Livingston defeated Premiership side St Mirren on penalties to advance through to the Premier Sports Cup Quarter Final.
It was the re-run of last season’s Semi Final in the same competition as The Lions hosted Jim Goodwin’s Saints, with both sides hoping for a place in the last eight.
The match got off to a frantic start with both sides keen to make the mark in the early moments, but it was Livi who created the first chance. Scott Pittman drove forward from midfield and tried his luck from the edge of the box, but a tame effort was collected comfortably by Alnwick.
Livingston continued their solid start to the game and were getting into threatening positions. Alan Forrest tried his luck from the edge of the box as he cut inside from the left, but his strike which looked like it was heading for the target was blocked at the last second.
On 14 minutes, debutant Odin Bailey came close to opening his account for the club. After a great move from a throw-in, the on-loan Birmingham winger curled a shot towards goal but it sailed just wide of Alnwick’s goal.
Seven minutes later and The Lions nearly rued their missed opportunities but for an outstanding stop from Max Stryjek. A cross into the box was headed away by Ayo Obileye, but fell perfectly for Greg Kiltie inside the area. The former Kilmarnock man had time to take a touch and pick his spot, but Stryjek was down to his right quickly to push away.
With four minutes to go, Livingston took the lead through last season’s top scorer Alan Forrest. An incisive break-away from the hosts saw Bailey find Pittman, who slipped the ball into Forrest’s feet in that wide left position. As he so often does, the winger cut inside onto his favoured right foot and stroked the ball beyond Alnwick and into the bottom corner to give his side the opening goal.
Just a minute later though, Livi nearly found themselves behind but for more Max Stryjek heroics. One-on-one with the Polish goalkeeper, Eamonn Brophy tried to find his way past but Stryjek stood firm to deny the St Mirren striker with another terrific save to keep his side in front going into the break.
Half Time – Livingston 1-0 St Mirren
Livingston came out of the blocks quickly and continued to create chances early in the second half. Obileye headed just over from a corner before Bruce Anderson and Alan Forrest couldn’t get shots off inside the box.
This was becoming a familiar theme with The Lions pushing forward for a second, finding themselves in dangerous positions but not being able to pull the trigger.
Nine minutes from time, they were made to pay for their missed opportunities as St Mirren grabbed a late leveller – and there was nothing Stryjek could do about this one. A free-kick was whipped in from the left and, as Livingston looked to play the offside trap, Conor McCarthy drifted in at the back post to hammer home from close range.
Just three minutes later, with the momentum of that equaliser, St Mirren pushed forward in search for a winner – and they thought they had one when Curtis Main put the ball in the net, but the offside flag was raised to the relief of the home support.
It was real end to end stuff towards the end of the game with both sides wanting to wrap the game up before extra time. Scott Pittman fired an effort just wide of the post before Curtis Main did the same up the other end as the game would finish all-square. The sides headed to extra time.
Full Time – Livingston 1-1 St Mirren
Livingston were the better side in extra time as Saints seemed keen to take the game to penalties. Both Craig Sibbald and Jack Hamilton had weak efforts held by Jack Anlwick as The Lions pushed for a winner in the first half of extra time.
As players began to tire, there was a very welcome return to the Tony Macaroni Arena turf for Livingston stalwart Keaghan Jacobs as he came off the bench for his first appearance since March 2020. Fresh back from a couple of long-term injuries, the midfielder set the tone with a classic bit of closing down and a vital interception.
Just after the break in extra time, The Lions thought they had found the winner with the ball looking like it had gone over the line from a corner. Obileye’s header rebounded for Devlin who appeared to poke the ball in – but as Alnwick clawed away, both the referee and linesman decided that it didn’t cross the line much to the frustration of the hosts.
Jack Hamilton had a late chance after he met Devlin’s ball in with a header, but he didn’t quite get the right connection as the ball flew wide of the post. That would be the last chance of the game, and it would be penalties to decided who would advance into the Premier Sports Quarter Final.
After Extra Time – Livingston 1-1 St Mirren
Up first for The Lions was Andrew Shinnie and he got the shootout of to the perfect start, slotting beyond Alnwick.
Up next was Curtis Main. The striker looked confident but he sent his penalty wide of the post to give Livi the advantage.
Sean Kelly made no mistake from 12 yards as he made it 2-0 to the hosts, but Jamie McGrath replied exquisitely to make it 2-1.
Keaghan Jacobs was then denied by Jack Alnwick before Joe Shaughnessy levelled the shootout with a cool finish.
Livingston’s man of the match Craig Sibbald then stepped up for Livi’s fourth but after a phenomenal 120-minute display, the midfielder had his poor spot kick comfortably stopped by Alnwick.
Cammy MacPherson stepped up knowing that a successful penalty would heap pressure on The Lions, but the midfielder was denied by Max Stryjek who flew across to his right to keep the score level.
Both Ayo Obileye and Lee Erwin calmly converted their sides’ fifth penalties, so the shootout went to sudden death.
Jason Holt made no mistake from the spot to make it advantage Livingston, piling the pressure on Kyle McAllister. The winger stepped up and fired towards Stryjek’s left but the Livi keeper was equal to it, making a fantastic save to win the game for his side.
Full Time – Livingston 1 (4) – (3) 1 St Mirren
Poignantly, Max Stryjek was the hero after a torrent time last week following his late mistake against Aberdeen, with two fantastic saves during the game and another two brilliant stops in the shootout.
It was a great display all round from The Lions, who will maybe feel they could have had the game wrapped up in 90 minutes. But, they’ll care not as their name is in the hat for the next round of the competition as they look for another trip to Hampden!
Match Report: Calum Brown
Livingston: Stryjek, Devlin, Obileye, Fitzwater, Longridge (Jacobs ▊ 103), Holt ▊, Pittman ▊, Sibbald, Bailey ▊ (Kelly 62), Forrest (Hamilton 66), Anderson (Panayiotou 67 (Shinnie 78))
Subs not used: Barden, Bartley, Reilly
Goals: Forrest (41)
Penalties: Shinnie, Kelly, Jacobs, Sibbald, Obileye, Holt
St Mirren: Alnwick, Tait (Henderson 59), Tanser, Shaughnessy ▊, McGrath, Brophy (Erwin 90), Main, Kiltie (MacPherson 59), Erhahon, Dunne (McCarthy 27), Fraser (McAllister 73)
Subs not used: Lyness, Flynn, Finlayson, Jack
Goals: McCarthy (82)
Penalties: Main, McGrath, Shaughnessy, MacPherson, Erwin, McAllister
Referee: David Munro