Livi bowed out of the Betfred Cup after a narrow defeat to Premiership side Hamilton at the SuperSeal Stadium which sent Accies through to the last-16 as Group G winners.
The 2-0 defeat to Ayr last Tuesday had all but ended the Lions’ qualification hopes but there was still plenty riding on the match as the build-up to the League One kick off continues. Boss David Hopkin made three changes to his starting line-up from the defeat to Ayr as Shaun Byrne, Scott Pittman and Nicky Cadden came in for Jordan Sinclair, Dale Carrick and Liam Buchanan.
The match was a slow burner to begin with and it was ten minutes before either side showed any attacking threat, Accies’ Antons Kurakins breaking down the left wing and attempting to cut the ball back to Ali Crawford only for Livi stopper Sean Crighton to make a great block. Livi’s first threat came shortly after but Pittman was crowded out inside the Accies box which allowed keeper Remi Matthews to gather.
Livi nearly broke the deadlock in fortuitous fashion when Jackson Longridge was well picked out down the left and his cross was almost diverted into his own net by Georgios Sarris. Cadden then curled in a fine cross that Matthews just reached before Danny Mullen could pounce. Accies survived a goalmouth scramble on 16 minutes as the ball ricocheted around the box with no Livi player able to get a shot away. Accies managed to clear for a corner which Matthews gathered.
Accies came close on 20 minutes when a cross found Dougie Imrie but he could only loop his header harmlessly over the bar. Livi wouldn’t be so lucky two minutes as the home side broke the deadlock when Imrie’s ball across the box fell to Alexandre D’Acol who fired a powerful effort beyond Liam Kelly from 20 yards.
Livi responded well and came close to an equaliser on 27 minutes when Cadden broke free of his marker and rolled the ball across the face of goal and just in front to the stretching Mullen. Accies went up the other end and Imrie whipped a superb ball in which Crighton did well to clear for a corner that Byrne dealt with easily.
The Lions pressed forward again on 34 minutes and Mullen slipped Cadden through but Michael Devlin slid in to block his shot. Sarris collected the first yellow card of the match on 37 minutes for a deliberate handball.
Livi’s pressure was rewarded on 41 minutes as they drew level when Mullin whipped in a free kick that was met by Crighton who headed home via a deflection. Accies almost regained their lead on 44 minutes when Sarris rose to meet Crawford’s corner but headed over the bar. That was the last action of note in the half as the teams went in at the break all square.
Half-time: Hamilton 1-1 Livingston
The second half was similarly slow in getting going but when it did, Accies took full advantage as they regained the lead on 56 minutes when a free kick was flighted to the back post where Louis Longridge was unmarked and he fired a low effort through Kelly’s legs and into the net.
Accies boss Martin Canning made a double change on the hour mark as Sarris and Massimo Donati were replaced by Darian McKinnon and Jordan McGregor. Livi came close to an equaliser on 69 minutes when Cadden whipped a free kick low towards goal which Matthews got a strong hand on to divert wide. Livi made their first change a minute later as Matthew Knox replaced Mullin. Accies then made their final change on 77 minutes, sending on Steven Boyd in place of D’Acol, before Livi made a double switch two minutes later as Mullen and Byrne were replaced by Liam Watt and Thomas Orr.
Cadden forced another opportunity for Livi on 80 minutes but saw his deflected shot saved by Matthews before Pittman played in Orr a minute later but the on-loan Morton man could only curl his shot high and wide. The Lions should have equalised on 82 minutes when Pittman broke clear and saw his shot saved. The rebound fell kindly for Watt but he shot over.
Mikey Miller picked up Livi’s first yellow card on 85 minutes for conceding a free kick 25 yards out which he then did well to block with his head.
Livi hit Accies on the counter attack in the final minute and Cadden released Craig Halkett down the right hand side but his cross flew out of play as the home side held on for the win that sealed top spot in Group F.
Hamilton: Matthews, Kurakins, Devlin, Gillespie, Imrie, Docherty, D’Acol (Boyd 78), Crawford, Longridge, Donati (MacKinnon 62), Sarris (McGregor 61)
Subs not used: Cunningham, Tierney, Hughes, Woods
Goals: D’Acol (22), Longridge (55)
Livingston: Kelly, Miller, Lithgow, Longridge, Halkett, Mullin (Knox 71), Byrne (Watt 80), Pittman, Cadden, Crighton, Mullen (Orr 79)
Subs not used: Maley, Reid, Sinclair, Ogilvie
Goals: Crighton (41)
Referee: Euan Anderson
Match report: Andy Crawford