Livi cruised into the last 16 of the Betfred Cup for the second season in a row as they comfortably saw off League Two side Berwick Rangers at Prestonfield to finish top of Group F.
After Jack Hamilton opened the scoring inside three minutes, the Lions completely dominated proceedings but had to wait until eight minutes from time for Jack McMillan to seal the victory.
Livi boss Kenny Miller made three changes from the victory over Annan Athletic the previous week as Egli Kaja, Nicky Cadden and Steven Saunders came in for Craig Sibbald, Scott Robinson and the suspended Ricki Lamie.
The Lions got off to the ideal start as they took the lead inside three minutes when Miller played a perfect ball through to release Hamilton and the youngster, in just his second senior start, took a touch before slipping a low finish past Sean Brannan into the far corner of the net. Livi quickly took control after making the breakthrough and Miller linked up well with Kaja before firing in a dangerous cross that was fractionally too high for Callum Crane.
Kaja was seeing a lot of the ball on the right hand side and he fired a low ball across goal on 24 minutes that was just of reach for both Hamilton and Miller. The visitors made a rare foray upfield a minute later and Jack Cook curled in an effort that took a wicked deflection before being tipped wide by Liam Kelly.
Berwick came even closer from the resulting corner with a well-worked routine that saw Paul Willis circle round from the back post to the near before getting on the end of the low cross and firing in a ferocious effort that crashed back off the woodwork.
After surviving that scare, Livi came close to doubling their lead when the ball fell to Scott Pittman and he unleashed a fierce volley that Hamilton just couldn’t get out of the way of as he deflected it wide for a goal kick. Nicky Cadden then curled a fine low cross that Hamilton couldn’t get a toe on before Crane burst into the box but Brennan was out quickly to gather.
It was all Livi once again and Cadden, enjoying a free role behind the front two, cut in from the right and fired in a low strike that Brennan did well to save. Cadden had another go from distance shortly after but Brennan was once again equal to it as Livi were restricted to a one-goal lead at the interval.
Half-time: Livingston 1-0 Berwick Rangers
The Lions picked up where they left off after the restart with Cadden once again at the heart of things, showing quick feet to find space in the box before firing in a strike that was palmed away by Brennan. Cook then picked up the game’s first yellow card on 53 minutes for a rash challenge on Pittman as he broke down the left hand side.
Miller was pulling the strings for the Lions and he released Kaja down the right on 58 minutes before bursting into the box but neither he nor Hamilton could get on the end of the Albanian’s low cross. The visitors made a rare break forward on 65 minutes and Gary Phillips let fly from the edge of the box but his effort flew high and wide.
Hamilton was proving a real handful for the Berwick defence and he showed good strength to force his way into the box only to see his low drive saved by Brennan. The Lions then made a double change on 70 minutes as Hamilton and Kaja made way for McMillan and Matthew Knox before their final switch six minutes later saw Scott Robinson replace Cadden.
Knox was quickly involved, linking up well with Declan Gallagher before whipping in a fine cross to the back post that Miller couldn’t quite steer goalwards. The visitors made their first change on 79 minutes as one-time Livi youngster Jed Davie came on for Phillips.
Livi came close to putting the match to bed on 82 minutes as Robinson got to the byline and cut the ball back for McMillan but he didn’t get a good connection and the shot was comfortably saved. The Motherwell man wasn’t to be denied though, and he did get on the scoresheet a minute later as patient build-up play from the Lions ended with a sliderule ball played through for McMillan to slot home from a tight angle.
Berwick sub Davie picked up a yellow card for a foul on Pittman as Livi strolled to victory and booked their place in the last-16 as one of the four seeded group winners.
Full-time: Livingston 2-0 Berwick Rangers
Livingston: Kelly, Saunders, Crane, Halkett, Gallagher, Byrne, Pittman, Cadden (Robinson 76), Kaja (Knox 70), K.Miller, Hamilton (McMillan 70)
Subs not used: Stewart, Lithgow, Jacobs, Clark
Goals: Hamilton (3), McMillan (82)
Berwick Rangers: Brennan, Orru, O’Kane, Wilson, Todd, Lavery (Murrell 77), Willis (Davie 79), Phillips, Cook, Healy (Rose 78), Brown
Subs not Used: Adams, Chapman, Fleming
Referee: Steven Kirkland
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine