Livingston got their hands on the Petrofac Training Cup for the first time in their history as they dismantled Alloa Athletic on an unforgettable afternoon at McDiarmid Park.
The two sides couldn’t be separated last week as they shared the league spoils at the Indodrill Stadium but on this occasion there was no contest as Livi ran riot to claim the silverware in the glorious Perth sunshine.
Lions player-boss Mark Burchill made three changes to his side from last week’s 2-2 draw as Jordan White, Ibra Sekajja and Craig Sives made way for Myles Hippolyte, Burton O’Brien and Danny Mullen.
Backed by a raucous support, Livi started extremely brightly and Jason Talbot wasn’t slow in venturing forward but his cross was overhit and flew behind. Hippolyte then made a break of his own down the left and crossed to the back post for Keaghan Jacobs but his low shot was straight at Craig McDowall. Alloa created their first chance when Michael Chopra played in Liam Buchanan but he scuffed his shot and Darren Jamieson saved easily.
Livi soon regained control and a teasing ball over the top from O’Brien threatened to release Hippolyte but it was fractionally too long and McDowall gathered. The Lions then had a shout for a penalty as Scott Pittman was bundled over in the box but referee John Beaton signalled only for a goal kick. Talbot then sent a dangerous cross in towards Pittman but it was marginally too high for the little midfielder. Another Livi attack followed soon after with Talbot once again instrumental as he whipped another cross into the box for Callum Fordyce but he could only head just wide.
Too often this season Livi haven’t made the most of their dominance but, on their big day, they did so as they broke the deadlock on 21 minutes thanks to great work from Hippolyte, who showed great pace and tenacity to beat Michael Doyle to a loose ball and drive in on goal before squaring for Pittman and he finished emphatically past McDowall to cap his dream rise from the junior ranks with the opening goal in the Petrofac Cup Final.
The Lions had the bit between their teeth now and roared forward at every opportunity in search of a second goal. They almost had it too when Pittman saw his shot blocked before Keaghan curled his effort just wide. Alloa were lucky to retain their full complement of players soon after when Mark Docherty appeared to catch Talbot with an elbow in an off-the-ball incident that, fortunately for the
Alloa man, went unseen by the four match officials. Talbot, unlike Ibra Sekajja last week, was able to return to the action.
Alloa forced a reasonable chance soon after as Ryan McCord drifted in unnoticed at the back post to loop a header in but it cleared the bar comfortably. O’Brien then picked up the game’s first yellow card which, given some of the challenges in the game, seemed harsh in the extreme. Livi continued to control the match and a ball over the top played in Hippolyte and he hooked an effort over McDowall but it drifted agonisingly wide. That proved the last effort of the half as the Lions headed in at the interval with a one-goal lead that was the least their efforts deserved.
Livi started the second half in much the same vein as they continued to dominate proceedings and Gallagher sent in a cross for Hippolyte but the Englishman couldn’t quite latch onto it. Alloa’s Chopra, who was enduring a miserable afternoon, then picked up his side’s first yellow card after a heavy challenge on Talbot. Hippolyte’s long throws had been a real source of success for Livi in the league match and they almost paid dividends once again this week as his effort was met by Gallagher but McDowall saved.
A second goal had proved elusive all too often this season for Livi but everything was coming up roses for the Lions on this of all days and that crucial second goal would arrive just past the hour mark. Talbot whipped in a vicious corner from the right hand side and, after the ball cannoned around the box, it fell perfectly for Fordyce and he slammed the ball through a sea of legs into the back of the net to give the Lions a vital cushion.
Chopra almost gave his side a lifeline as he forced an effort goalwards but it came back off the post. There was almost a spectacular third goal for Livi as a cross from the left found Hippolyte but his acrobatic effort flew agonisingly wide. Kyle Benedictus was the next name in John Beaton’s book for a foul on Mullen with Hippolyte firing the resulting free kick over the bar.
Mullen made way for Jordan White minutes later and the big striker almost made an immediate impact as he sent a header goalwards which McDowell had to stretch to tip over. Alloa almost made things interesting when sub Isaac Layne let fly with a long range effort which dipped over Jamieson but cannoned off the crossbar to safety. The woodwork was to deny Livi shortly after as Hippolyte eased past two defenders down the left hand side and cut the ball back to Keaghan but his effort was deflected onto the post with McDowall beaten.
The killer third goal wasn’t long in coming though and it was a pair of substitutes who wrapped things up with a sumptuous 86th minute goal as the newly-introduced Gary Glen, who replaced man-of-the-match Hippolyte, latched on to White’s knockdown and returned the favour with a sublime cutback which the big striker coolly slotted past McDowall with a neat first-time finish. The Lions had (at least) one hand on the trophy now and made their final change when Jack Beaumont replaced Kyle Jacobs.
The Livi fans were creating a real carnival atmosphere as their side closed in on the trophy and they were on their feet again soon after as the cherry was put on the icing on the cake with a fourth Lions goal in stoppage time. Talbot marauded forward down the left hand side once again and curled in a decent cross which McDowall came to collect but White was there quicker to outjump the Alloa stopper and flick a fine header into the far corner to set the seal on a memorable afternoon for Livingston.
The final whistle wasn’t long in coming and the party was well underway even before it did with the Livi fans paying a tremendous, noisy tribute to their heroes as they celebrated adding a silver lining to what has been a very difficult season. Particular satisfaction was taken in seeing so many academy graduates playing their part in the success, with the likes of Fordyce, Beaumont, Mullen and the Jacobs brothers (to name but a few) all playing integral roles during the Lions’ glory run. Burton O’Brien’s place in Livi folklore has also been further cemented as the only man in history to play in both of the club’s cup successes, 11 years apart.
The post-match party back at the stadium allowed the fans and players to celebrate together, albeit briefly as manager and players alike turn their attention to Wednesday night’s game at home to Falkirk – the next hurdle in a race for survival they all firmly believe can still be won.
Livingston: 1 Jamieson, 3 Talbot, 4 Cole, 5 Fordyce, 6 Ky.Jacobs (Beaumont 88), 7 Kn.Jacobs, 8 O'Brien, 11 Hippolyte (Glen 84), 14 Gallagher, 20 Mullen (White 69), 25 Pittman
Subs not used: 12 Walker, 17 McKenna, 22 Sekajja, 23 Donaldson
Alloa: 21 McDowall, 3 Docherty (Flannigan 69), 4 Gordon, 5 Meggatt, 7 Cawley, 8 McCord (Spence 82), 10 Holmes, 14 Benedictus, 17 Doyle, 19 Buchanan, 25 Chopra (Layne 69)
Subs not used: 1 Gibson, 2 Tiffoney, 28 Rutherford, 30 Ferguson
Referee: John Beaton
Match report: James Lothian