NIGHT OF THE LIVI DEAD
Scottish Championship strugglers Livingston FC, led by David Hopkin, almost resurrected their season this week, but alas, their greatest efforts were simply not enough to stave off a demoralizing descent into Scotland's League One.
Livingston finished 9th in the Scottish Championship, despite beating top of the table Rangers 1-0 at home on the 26th of April, in the penultimate game of the season. Their last game was an uninspiring 1-0 loss away to Raith on the 1st of May.
As the second to last team in the league, Hopkin's men were entered into a four team playoff series versus the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th placed teams from League One. The winners of that tournament would play in Scotland's second tier next season, with all other teams playing in the next league down.
As the top seed, Livingston were matched against bottom seed Stranraer, a.k.a. The Blues, who finished 4th in League One.
Livingston were hammered 5-2 by their semi-professional opponents in the first leg of their semifinal at Stair Park in Stranraer on May 4th. The result was a crushing blow to Livi fans, who at this point thought their fate was sealed. However, when the second leg rolled around, Hopkin's team were able to make things interesting.
Knowing they had to score at least three goals to stay alive, Livingston threw everything they had at Stranraer, and found themselves 2-0 up when the half-time whistle blew.
The Blues fought back though and managed to score on the hour mark, taking the aggregate score up to 6-4 in their favour. With the home fans convinced their team would be sent down after 90 minutes, a minor miracle occurred.
In the 89th minute, Livingston pulled one back, meaning they now trailed only 6-5 on aggregate. As stoppage time ticked away, twenty-year-old defender Craig Halkett found the ball on the outer edge of the box and hammered it at goal, where it found the bottom right corner. With 93 minutes played, the teams were now equal on aggregate, forcing the game into extra time.
But there was to be no happy ending.
The break in the action seemed to sap away Livingston's momentum and their comeback story fell short when Stranraer bossed the extra period, netting twice. When the final whistle blew, it was official, Livingston will play in Scotland's League One next season — whether former Blue David Hopkin is there with them, remains to be seen.
Dan Petrescu's Jiangsu Sunning crashed out of the Asia Champions League this week after they were held 2-2 by South Korean champions, Jeonbuk in Jeonju, South Korea on May 4th. By only taking a point from Jeonbuk, Jiangsu were leapfrogged by FC Tokyo, who beat Binh Duong 2-1 in Vietnam. Jeonbuk and Tokyo now advance to the knockout stages.
In the league, Jiangsu maintained their undefeated record and beat bottom clubs Changchun Yatai and Beijing Guoan on April 29th and May 8th respectively, despite their record signing Alex Teixeira seeing red in Beijing. Petrescu's men are in second place, just a point behind defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
In England, Fulham and Slavisa Jokanovic finished 20th in the Championship. On April 30th they lost 3-0 away to Brentford and on May 7th they beat already relegated Bolton 1-0 at Craven Cottage. Having engineered the Cottagers' safety the Serbian manager has set his sights on loftier goals next term. "We are talking about fighting for top six," said Jokanovic, as reported by Get West London.
Nearby, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's QPR finished exactly mid-table (12th) after a 1-0 loss to Premier League-bound Burnley on the 5th and a home win versus Bristol City on the 7th. Get West London also reported on the former Chelsea striker's plans for the off-season, which includes an upheaval of playing staff. "There are going to be some changes at this club," stated the Dutch manager, who added that he was looking for players who had the, "right mentality". It will be interesting to see how many of QPR's core squad possess the mentality JFH is looking for — first team regulars Karl Henry, Junior Hoilett and Clint Hill are all on expiring contracts.
Lower down the leagues, Kevin Wilson and Nuneaton Borough missed out on the chance of promotion from the Vanarama Conference North thanks to a single point. They beat both Bradford PA and a Frank-Sinclair-less Hednesford Town in the last week of the season, but finished just behind Boston (who they lost to two weeks ago).
Even further down the leagues, Micky Hazard managed Hadley FC to their highest ever league finish - 6th in the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division. The team went undefeated this past fortnight, drawing only once and beating Leverstock Green 4-1 and Welwyn Garden City 4-0.
Gus Poyet is still a wanted man. The Nottingham Post have declared the Uruguayan as being in pole position to take the Forest job, whereas The Sun has him linked to Ipswich Town. In Spain, there are reports linking Poyet to his former clubs Real Betis and Real Zaragoza.
Roberto Di Matteo is also being considered by a host of clubs, including Lazio, Trabzonspor, and Celtic, but this week the South Wales Evening Post mentioned the Italian as a candidate to take over at Swansea City, although they state that Brendan Rodgers is the favourite for the role. Di Matteo has also been mentioned as a candidate for the potential Watford vacancy.