Livingston 1-1 Pars

IT was a tale of two penalties this afternoon as the Pars opened their Championship season with a hard-fought draw at Livingston.

Scott Pittman's curling strike on the half hour gave the Lions a deserved half-time lead but Kallum Higginbotham's hotly-disputed spot-kick in 63 minutes levelled matters.

The game almost had a disastrous ending when Jean Yves-M'Voto felled Danny Mullen in the area, but super keeper Sean Murdoch guessed correctly to save the Livi man's effort from 12 yards.

The hosts were furious at the award of Athletic's penalty, believing the Joe Cardle had made the most of the challenge, but the visitors had been denied a blatant earlier in the half when sub David Hopkirk was flattened as he attempted to control a cross ball.

In the end, the points were shared but the Pars can't afford to start as slackly in their Betfred Cup tie at Rangers on Wednesday night.

Allan Johnston was without Callum Morris in defence as M'Voto deputised, while Fraser Aird was given his debut in place of the suspended Declan McManus.

After the hosts unfurled the flag for winning League One last term, they started brightly and made a couple of early forays into Athletic territory, but the visitors snuffed out the danger.

Travelling supporters were still making their way in after kick-off and, with the allocated away section full, they were given access to more sections as they were looking for their favourites to carry on from last week's cup success at Hearts.

Both teams struggled to fashion any opportunities in the opening 10 minutes but the Pars almost found a route to goal when a lovely dinked ball by Michael Paton found Kallum Higginbotham in the area, who was unfortunate not to find the supporting Callum Smith for a pop at goal.

The game's first real opportunity came in the 18th minute when Josh Mullin's cross from the right was cut-out by the Pars rearguard but only as far as Dale Carrick, but his effort was weak and comfortably dealt with by Sean Murdoch.

Another chance came the Lions' way moments later when former Par Shaun Byrne headed forward to find Danny Mullen, who slipped it in to Mullin on the left side of the area but his effort was deflected wide.

Declan Gallagher then found himself in acres of room on the right after the ball was worked to him and, invited to shoot, he did so from range but thankfully the ball ended wide of Murdoch's goal.

But, with half an hour on the clock, Livi deservedly took the lead.

It was all of Dunfermline's own making; they weren't alert enough at a short corner and the ball found its way to Pittman, who had plenty of time to curl one through a crowd of bodies at the edge of the box and into the far corner.

With five minutes from the break, Johnston made a change with Aird - who, like most of his team-mates, hadn't seen much of the ball - was subbed for Hopkirk in a switch that wasn't clear was tactical or due to injury.

Dunfermline started the second half a bit brighter and, within five minutes, had very strong penalty claims rejected by referee Alan Newlands.

Keeping the pressure on from a cleared Higginbotham free-kick, Joe Cardle's cross was controlled on the chest by Hopkirk but, as he attempted to turn, was clearly barged over by a Livi defender.

That enraged the away support and, encouraged by that, Athletic came roaring back at the Lions.

And, in the 63rd minute, they did pull level - and from the spot.

It was good work on the right by Hopkirk to set it up, slipping the ball into Cardle who went down under the challenge of a home defender.

It was hard to tell from a distance, but it looked less clear-cut than the one Hopkirk was denied before.

Not that it mattered to Higginbotham, who did the needful from 12 yards by calmly sending Neil Alexander the wrong way.

The decision infuriated the hosts and Jackson Longridge attempted to take his frustration out by unleashing a shot from about 25 yards, but it was well off-target.

A good ball in from sub Rafa De Vita found Josh Mullin 18 yards out but he fired over as Livi tried to work their way back into the game, before an excellent delivery from Williamson was flicked on by sub Dean Shiels - on for the hard-working Smith - but couldn't quite pick out Hopkirk.

Cardle and Gallagher were both carded for off-the-ball handbags as things got tetchy, before the Pars winger saw a shot blocked before Hopkirk saw an effort into the ground held by Alexander.

A needless free-kick conceded by Higginbotham was whipped in by Keaghan Jacobs and flicked to goal by Mullen, but Murdoch held on.

Then, with five minutes left, Newlands awarded another spot-kick - this time to Livingston.

There may have been a question of offside as the ball was played high down the middle of the Pars defence, but there was no doubting the award as M'Voto took down Mullen on the left-edge of the area.

The felled Livi man stepped up but Murdoch guessed correctly, diving brilliantly to his left to make a crucial save.

Livingston: Alexander, Longridge, Lithgow, Byrne, Mullin, Pittman, Mullen, Jacobs, Carrick, Halkett, Gallagher.

Subs: Todorov, Cadden, Knox, Robinson, De Vita, Peters, Maley.

Pars: Murdoch, Williamson, Martin, Ashcroft, M'Voto, Higginbotham, Wedderburn, Paton, Cardle, Aird, Smith.

Subs: Hopkirk, Splaine, Talbot, Duthie, Lochhead, Shiels, Gill.

Referee: Alan Newlands.

Attendance: 2,301.