There was welcome news for the Livingston faithful when they saw the starting eleven, as Marvin Bartley and Scott Robinson returned to the line-up after missing last week’s draw at St Mirren. Steve Lawson was also given a start as Craig Sibbald dropped to the bench. Robby McCrorie kept his place in goal.
The first chance of the game fell to an unlikely source, with Efe Ambrose forward from a free-kick. A long ball was knocked down by Robinson, and it fell to the defender but his effort flew high over the bar.
Livi threatened Saints for the opening 20-25 minutes, and could’ve taken the lead. McCrorie’s kick was again held-up well by Robinson who laid off Josh Mullin. The winger’s touch set him up with a great shooting opportunity on the edge of the box, but his strike was palmed away at full stretch by Zander Clark, to the delight of his teammates.
But; on 32 minutes with their first real chance of the afternoon, St Johnstone took the lead. Who else but Shaun Rooney met a Craig Conway corner and his bullet header was just too powerful for McCrorie to keep out. The defender had now scored in the Quarter Final, Semi-Final and Final for the Saints.
Livingston looked to bounce back from the disappointment immediately, as Nicky Devlin launched an attack. His pass was just a bit too heavy for Robinson, who cut back for Mullin but his effort was blocked by a combination of St Johnstone bodies.
That would be the last action of the first half, and despite the Lions having a lot of the ball in the opposition’s half, and several chances, the more clinical side went into the break in the lead.
It was a different story after the restart though. If there were question marks over Saints taking a fortunate lead, they were eradicated early on in the second half as they came out looking to kill the game, and knock the stuffing out of Livi.
Just a few minutes into the second 45, Ali McCann’s cut back was met by David Wotherspoon. But, the midfielder was denied from very close range by a superb save from Robby McCrorie, who got his body in the way to block the strike. The rebound so nearly fell for Chris Kane, but Livi breathed a sigh of relief as they got it to safety.
Despite some attacking changes made by Davie Martindale, if anyone looked like scoring it looked like St Johnstone doubling their lead. There were no real chances for the remainder of the match, with Callum Davidson’s dominating proceedings, and defending their box incredibly well when the Lions threatened from set pieces.
With seconds to go, Shaun Rooney took the ball to the corner and celebrated in delight when he heard the full time whistle go. It was his winner that had sealed the Betfred Cup for St Johnstone as he had written himself into the history books of the Perth club.
It wasn’t to be for the Lions, who didn’t really do themselves justice on the day. They can be proud though with the tournament as a whole, with nobody expecting them to reach a national cup final this year, but it ended in disappointment and heartbreak for Martindale and his players.
Up next, things didn’t get any easier as just four days later, Livingston would welcome champions elect Rangers to the Tony Macaroni Arena in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Livingston: McCrorie, Devlin, Ambrose, Guthrie, Serrano ▊, Lawson (⇔ Sibbald 60), Holt (⇔ Emmanuel-Thomas 71), Mullin (⇔ Forrest 65), Pittman (⇔ Reilly 65), Bartley ▊, Robinson
Subs not used: Sibbald, Mullin, Taylor-Sinclair, Pignatiello, Maley
St Johnstone: Clark, Kerr, Gordon ▊, Mccart, Rooney, McCann, Craig, Booth, Conway (⇔ May 77), Wotherspoon, Kane ▊
Subs not used: Brown, Tanser, O’Kalloran, Parish, Bryson, Gilmour, Melamed
Goals: Rooney (32)
Referee: Don Robertson
Match Report: Calum Brown