Livingston kicked off the 2022/23 season with their first competitive match as they travelled to Cliftonhill to take on Albion Rovers in the Premier Sports Cup.
Manager David Martindale gave starting debuts to Scott Bitsindou and Esmael Goncalves whilst new signings Jamie Brandon, Phil Cancar and Dylan Bahamboula had to settle for a place on the bench.
With just five minutes on the clock, Livingston took the lead through the birthday boy Scott Pittman. Andrew Shinnie’s ball found Penrice down the left wing which the left back met with a volley into the box. Penrice’s cross sat perfectly for the arriving Pittman who headed home from around the penalty spot to cap his 30th birthday with Livingston’s first competitive goal of the season.
Shortly after the opener, Livi came close to a second. Josh Mullin’s corner was met at the front post by Shinnie whose deft flick was tipped over the bar by Jack Leighfield.
The visitors doubled their advantage on 20 minutes after some brilliant play from Penrice on the left again. This time, he cut inside as he beat two men before firing a strike at goal. Leighfield could only parry to the feet of Josh Mullin who was on hand to net against his former club to make it 2-0.
Mullin was causing problems again as another corner, this time from the opposite flank, was met by Bitsindou who headed towards goal but didn’t cause Leighfield any problems as a tame effort resulted in a straightforward stop for the goalkeeper.
Rovers threatened on a couple of occasions with a few set pieces, but they were dealt with by Livingston who went in at the break with a very comfortable two goal lead.
David Martindale freshened up his side for the second half as Joel Nouble and Josh Mullin were substituted. On came new signing Dylan Bahamboula for his first Livingston appearance and Bruce Anderson, who saw minutes for the first time since 6th March after an injury.
It took Anderson no time at all to get back to what he does best – scoring goals! Just two minutes after coming off the bench, the number nine pounced on Pittman’s blocked effort and rolled in from close range as Livingston extended their lead.
Scott Bitsindou again found himself with a half chance. This time, he met a cross from a Penrice free kick with his head but saw his effort roll wide of the target.
On the hour mark, Martindale made another two alterations to the side as Jackson Longridge and Cristian Montano replaced James Penrice and Esmael Goncalves.
Moments after the change, Ivan Konovalov’s error saw the hosts pull one back. A free kick from the right-hand side was spilled by the Russian and Ayrton Sonkur was on hand to pounce from close range and knock into the empty net.
What appeared to be a consolation for Brown Reid’s men turned into a bit of a worry for Livingston as Rovers made it 3-2 on 70 minutes. A long throw was headed down to Michael Paton, and the experienced forward smashed home to give his side further hope of a comeback.
The Lions, who looked out of sight, now needed to ensure the three points was theirs so went in search for a fourth. A nice bit of skill from Bahamboula made a yard for himself and he laid off Shinnie at the edge of the box. The midfielder’s shot was deflected just wide of the post. From the resultant corner Fitzwater had an effort cleared from danger.
Up the other end, Kyle Fleming tried his luck for Rovers after another set piece was cleared, but Konovalov held comfortably this time.
With 15 minutes to play, the visitors made their final change of the game as Martindale handed out another debut with Jamie Brandon replacing Nicky Devlin at right back.
Livi pushed to put the game beyond reach, and new boy Bahamboula was involved again. A one two with Longridge gave the winger a chance to get a shot away, however his effort from the left of the box flew over the bar.
With six minutes to play, it should have been four for Livi. Brandon’s header put Anderson through on goal, but one on one with Leighfield, the keeper stood tall to make a good save to deny the striker a second.
That would be the final chance of the afternoon as the game would finish 3-2. Livingston looked very comfortable at 3-0 up but a few lapses of concentration coupled with a never say die attitude from Rovers saw them get back into the game with two goals towards the end.
Despite the frustration of conceding, it was three points to start the season as Livingston end the day top of Group G.
Match Report: Calum Brown
Albion Rovers: Leighfield, Fagan©️, Malcolm, Sonkur, McGowan (Fernie 86), Fleming, Wilson, Kidd (Duncan 76), Testa (Roberts 61), Paton, Reilly
Subs not used: Dolan, Sandberg
Goals: Sonkur (62), Paton (71)
Livingston: Konovalov, Devlin©️ (Brandon 77), Fitzwater, Bitsindou, Penrice (Longridge 61), Holt, Pittman, Shinnie, Mullin (Bahamboula 45), Nouble (Anderson 45), Gonçalves (Montaño 61)
Subs not used: Stryjek, Kelly, Cancar, Omeonga
Goals: Pittman (5), Mullin (20), Anderson (48)
Referee: Don Robertson