Livi’s Betfred Cup campaign got off to a losing start but there was much for the home fans to be encouraged by as St Mirren edged a five-goal thriller.
The new-look Lions side featured just two of the side that started the play-off defeat to Stranraer in May with only Craig Halkett and Liam Buchanan still in the starting XI. New loan signing Liam Kelly took his place between the sticks while there were also debuts for Alan Lithgow, Sean Crighton, Mikey Miller, Jordan Sinclair and Nicky Cadden.
David Hopkin’s charges started very strongly and forced the first chance inside two minutes when Josh Mullin released Cadden down the left and he sent in a fine low cross that Danny Mullen turned just wide. Two minutes later a great free kick from Cadden was flicked goalwards by Lithgow. Saints keeper Scott Gallacher did well to tip his effort over but the offside flag was up in any case.
Saints forced their first chance a minute later as John Sutton’s shot was deflected through to David Clarkson but Kelly was out smartly to smother his shot and divert it wide for a corner. Livi came close to a fortunate goal on 10 minutes when Mullin whipped in a corner that looped over Gallacher but was headed off the line.
The visitors made the most of that let-off as they broke the deadlock on 13 minutes when a long ball was headed down by Sutton for Clarkson to volley past Kelly. The Lions reacted well to the loss of the goal and Miller checked inside from the right and curled in a shot that Gallacher saved comfortably.
Cadden then showed terrific skill to skip past his man before whipping a fine effort inches over the bar from the corner of the box. The ex-Airdrie man came even closer on 34 minutes when he curled a free kick low past the wall, forcing Gallacher to scramble down to his right and tip the shot wide as it crept towards the bottom corner.
The half ended with Stephen Mallan picking up the game’s first yellow card for a trip on Mullen.
Half-time: Livingston 0-1 St Mirren
Livi made the best possible start to the second half as they drew level within five minutes of the restart when Cadden rounded off a fine counter attack with a wonderful curling effort from the edge of the box that flew past Gallacher at his near post. Scott Pittman came on for Sinclair shortly after in Livi’s first change.
The Lions almost took the lead on 64 minutes when a long throw from Halkett was met by Crighton but he headed over the bar. Livi boss Hopkin made his second change on 67 minutes, sending on Dale Carrick for Buchanan, and it paid off in spectacular fashion as, within 60 seconds of coming on, Carrick latched on to a sumptuous cross from Cadden and turned it into the roof of the net.
The lead lasted only six minutes, though, as St Mirren drew level with a fluke goal as Lewis Morgan mishit a cross which looped over Kelly and dropped into the net. Livi made their final change soon after as another debutant, Thomas Orr, took the place of Mullen. He had little chance to make an impact before the visitors won it on 81 minutes when Clarkson controlled a long ball and fired in a thumping volley which left Kelly with no chance.
The match ended on a sour note for Saints as midfielder Rocco Quinn suffered a nasty looking ankle injury in an innocuous challenge in midfield and was replaced by Jordan Stewart. That proved to be the final moment of note as Saints held on to open their Betfred Cup campaign with a victory.
Livingston: Kelly, Miller, Lithgow, Crighton, Longridge, Sinclair (Pittman 59), Halkett, Mullin, Cadden, Buchanan (Carrick 67), Mullen (Orr 77)
Subs not used: Jamieson, Knox, Byrne, Watt
Goals: Cadden (50), Carrick (68)
St Mirren: Gallacher, Naismith, Irvine, Webster, Baird, Morgan, Clarkson, Quinn (Stewart 89), Sutton, Mallan, Gallacher
Subs not used: Langfield, Hutton, Gordon, Flanagan, O’Keefe
Goals: Clarkson (13 & 81), Morgan (74)
Referee: Gavin Duncan
Match report: Andy Crawford.