Morton 0-2 Livingston

Livi stormed into the second round of the Irn Bru Cup with a 2-0 victory over Championship rivals Greenock Morton at Cappielow.

Goals in either half from Nikolay Todorov and Danny Mullen took the Lions into the second round and extended their unbeaten run to 17 games.

Lions boss David Hopkin made four changes to the side that drew 2-2 at Brechin on Saturday as Matthew Knox, Nicky Cadden, Joe Thomson and Nikolay Todorov came in for Declan Gallagher, Shaun Byrne, Dylan Mackin and Danny Mullen.

After a sluggish start from both sides, Livi had the first chance on 12 minutes as Knox let fly from the edge of the box but his shot took a deflection that took all the pace off and allowed Morton keeper Derek Gaston to save with ease. Alan Lithgow then tried to pick out Todorov with a ball over the top but Gaston was out quickly to gather. Todorov was involved at the other end a minute later, making a key block from Ross Forbes’ free kick.

The home side appealed for a penalty on 18 minutes when Michael Tidser went down under pressure from Jackson Longridge but referee Colin Steven waved the appeals away. Morton had their first sight of goal three minutes later when Forbes’ corner was met by Jack Iredale at the back post but he sent his header wide of the post.

Jim Duffy’s side were enjoying the better of possession but were caught out on 25 minutes when the Lions took the lead as Todorov muscled his way past the home defence and lofted the ball over the advancing Gaston into the far corner of the net. Livi took control after the goal and a great interception from Lithgow on 28 minutes saw them break quickly but Raffa De Vita’s cross toward Todorov was cleared. A Lithgow long throw found Todorov three minutes later but couldn’t get enough power in his shot to trouble Gaston.

Another chance fell Todorov’s way on 33 minutes when he battled hard to create an opening and had a go from 20 yards but his shot rolled wide. Craig Halkett then saw a mazy run forward halted by Declan McManus, who picked up a yellow card for his trouble.

The home side forced the final chance of the half on 42 minutes when they won a free kick 25 yards out but Forbes’ effort flew high over the bar as Livi went in at the break in front.

Half-time: Greenock Morton 0-1 Livingston

The second half started in a similar vein to the first but there was a break in play on 50 minutes when Lithgow went down and was subsequently forced off for treatment.

Livi came close to a second goal on 53 minutes when De Vita wriggled into space inside the box but saw his close-range effort blocked by Gaston before Knox’s rebound was deflected wide. Lithgow returned to the field but pulled up again soon after and was forced off to be replaced by Mackin. Goalscorer Todorov dropped back to fill Lithgow’s role while Mackin headed up front.

The big striker almost had an instant impact as he won possession on the edge of the box but his attempted square ball through for Knox was well intercepted.  There was a spate of changes around the hour mark as Morton sent on Gary Oliver and Jai Quitongo for Andy Murdoch and Lewis Strapp while Danny Mullen replaced Knox.

It was almost 2-0 on 67 minutes as Mullen squared the ball for Mackin. He in turn teed up Scott Pittman but Gaston made a fine, one-handed save to keep out his effort. The Lions only had to wait three more minutes to double their lead with a fine, flowing move as Mackin played Pittman in behind and he squared for Mullen to scoop an effort over Gaston into the net.

Livi made their final change on 72 minutes as Ross Brown made a belated debut having recovered from injury, replacing Josh Mullin.

With Morton pushing men forward in search of a route back into the game, the Lions were happy to play on the counter attack and Longridge made a fine interception before scampering down the right wing and firing in a shot that was blocked by a Morton defender.

They came close to making it 3-0 on 78 minutes with a near-carbon copy of the second goal when Mackin released Pittman to tee up Mullen but this time his shot went just wide. Cadden then tried his luck with an ambition effort two minutes later but Gaston saved comfortably.

The home side were given a chance to get back into the game nine minutes from time when they were awarded a penalty kick for a handball but Tidser, having scored twice from the spot against St Mirren on Saturday, put too much power behind his kick and it crashed against the crossbar on its way out for a goal kick.

More Morton pressure saw Alexander and Halkett make fine blocks in quick succession to preserve the Lions’ two-goal lead before Tidser came close again a minute later when he let fly from fully 35 yards but saw the bar get in his way once more. Livi countered again on 86 minutes and Mackin got in down the right before cutting the ball back for Mullen but he was quickly crowded out and the home defence was able to clear.

The Lions picked up a couple of late yellow cards, Longridge and Thomson going into the book, but saw out the final minutes with ease to book their place in the last-32.

Full-time: Greenock Morton 0-2 Livingston

Morton: Gaston, Doyle, O’Ware, Iredale, Strapp, Murdoch (Quitongo 61), McManus (Oliver 61), Tidser, Forbes, McHugh, Harkins (Thomson 81)
Subs not used: Lamie, Tiffoney, Russell, McGowan
Goals:

Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow (Mackin 57), Halkett, Longridge, Pittman, Mullin (Brown 72), De Vita, Knox (Mullen 62), Thomson, Cadden, Todorov
Subs not used: Carrick, Maley, Peters, Hamilton
Goals: Todorov (25), Mullen (70)

Referee: Colin Steven
Att: 1,036
Match Report: Andy Crawford

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