Livi produced a heroic defensive display to claim a fine victory at Championship rivals St Mirren and move to the top of Betfred Cup Group H on a glorious evening in Paisley.
Dale Carrick’s second-minute goal proved to be enough despite incessant Buddies pressure as the David Hopkin’s side held on to claim all three points and bolster their chances of reaching the last-16.
The Livi side showed one change from the penalty shootout win over Partick Thistle as Josh Mullin came in for Matthew Knox.
The Lions started the match brightly and stormed into the lead inside two minutes as Keaghan Jacobs’ ball into the box was chested down by Danny Mullen to Carrick and he fired a fine first-time strike low past Craig Samson is the St Mirren goal.
They were almost 2-0 up barely three minutes later as Mullen forced a mistake from Gary Irvine and broke clear. As the defenders caught up he fed Jacobs who teed up Scott Pittman but Samson was out smartly to save his effort and Mullen couldn’t force the rebound home.
After starting so well, Livi almost gave away a cheap equaliser as Shaun Byrne lost possession 30 yards from his own goal and Lewis Morgan cut the ball back for Cammy Smith but his effort fizzed inches wide via a slight deflection.
More sloppy play saw Raffaele De Vita lose possession in a poor area and Morgan was played in but Josh Mullin got back well to clear the ball for a throw.
After St Mirren’s Ian McShane picked up a harsh yellow card for a foul on Pittman, Mullin’s free kick was headed back across goal by De Vita but Samson was able to gather before Mullen could pounce.
The home side countered quickly and Ross Stewart found space inside the Livi box but his powerful drive was parried wide by Neil Alexander at his near post. Craig Halkett then got a vital touch onto Stephen McGinn’s cross to stop Gavin Reilly getting on the end of it as the Livi defence came under more and more pressure.
Jack Ross’ side kept coming and Reilly stole in behind the Livi defence to latch onto Stelios Demetriou’s ball over the top but his control let him down and Alexander was able to gather with ease.
Livi maintained a fleeting threat and, after Gary McKenzie was adjudged to have fouled Carrick inside the St Mirren half, Declan Gallagher got on the end of the free kick and the ball dropped loose but no Livi man could get on the end of it. Up the other end a McGinn free kick was glanced out for a corner which was met by Gregor Buchanan but his header flew comfortably over the bar.
St Mirren came again though and, after Stewart’s cut back was inches away from Reilly, Jacobs had to be out quickly to block Morgan’s fierce effort.
Livi were forced into a change on 34 minutes as Carrick, injured in the clash with McKenzie, was replaced by Jackson Longridge.
The Lions were causing a lot of their own problems, with Mullen and De Vita giving the ball away in poor areas before Gallagher was able to clear before a clumsy foul from Halkett brought a free kick which De Vita did well to clear, ensuring Livi’s lead remained intact at the interval.
Half-time: St Mirren 0-1 Livingston
The second half started far more slowly than the first, with both sides showing flashes of attacking intent without testing the goalkeepers. The first moment of note saw Demetriou shown a yellow card for a cynical tug back on Byrne just outside his own box. The resulting free kick was headed clear as far as Byrne but his volley swerved wide.
There was concern for Livi on 55 minutes as captain Halkett required lengthy treatment after an innocuous collision with a Saints man but, after initial fears he may have had to come off, he was able to soldier on, helping the defence deal with a succession of set pieces from the home side.
St Mirren made their first substitution on 62 minutes as John Sutton replaced Stewart before Livi followed suit shortly after, sending Nikolay Todorov on for Jacobs in their second change.
Livi made a rare foray forward soon after and, after Mullin’s corner was cleared, De Vita collected the ball on the touchline and drove inside before firing in a shot that veered harmlessly wide.
St Mirren were quickly back up the other end and, after Halkett was booked for an identical foul to that which saw Demetriou carded earlier, McShane’s free kick flew straight into the wall, allowing Livi to clear before the offside flag saw off St Mirren’s follow-up attack.
Mullen won Livi a free kick up the other end and Mullin’s cross was met by Lithgow but his header went just over the bar. St Mirren broke again and Morgan fired a dangerous ball across the face of goal but there was no one there to turn it home and Livi survived.
St Mirren made their second change on 70 minutes as Smith was replaced by Conor O’Keefe before a Livi corner caused a scramble in the hosts’ box as Gallagher, Todorov and Lithgow all tried to get on the end of it before Samson turned it out for another corner that was dealt with far more comfortably by the home defence.
St Mirren broke quickly and sub O’Keefe thought he was clean through on Alexander but the offside flag was quickly up.
Both sides made their final changes with 11 minutes left as Buchanan was replaced by Jordan Kirkpatrick for the hosts while Mullen was replaced by Josh Peters for the Lions.
St Mirren were camped in Livi’s half by now and, when Reilly broke down the left and cut the ball back for Kirkpatrick, a goal looked certain only for Lithgow to somehow stick out a toe and divert the ball to safety. The home side came closer still three minutes when a clearing header dropped to O’Keefe and his volley looked netbound until another outstanding piece of defending from Lithgow saw him clear the ball off the line.
It was real backs-to-the-wall stuff for Livi by now and, after Peters picked up a yellow card for kicking the ball away, Kirkpatrick was released down the right and tried his luck with a first-time effort from out wide that Alexander held well at his near post.
The Lions survived another scare in the first minute of injury time as Demetriou’s cross was headed back across goal by Sutton but no one was there to take advantage.
Sub Todorov then picked up a yellow card as the ball was kicked off him as he pointed out that the free kick was being taken ten yards too far forward before more gallant defending saw Longridge block McKenzie’s effort from the edge of the box. Livi quickly countered and Pittman played in Todorov but, after cutting inside, his shot was charged down and the home side were able to clear.
Livi kept things relatively tight from then and, after six minutes of injury time, ref Alan Muir blew the final whistle to seal an impressive victory for David Hopkin’s side that maintains their record of never having lost in Paisley.
Full-time: St Mirren 0-1 Livingston
The result takes Livi two points clear at the top of Group H and with fixtures against League One sides Airdrie and Stranraer to come, they will certainly fancy their chances of making it to the knockout stages – not that the Livi boss will allow his players to look beyond Saturday.
St Mirren: Samson, Demetriou, Irvine, McGinn, Buchanan, Mackenzie, Morgan (Kirkpatrick 77), Smith (O’Keefe 69), McShane, R.Stewart (Sutton 61), Reilly
Subs not used: RC.Stewart, Quinn, Baird, MacPherson
Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Byrne, Pittman, Mullin, Jacobs (Todorov 62), De-Vita, Mullen (Peters 78), Carrick (Longridge 34)
Subs not used: Maley, Mackin, Knox
Goals: Carrick (2)
Referee: Alan Muir
Match Report: Andy Crawford