Livi bowed out of the Betfred Cup with a narrow defeat to Motherwell on a dreich afternoon at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
In a match where both goalkeepers were on top form, it was little surprise that one goal settled it and it came midway through the first half when Danny Johnson fired home from just inside the Livi box.
Lions boss Kenny Miller named the name the same starting XI from the goalless draw with Kilmarnock that yielded Livi’s first Premiership point and they almost got off to a dream start inside 30 seconds when the ball fell to Steven Lawless and he unleashed a sublime volley from 30 yards that had Trevor Carson beaten all ends up but crashed back off the crossbar.
Motherwell then broke from that chance and Johnson was played in down the right and his low shot was palmed wide by Liam Kelly for the first of two quickfire corners that Livi dealt with comfortably. The Lions came close again three minutes later with another long range effort, this time from Kenny Miller whose dipping volley was brilliantly kept out by the fingertips of Carson.
In a barnstorming start to the match, it was Livi’s turn to be saved by the woodwork on seven minutes when Johnson was played in again and he fired in a fine low strike that cannoned against the post and away to safety.
It was hard to fathom how the match was still goalless but it took until the 18th minute for either side to threaten again, Lee Miller going close for Livi when he got on the end of Scott Robinson’s cut back but fired his effort inches wide of the near post. The visitors were then denied a minute later by a superb reaction save from Kelly as he somehow kept out Richard Tait’s header at the near post.
The two keepers seemed to be involved in their own personal duel and Carson made another outstanding save on 22 minutes when Craig Halkett’s header from Steven Lawless’ free kick was brilliantly tipped over by the Irishman. The visitors took full advantage of Carson’s heroics as they took the lead a minutes later when Curtis Main broke down the left and cut the ball back for Johnson to sweep the ball home from just inside the box.
The Lions looked for an instant response and Lawless set up Scott Pittman but he snatched at his shot and saw his effort trundle harmlessly wide. Lawless then crossed for Egli Kaja to tee up Kenny Miller but his shot flew over the bar. Up the other end, Kelly produced another outstanding save on 30 minutes as Carl McHugh turned Gaël Bigirimana’s corner goalwards at the near post but Kelly made himself big to keep the ball out.
The Livi keeper was having the game of his life and produced arguably his best save of the match on 43 minutes when Main headed goalwards from close range and Kelly, despite running the other way, stretched out his right hand to tip his effort wide to keep Livi in touch at the interval.
Half-time: Livingston 0-1 Motherwell
Livi made a change at the interval as Ricki Lamie came on for Kaja and made a bright start with Lee Miller and Lawless linking up well but the latter could only send his cross over the bar. The Lions were then forced into a second change on 55 minutes as Lee Miller was forced off with a knee injury to be replaced by Jack Hamilton.
Motherwell made their first change on the hour mark as Alex Rodriguez-Gorrin was replaced by Allan Campbell before a well-worked opening for the Lions five minutes later saw Lawless release Miller down the right and his cross found Hamilton but Carson was able to gather.
The woodwork came to Livi’s rescue again a minute later as sub Campbell almost made an immediate impact, getting in behind the Livi defence and firing an effort across goal which came back off the post with Kelly well beaten. The visitors then made their second change as Aaron Taylor-Sinclair replaced captain Peter Hartley, who looked to have picked up a hamstring injury.
Livi made their final change on 70 minutes as Nicky Cadden came on for the tireless Robinson before Hamilton came close to an equaliser for the Lions four minutes later, doing brilliantly to turn away from the defender before firing a powerful effort across goal and wide. Conor Sammon replaced goalscorer Johnson soon after in Motherwell’s final change.
The Lions continued to press forward in search of an equaliser and Lamie and Cadden combined well before Lamie crossed for Pittman but his header lacked power and bounced harmlessly wide. Lawless then sent in teasing cross that almost broke for Hamilton but Carson reacted quickly to gather as the visitors held on to book their place in the quarter-finals.
Full-time: Livingston 0-1 Motherwell
Livingston: Kelly, Saunders, Lawless, Halkett, Gallagher, Byrne, Pittman, Robinson (Cadden 71), Kaja (Lamie 45), K.Miller, L.Miller (Hamilton 55)
Subs not used: Stewart, Lithgow, Jacobs, Brown
Motherwell: Carson, Tait, McHugh, Aldred, Hartley (Taylor-Sinclair 66), Main, Frear, Rose, Bigirimana, Rodriguez-Gorrin (Campbell 61), Johnson (Sammon 75)
Subs not Used: Gillespie, Taylor, Newell, Turnbull, Maguire
Goals: Johnson (23)
Referee: Willie Collum
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine