The Lions welcomed Raith Rovers to the Tony Macaroni Arena for their 3rd match of the Premier Sports Cup group stage, with the hosts keen to avenge the weekend’s defeat at Alloa. Raith were hopeful of continuing their 100% start to Group D after wins against Brechin and Cowdenbeath.
There was a very welcome return to supporters into the stadium for the first time in 505 days, with the last match on home soil in front of fans a 2-2 draw against Celtic under the lights. It was brilliant to see the Lions faithful return, and it was appreciated by the players who all went over to clap those in the East Stand as they took to the field.
Livingston made two changes to the side that was beaten 2-1 in Clackmannanshire on Saturday. Jason Holt replaced Ben Williamson, while there was a debut for new signing Andrew Shinnie. Craig Sibbald made way for the bench.
Raith Rovers started the better of the two sides, and on six minutes they created their first opportunity after a lapse of concentration from the hosts. A quick throw-in caught out the Livingston defence, as Reghan Tumilty found Lewis Vaughan. The forward slipped through Dario Zanatta who tried to round Livi goalkeeper Max Stryjek and tap home, but his effort hit the side netting. A let-off for The Lions.
The visitors had huge claims of a handball waved away moments later as Zanatta’s strike was blocked by Jack Fitzwater to prevent it from troubling Stryjek. Referee Willie Collum was confident the Livi defender wasn’t in the wrong.
Half way through the first half, Livingston created their first half chance of the game. Bruce Anderson tried his luck from the edge of the box but his effort stung the palms of the experienced Jamie MacDonald.
On 32 minutes, Zanatta threatened again. The winger did well on the left-hand side, cutting in and working space for a shot, but his effort whizzed wide of goal.
Then, just on the stroke of half time, The Lions had another half chance. Some good link-up on the right wing between Jack McMillan and Andrew Shinnie saw the latter clip a cross into the box. James Penrice had made a run into the area, but couldn’t connect with a header as Rovers held firm.
Half Time – Livingston 0-0 Raith Rovers
Straight after the restart, Lewis Vaughan saw his shot whistle wide of the post after the ball had broken to him at the edge of the box.
Immediately up the other end, James Penrice fed through Bruce Anderson in behind the Raith backline. The striker tried to cut in on his favoured right foot and, as he attempted a shot, fell to ground claiming a pull back from Christophe Berra. Experienced official Collum waved away the claims though.
A few moments later, Anderson was in behind again as he was beginning to threaten the visitors’ defence. The number nine took a good first touch to bring the ball under his control, but he put took much on the shot which flew over the bar.
Livi’s best chance of the game came just after the hour mark, and it was a golden opportunity. Jackson Longridge’s cross was cleared only as far as Christian Montano, and the substitute tried an effort from just inside the box. His was blocked by Liam Dick, but the rebound fell perfectly for Anderson who was expected to tap-in from close range. However, Rovers stopper Jamie MacDonald produced an outstanding point-blank save to keep the game level, as Livi rued the missed chance.
Jack Fitzwater then came close as the ball broke to him from a long throw-in but the defender’s shot flew over the bar.
The last real chance of the game came around 20 minutes from time from a deep free-kick. It appeared that Vaughan was going to whip the ball into the box as Rovers had packed the area in hope of a teasing delivery, but the striker opted to try and catch Stryjek out. His ambitious long-rage effort sailed wide of the post though.
After a frustrating final few minutes, where neither side could create anything of note in the search for a winner, the game would finish 0-0 which would mean a point apiece and a penalty shootout – with the winning side earning a bonus point.
Full Time: Livingston 0-0 Raith Rovers
Bruce Anderson was up first and put Livingston into the lead with a good penalty into the bottom corner despite MacDonald guessing correctly. (1-0 Livi)
Raith skipper Kyle Benedictus then coolly sent Stryjek the wrong way to level proceedings. (1-1)
Livi’s second penalty was one to forget for Craig Sibbald as the midfielder blazed his strike over the bar! (1-1)
But, with the chance to put Rovers in front, Dylan Tait had his spot kick saved by Strjyek who got down well to his right to palm away. (1-1)
Christian Montano was up next for Livi’s third, and he calmly sent MacDonald the wrong way to put the hosts back in front. (2-1)
Brad Spencer slotted home Raith’s third, putting the pressure back on The Lions.
Then came six perfect penalties in a row. Andrew Shinnie, Ayo Obileye and Ben Williamson all put their spot kicks away for Livingston, as did Ethon Varian, Lewis Vaughan and Christophe Berra for Rovers.
Shooting towards the away fans, it seemed a daunting prospect for ex-Dunfermline defender Jackson Longridge, who had received a fair few, errr….critiques…., from his former Fife rivals. But, he stepped up and brilliantly stroked home from 12 yards to give Livingston the advantage, giving a little bit back to the travelling support in the process.
The pressure was then all on youngster Aaron Arnott as he made his way to the spot. The midfielder struck a decent penalty aiming for the top left corner, but Stryjek flew across his goal to get his hand to it and tip it onto the bar, winning the shootout and the bonus point for Livingston!
Livingston win 6-5 on Penalties.
It was a shootout victory for David Martindale’s men after a stalemate 90 minutes which seems them collect two points, moving them onto five in Group D.
But, The Lions have it all to do on Saturday at home to Cowdenbeath, needing to win if they are to have any chance of going through to the Last 16 as group winners.
Livi will have to hope for a Raith Rovers slip up against Alloa, with the Kirkcaldy side two points clear at the top of the group.
Match Report: Calum Brown
Livingston: Stryjek, McMillan (Obileye 57), Parkes, Fitzwater, Longridge, Holt (Williamson 67), Pittman ▊, Penrice (Montaño 59), Shinnie, Lewis (Sibbald 57), Anderson
Subs not used: Barden, Kelly, Reilly
Pens: Anderson, Sibbald, Montaño, Shinnie, Obileye, Williamson, Longridge
Raith Rovers: MacDonald, Tumilty, Benedictus, Berra, Dick, Spencer, Riley-Snow (McKay 71), Tait, Connolly (Arnott 85), Vaughan, Zanatta (Varian 71)
Subs not used: Thomson, Mitchell, Young
Pens: Benedictus, Tait , Spencer, Varian, Vaughan, Berra, Arnott
Referee: Willie Collum