Livi claimed a Betfred Cup bonus point with a penalty shootout win over Partick Thistle as Neil Alexander enjoyed a memorable second debut at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
After Keaghan Jacobs had cancelled out Chris Erskine’s opener for the Jags, Alexander took centre stage with three fine shootout saves as the Lions claimed a deserved two points.
Livi boss David Hopkin made one change to his side from the 3-0 defeat to Sunderland as Dale Carrick came in for Dylan Mackin. The Lions knew they faced a tough test against the Firhill side who had finished sixth in last season’s Scottish Premiership.
It was the visitors who had the first chance inside two minutes as Matthew Knox fluffed a clearance straight to Chris Erskine who took a touch before curling a shot straight at Alexander. Livi had their first opportunity three minutes later as Danny Mullen and Scott Pittman linked up to send Pittman in behind but Tomas Cerny was out smartly to save his effort before Mullen’s rebound was blocked.
Thistle were in again two minutes later as Erskine teed up Steven Lawless but his powerful shot was well parried by Alexander. Blair Spittal was next to try his luck for the visitors on 11 minutes when he found space on the right but his powerful angled drive whistled just over.
The goal was coming for Thistle though and it eventually arrived on 15 minutes as Erskine was left in too much space at the edge of the box and he curled a fine effort high past Alexander to give the Jags a deserved lead. Thistle continued to dominate after taking the lead without threatening the Livi goal too much and in fact it was the Lions who had the next effort at goal on 20 minutes as Mullen curled a free kick inches over the bar after Carrick had been flattened by Adam Barton.
Then came a huge moment of controversy as Livi denied an equaliser. A mishit clearance from a Thistle spooned up in the air and Mullen was on hand to head the loose ball home only for ref Steven Kirkland to blow for a very soft foul on keeper Cerny.
Perhaps spurred on by their perceived injustice, Livi enjoyed a good spell but found their final ball was just fractionally off target. Mullen and Knox linked up well to allow the latter a sight of goal but his first time effort trundled harmlessly wide.
Thistle thought they had gone 2-0 up on 34 minutes when Kris Doolan tapped home the rebound after Lawless’ shot had been well saved by Alexander but the lineslady’s flag was quickly up to chalk the goal off for offside.
Livi should have drawn level two minutes before the break as Pittman burst clear but, with only Cerny to beat, he fired his shot straight at the Jags keeper before sending the rebound agonisingly across the face of goal from the tighest of angles. Thistle survived that scare to take a one-goal lead into the interval.
Half time: Livingston 0-1 Partick Thistle
The second half was barely sixty seconds old when Livi got off to a dream start as they drew level. Pittman’s cross was blocked into the path of Jacobs and he wriggled into space before firing a tremendous drive across Cerny into the top corner to square the game.
Livi began to dominate proceedings and good play from Raffaele De Vita on 51 minutes saw him drive into the box and fire in a powerful low strike that Cerny did well to hold with Carrick waiting to pounce.
The Lions were awarded a free kick inches outside the box after a rash challenge on Carrick and Knox’s cross took a huge deflection off a Thistle head only for the referee to award a goal kick, much to the Livi players’ incredulity.
Lions boss Hopkin made his first change just after the hour mark as Knox was replaced by Josh Mullin but it was the visitors who had the next chance five minutes later as Lawless’ cross was met by Doolan’s diving header but the ball flew harmlessly wide.
A second Livi change came on 67 minutes as the impressive Carrick was replaced by Jackson Longridge.
Thistle began to threaten again and came close on 71 minutes when Spittal drove in from the right hand side and fired in a low strike that was deflected just wide. The resulting corner was flicked on by Barton for Doolan but he sliced his effort wide.
After Thistle made their first change, Kevin Nisbet replacing Erskine, Livi came close to going ahead as Mullin’s cross was taken off Mullen’s toes by Danny Devine for a corner that was headed over by Alan Lithgow.
Livi made their final change as Mackin replaced De Vita before the Lions almost grabbed a fortuitous winner on 80 minutes as Jacobs’ overhit cross headed for the net only for Cerny to backpedal and make a fine fingertip save. The resulting corner was headed well wide by Gallagher.
After Mullen was perhaps lucky to avoid a booking for a rash challenge, Mackin did go into the book for a clumsy tackle on Barton. Devine followed soon after for a blatant body check on Mullen.
The resulting free kick from Mullin was curled straight at Cerny as the match ended in a draw, enshring a point for each side but sending us to a penalty shootout for a bonus point.
The visitors went first and Stuart Bannigan scored confidently. Cerny then got a hand to Mackin’s penalty but the power took it into the net for 1-1. Christie Elliott was next to step up for Thistle but Alexander sprung to his right to make a fine save. Mullin scored his spot kick to put Livi in control.
Spittal took Thistle’s third penalty but Alexander was equal to it again, making a fine one-handed save down to his right. Goalscorer Jacobs took, and converted, Livi’s third kick to leave them on the brink and when Alexander saved again, this time from Doolan, the Lions celebrated bagging an extra point that they richly deserved on the balance of play. It could also prove crucial in the race for a place in the last 16.
Full-time: Livingston 1-1 Partick Thistle (Livi win 3-1 on penalties)
Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Byrne, Pittman, Knox (Mullin 61), Jacobs, De Vita (Mackin 78), Mullen, Carrick (Longridge 68)
Subs not used: Maley, Todorov, Hamilton, Peters
Goals: Jacobs (46)
Penalties scored: Mackin, Mullin, Jacobs
Partick Thistle: Cerny, Spittal, Bannigan, Doolan, Erskine (Nisbet 73), Lawless, Barton, Elliott, Devine, Edwards, Penrice
Subs not used: Scully, McCarthy, Lamont, McLaughlin
Goals: Erskine (14)
Penalties scored: Bannigan
Referee: Steven Kirkland
Match Report: Andy Crawford