Livi took another step towards the knockout stages of the Betfred Cup with a comfortable win over a battling Airdrie side in miserable conditions at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Goals in either half from Dylan Mackin – his first for the Lions – and captain Craig Halkett were enough for another three points in Group H though the margin of victory could have been far more emphatic.
The Lions side showed three changes from the 1-0 win at St Mirren on Tuesday night as Dale Carrick, Danny Mullen and Keaghan Jacobs dropped out to be replaced by Jackson Longridge, Mackin and Nikolay Todorov.
The first sight of goal came Livi’s way inside three minutes as Alan Lithgow picked the ball up just inside the visitors’ half and strolled forward but his effort from fully 30 yards flew high over the bar. The deadlock should have been broken three minutes later as Mackin did well down the left and fired in a low cross for Todorov. He laid the ball back for the onrushing Scott Pittman but – on his 100th appearance for the Lions – he fired wide from six yards when it seemed easier to score.
Another big chance went begging for the Lions on 11 minutes as Todorov released Raffaele De Vita down the left and his low cross found Mackin at the back post but the big striker was leaning back and fired his effort high over the bar. De Vita then came close to goal of his own as Mullin played him clean through down the right but his low shot was well saved by the legs of Rohan Ferguson.
Livi’s pressure was eventually rewarded on 20 minutes as they took the lead when Halkett fired a low ball across and Mackin was on hand to bundle the ball home from close range at the near post.
The visitors have endured a turbulent summer dominated by issues off the field but they battled gamely throughout and came close to an equaliser on 23 minutes when Andy Ryan tried his luck with a free kick from 35 yards that was heading for the bottom corner until Neil Alexander sprung to his left to make a fine one-handed save.
The Lions – and Mackin – came within inches doubling their tally on 26 minutes when the former Motherwell striker picked the ball up at the edge of the box and turned his man inside-out before firing in a fierce drive that was brilliantly turned onto the post by Ferguson.
After that flurry of chances the match petered out and Livi comfortably held onto their lead until the interval.
Half-time: Livingston 1-0 Airdrieonians
Livi boss David Hopkin made one change at the start of the second half as Jacobs came on for Mullin and it was his side who made all the early running, coming close to a second within two minutes of the restart when fine build-up ended with Pittman played in but his shot was deflected over the bar before the resulting corner was headed straight at Ferguson by Gallagher.
Great pace down the left from Longridge saw him find space to whip in a fine cross for Todorov but his header was well blocked. It only delayed the inevitable though as Livi doubled their lead two minutes later when Halkett met De Vita’s corner at the far post and planted his header back across goal into the corner of the net. The Lions’ second change followed soon after as Josh Peters came on for Todorov.
Livi were in cruise control now and passed up another couple of chances in quick succession as Peters saw a shot blocked before the ball dropped to Halkett but his volley cleared the roof of the South Stand. Airdrie made their first change on 64 minutes as Murray Loudon replaced Adam Brown before Livi made their final change four minutes later as Pittman was replaced by youngster Jack Hamilton, who made his competitive debut for the Lions.
The Lions continued to dominate possession without creating too much as the game fizzled out in a torrential downpour. A rare sight of goal came eight minutes from time as De Vita pulled the ball back for Shaun Byrne at the edge of the box but his attempted chip – not sure if it was a cross or a shot – was comfortably gathered by Ferguson.
The final chance went the Lions’ way on 88 minutes as Hamilton battled through the Airdrie defence before the ball fell at the feet of Peters but his shot flew over the bar.
Full-time: Livingston 2-0 Airdrieonians
The result leaves the Lions four points clear at the top of Betfred Cup Group H and knowing that a win at Stranraer on Tuesday will ensure they qualify as group winners. An 11-point haul would also put them in with a real chance of being one of the seeded sides in the last-16 draw.
Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Byrne, Pittman (Hamilton 68), Mullin (Jacobs 45), Longridge, De-Vita, Mackin, Todorov (Peters 56)
Subs not used: Maley, Cadden, Robinson
Goals: Mackin (21), Halkett (53)
Airdrieonians: Ferguson, Stewart, MacDonald, Brownlie, Cairns, McIntosh, Higgins (Leighton 54), Conroy, Ryan, Russell (Thomson 76), Brown (Loudon 64)
Subs not used: Kerr, McLaughlin
Referee: Mike Roncone
Match Report: Andy Crawford