Livi withheld a late rally to see off League One side Forfar Athletic and book their place in the Betfred Cup Quarter Finals with a 2-1 victory at Station Park.
In the only Saturday match not to go into extra time, Lyndon Dykes’ first half header gave the Lions a lead which was doubled by Scott Pittman soon after the restart. Dale Hilson pulled one back for the home side but Livi were able to hold on and reach the last eight for the second time in three years.
As is often the case in cup matches, it was the lower-ranked side who made a storming start and came close to taking a shock lead inside four minutes when Hilson got in down the right and fired in a dipping volley that Sarkic did well to tip over. Guthrie then came close to a debut goal for the Lions five minutes later but his header from Alan Lithgow’s cross failed to trouble ex-Livi man Marc McCallum in the Forfar goal.
The Lions were denied by the woodwork on 15 minutes as Stevie Lawless hung a cross up to the back post for Souda to power a header against the crossbar. He then gathered possession before firing in a low effort that was brilliantly saved by McCallum at his near post. Dykes then forced a diving save from McCallum five minutes later with a low effort from 25 yards.
Forfar forced an opening at the other end on 23 minutes when Ross Forbes curled in a low free kick that Sarkic had to scamper across to save. The former Motherwell man then forced another save from Sarkic as he fired in a powerful drive that the on-loan Aston Villa stopper had to parry wide.
Livi quickly regained the initiative and went close with a free kick of their own on the half hour mark as Souda curled a low effort round the wall that McCallum did well to get down and push wide. Their pressure was finally rewarded on 33 minutes when Souda’s corner from the right found Dykes and he rose unchallenged at the near post to power a header down and into the net.
McCallum was having a stormer against his old club to keep his current one in the game and he produced another fine stop five minutes before the interval to deny Lawless after excellent wing play from Souda had presented him with the chance. Dykes then tried an ambitious effort from the halfway line that McCallum gathered comfortably. Lawless then checked in from the right and fired an effort just wide as the Lions went in at the break with a narrow advantage.
Half-time: Forfar Athletic 0-1 Livingston
Gary Holt made a change at the interval as Souda, who had offered plenty of threat down the left but struggled with his defensive duties, was replaced by Scott Robinson. Dykes then went close with a half-chance three minutes after the restart as he fired wide from a corner.
McCallum was proving a one-man barrier to the Lions and produced another fine save on 50 minutes to deny Pittman after Lawless had played him in. Livi – and Pittman – weren’t to be denied, though, as they made it 2-0 two minutes later when Crawford slid the ball into the path of Pittman and he checked on to his right-hand side before placing his shot low into the corner of the net.
A huge chance for a third was passed up on 61 minutes when Nicky Devlin burst down the right and squared for Dykes but, with much of the goal to aim at, he opened up his foot too much and steered his effort inches wide of the far post. The Lions were quickly punished for that miss as Hilson took advantage of an error from Lithgow to run clean through and slot past Sarkic to halve the home side’s deficit.
There was a moment to forget for referee Gavin Duncan three minutes later as Dykes flicked the ball on for Lawless who found himself clean through but, rather than play the obvious advantage, Duncan chose to pull play back and give the Lions a free kick, much to the Livi players’ fury. Livi then made their second change eight minutes later as Chris Erskine replaced Lawless.
Livi almost had a third goal nine minutes from time when Erskine did brilliantly down the left and fired a low ball across for Pittman but he could only watch as his shot trundled agonisingly wide of the post. The Lions’ final change saw Ibrahima Savane come on for his debut in place of Lamie three minutes later.
Dykes picked up a late yellow for throwing the ball away to delay a Forfar free kick but the Lions repelled the home side’s late surge relatively comfortably to book a home tie against Rangers in the last eight.
Full-time: Forfar Athletic 1-2 Livingston
Forfar Athletic: McCallum, Meechan, Burns (Bain 70), Travis, Docherty, Tapping, Hilson, Irvine, Jackson, Forbes (Aitken 82), Kirkpatrick (Coupe 70)
Subs not used: Robertson, MacKintosh, McGuff
Goals: Hilson (63)
Livingston: Sarkic, Devlin, Lithgow, Guthrie, Lamie (Savane 84), Bartley, Crawford, Souda (Robinson 45), Lawless (Erskine 74), Pittman, Dykes
Subs not used: Stewart, McMillan, Tiffoney, Sibbald
Goals: Dykes (34), Pittman (53)
Referee: Gavin Duncan
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine