and mince pies over the festive period and are raring to go come next Monday…