Livi moved to the top of Betfred Cup Group G as Ricki Lamie’s first goal for the club secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Championship side Ayr United at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
After Aymen Souda marked his full Lions debut with a superb opening goal, Andy Murdoch brought Ian McCall’s Honest Men level to spark a dominant second half display from the underdogs before Lamie struck seven minutes from time to give the Lions a somewhat fortunate victory.
Gary Holt made four changes to his Livi side from the penalty shootout victory over Falkirk as Nicky Devlin and Robbie Crawford came in for their debuts against their former club alongside Souda, who made his first start, and Ross Stewart. Matija Sarkic, Jack McMillan, Keaghan Jacobs and Scott Robinson dropped out.
The Lions made a bright start and Scott Pittman showed quick feet on the edge of the box on eight minutes before trying to slip in Lyndon Dykes but the big striker lost his footing and Ayr keeper Ross Doohan was able to gather.
Livi then came within a whisker of taking the lead ten minutes later when Devlin whipped in a terrific cross from the right that was met by Souda but he saw his header cannon back off the post before firing the rebound high over the bar. Dykes then came close to a fortuitous opener on 20 minutes when his deft flick from the edge of the box rolled just wide of Doohan’s right-hand post.
The Lions were dominant and went close again on 22 minutes when Souda found Stevie Lawless on the right hand side and he cut in before firing in a low effort that Doohan did well to parry before gathering the loose ball as Dykes looked set to pounce. Dykes then turned provider two minutes later, rounding off a fine move by flicking Lawless’ deep cross back across goal for Pittman to loop a header just over the bar.
Livi weren’t to be denied, though, and they finally made the breakthrough that their pressure deserved with a superb goal as Lawless fired a perfect cross-field ball to Souda and he took a terrific first touch before thundering a fine low finish past Doohan. Souda was then the subject of a lunging tackle from Ross Docherty for which the ex-Livi man somehow avoided a yellow card.
The Lions thought they had doubled their lead on 35 minutes when Dykes turned the ball home from close range but he was denied by the linesman’s flag before Livi went close again five minutes later when Devlin’s low cross found its way to Dykes and his effort was deflected over the bar. Marvin Bartley headed the resultant corner over.
Ayr made a rare foray forward just before the break when Michael Moffat tried to find Kris Doolan just inside the box but Lamie’s presence allowed Stewart to come out and gather the loose ball to send the Lions in at the break on level terms.
Half-time: Livingston 1-0 Ayr United
The visitors made a change at the interval with Alan Forrest replacing Doolan and that change seemed to spark them into life, Andy Murdoch sending an effort high over the bar from distance three minutes after the restart.
Ayr’s lively start to the second half was rewarded on 51 minutes as they drew level when a low cross from the left was met by Murdoch and he beat Stewart to the ball to turn it home at the near post. Livi came close to restoring their lead within two minutes as neat play involving Souda and Bartley teed up Lawless and he found Pittman who saw his low shot held by Doohan.
The visitors then hit on the break as Docherty burst forward before laying the ball into the path of Stephen Kelly at the edge of the box and his curling effort was well tipped over by Stewart. Livi passed up another chance to regain the lead on 61 minutes when a great interception from Crawford sparked a counter attack and he slipped in Dykes but Doohan produced a fine save to clear from a corner. Souda’s set piece was gathered by the Ayr keeper.
Luke McCowan saw a 25 yard effort fly high over the crossbar on 63 minutes before the Lions made their first change two minutes, Scott Tiffoney coming on for Souda. Danny Harvie then somehow escaped without a card after a shocking lunge on Devlin as he looked to break down the right. Livi made their second switch on 71 minutes as Keaghan Jacobs came on for Bartley before making their final change seven minutes later, Chris Erskine replacing Lawless.
Having weathered a fierce storm from the visitors, the Lions regained the lead against the run of play with seven minutes to play as Tiffoney fired a fine ball across the face of goal and Lamie snuck in unmarked at the back post to fire home a first-time effort to open his Livi account on his 32nd appearance for the club.
Livi almost wrapped up the points two minutes from time when Erskine broke from midfield and teed up Tiffoney but he dinked an effort wide. It mattered little in the end as the Lions held on to secure a vital three points and take control of Group G in the Betfred Cup. Wins over Stranraer and Berwick Rangers will see Gary Holt’s men through to the last-16 for the third consecutive year.
Full-time: Livingston 2-1 Ayr United
Livingston: Stewart, Devlin, Lithgow, Lamie, Pepe, Bartley (Jacobs 72), Crawford, Pittman, Lawless (Erskine 79), Souda (Tiffoney 65), Dykes
Subs not used: Sarkic, McMillan, Miller, De Vita
Goals: Souda (25), Lamie (83)
Ayr Utd: Doohan, Harvie, Roscoe (Muirhead 45), Moffat, Doolan (Forrest 45), McGowan, Ferguson, Bell, Murdoch, Docherty, Kelly
Subs not used: Reid, Kerr, Geggan, McGuffie, Ross
Goals: Murdoch (51)
Referee: Willie Collum
Match Report: Andy Crawford