Dundee United could not overcome their coronavirus crisis as they lost to Livingston for the second time this season.
The West Lothian side were the last team to beat the Tangerines in the league, winning at Tannadice on October 2.
It was always going to be a massive task for United to triumph at the Tony Macaroni Arena without manager Micky mellon, their entire first-team coaching staff and nine players – all self-isolating because three members of the backroom team tested positive for Covid-19.
They also had to deal with the controversy caused by a group team photograph that has led to criticism from Scotland’s clinical director Jason Leitch.
The defeat was a fitting end to a horrible week for United, with the hosts taking the lead on 57 minutes thanks to Scott Pittman’s well-placed strike then their captain Marvin Bartley making it two on 74 minutes.
United, who had under-18s coach Thomas Courts in the dugout instead of Mellon, fielded a side that was surprisingly strong given the circumstances.
In front of keeper Benjamin Siegrist were the three central defenders you would have expected – skipper Mark Reynolds, Ryan Edwards and Mark Connolly.
In the centre of the park, they would have been without the suspended Calum Butcher anyway, with the experienced Dillon Powers coming in for him.
The two notable absentees were Nicky Clark, the two-goal hero against Hamilton, and wide man Paul McMullan. That enabled the restoration of striker Lawrence Shankland, a sub a fortnight earlier, to the starting line-up, while Ian Harkes came into the midfield.
With 10 minutes gone what looked like a perfect pass from Jeando Fuchs split the Livi defence and sent Shankland clear, only for the frontman to be flagged for offside.
A couple of minutes later, Adrian Sporle fired a freekick wide from 22 yards as United started to pose a threat.
The Tangerines, playing in purple, were on the front foot and first Shankland had a header saved by goalie Max Stryjek – the whistle had blown for a foul in the box – then Harkes’ netbound strike was blocked.
Livi slowly began asserting themselves but Siegrist was still without a serious save to make as the game passed the half-hour mark.
On 36 minutes, Sporle’s cross didn’t quite connect properly with Marc McNulty’s boot and the ball spun away to safety.
That meant there were no goals but still plenty of encouragement for the Tannadice men as they walked off at half-time.
There was a face off between United defender Edwards and Livi skipper Marin Bartley inside the away box on 54 minutes, with both players being booked by referee Don Robertson.
Three minutes later, the visitors found themsleves 1-0 down.
They allowed Pittman to run towards their box without challenging him and the Livi player smashed a low shot into the right-hand corner of Siegrist’s net from the edge of the area.
On the hour, Jon Guthrie scooped a shot over from eight yards as Livi looked for another goal.
United brought on Louis Appere for Powers on 68 minutes as ethy tried to find a way back into the match.
However, it was Livi who were doing most of the attacking and Siegrist did well to save from Josh Mullin on 71 minutes.
The home side went 2-0 ahead three minutes later when skipper Bartley hooked the ball into the net following a corner.
United needed something magical to get them back into it but couldn’t find it.
Sporle’s drive from 25 yards flew over the bar then, with five minutes left, Shankland let fly with a strike that was well saved by Stryjek.
With time running out, Connolly’s volley deflected off Bartley and was gathered by the goalie.
Livingston: Stryjek, Devlin, Guthrie, Fitzwater, Serrano, Sibbald (Robinson 86), Mullin, Pittman, Bartley, Forrest (Brown 90), Poplatnik (Emmanuel-Thomas 71). Subs not used: McCrorie, McMillan, Taylor-Sinclair, Ambrose, Tiffoney, Lawson.
Dundee United: Siegrist, Smith, Sporle, Powers (Appere 68), Connolly, Reynolds, McNulty, Edwards, Harkes, Shankland, Fuchs. Subs not used: Deniz, Neilson, Watson, Hutchison, F. Robson, Duffy, Caves, Malcolm.
Referee: Don Robertson.