Having won Ladbrokes League 1 last term, many expected Livingston to have a season of consolidation in the Championship this time out.
However, David Hopkin’s side currently occupy the final play-off spot, with a four-point cushion over nearest challengers Queen of the South.
While we’re just eight games into the league campaign, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest the Lions can maintain their recent good form. So, what’s the secret behind the success of a side who’ve taken 13 points from the last 15 on offer?
Livi have goals throughout the side
Eight different players have found the net for the West Lothian club in their eight Championship games so far this season. That number rises to 11 in all competitions, and highlights the threat Hopkin’s men pose across the park.
Towering centre-back Craig Halkett is a constant threat from set-pieces and is the club’s joint top-scorer with four. That puts him level alongside Dylan Mackin, a player of very different attributes.
The pacy, yet imposing young forward has used his boundless energy and neat finishing to bag his quartet of crucial goals this term. With such differing goal threats across the park, Livingston are becoming a very tough side to keep quiet.
It’s no surprise, then, that they’re one of only two sides in the Championship to score in every single game.
With everyone from creative midfielders like Scott Robinson and Scott Pittman to wing wizard Rafa Da Vita having also chalked up multiple goals so far, it’s hard to see a situation where Livi stop scoring.
Hopkin’s found the ideal tactical set-up
While many Championship sides have flitted between systems this term, with varying success, Livi’s rookie boss has found a set-up which is paying dividends week in, week out. Even if opponents know what to expect, they can’t seem to counteract it.
Livingston have employed a 3-5-2 system in virtually every game this term. The defensive trio of Halkett, Declan Gallagher, and Alan Lithgow have impressed with their combination of power, experience, and organisation.
Packing the midfield has worked well, with Livingston dominating in the centre through sheer numbers, while the likes of Da Vita and Josh Mullen offer a threat on the flanks.
With a number of quick and clinical options up front, every pairing Hopkin’s gone with in attack has worked well. However, the duo of Nikolay Todorov and Danny Mullen were especially strong in the recent 3-1 win at Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Youth pointing the way forward
The Lions may not have the budget or pulling power of a Dundee United or Falkirk, but they’ve managed to build a platform for success on young talent.
In part, that’s been down to the club’s youth setup. The likes of Mullen and Matthew Knox are products of that system, but even more than that, it’s down to the emerging talents the current Livi boss has managed to bring to the club.
Todorov and Mackin have both been drafted in from Premiership sides, while Robinson and Ross Brown have handled the step up well after being staples of East Fife’s League 1 success.
With a well-balanced young side who are only likely to build in ability and confidence, fans at the Tony Macaroni Arena have plenty of reason to be confident.
That’s all seen Livingston’s title-winning odds fall to 10/1, with the previously unfancied Lions now fourth-favourites. Stranger things have certainly happened!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing