With the disappointment of the loss to Falkirk still lingering, the Lions looked to make amends as Ayr United visited the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium in the William Hill Scottish Cup 4th round.
Kenny Deuchar and Maurice Ross both missed out having picked up injuries in the Falkirk game and were replaced by Iain Russell and Callum Fordyce respectively. Captain Liam Fox had to make do with a place amongst the substitutes with Stefan Scougall starting in the midfield ahead of him.
Russell, who was starting his first match since October, was involved from the off and so nearly had an assist to his name within 5 minutes. A slip in the Ayr back-line allowed him to get in behind and one-on-one with Kevin Cuthbert but rather than pulling the trigger himself, he elected to square the ball to Marc McNulty but the inform youngster could only dink his effort wide of the goal.
It was the first in a number of early chances for the home side with Paul Watson next to come close as his header from Mark Fotheringham’s corner was well saved by Cuthbert. Cuthbert was called into action again as he this time thwarted McNulty who had managed to work some space to shoot at goal from 10 yards. Another corner caused trouble in the Ayr box when Bobby Barr’s cross to the back post was headed goalwards by Watson, but Chris Smith cleared off the line.
As so often proves to be the case in football though, when you don’t take your chances, it comes back to haunt you and that was certainly the case here. As Ayr started to settle and get involved in the game, Livingston found themselves under a bit of pressure and McNeil had to be alert to tip two crosses away as they looped towards the back post. It was however, to be another cross into the box that lead to Ayr opening the scoring. Some good link up play between Alan Trouten and Mark Roberts resulted in the latter whipping the ball into the middle and after Tam McManus headed the ball back across goal, Andy Geggan was there to tap in on the line.
It was a cruel blow to the Lions who showed some excellent character to bounce back immediately. Another Fotheringham corner wasn’t dealt with by the Ayr defence and Iain Russell was able to poke the ball towards McNulty who slammed it into the net, grabbing his second goal in two games and in doing so, hauled the Lions back into the game.
The second half started in much the same fashion as the first, with the home side dominating early on. A good ball forward from Keaghan Jacobs eventually found its way to Russell but Cuthbert was on hand again to block his shot at goal.
Again, with Livi failing to turn possession and opportunities into goals, Ayr were still in the game and regained the lead thanks to a wonder goal from Michael McGowan. Substitute Jamie McKernan fed the ball wide to McGowan and after turning Fordyce inside out down the right wing; he took the ball to the by-line and smashed an unstoppable shot beyond McNeil.
The home side again tried to pick themselves up and search for a route back into the game and Russell thought he’d found one. After his own shot deflected off Smith and spun away in the box, he chased it down, looking to get another shot away. Just as he got there though, Cuthbert arrived at the same time and appeared to bundle Russell over without getting anything on the ball. Referee George Salmond disagreed though and waved play-on, later claiming he thought the ‘keeper nicked the ball away first.
Long range efforts from Fotheringham and Russell flew wide before Rory Boulding forced Cuthbert into a low save but it wasn’t to be for Livi as cup specialists Ayr progressed to the next round.
McNeil, Ky.Jacobs (Fox 83), Fordyce, Fotheringham, C.Barr, Watson, Scougall, Kn.Jacobs (Boulding 78), McNulty, Russell, B.Barr
Subs not used: Sinclair, MacDonald, Jamieson
Cuthbert, Tiffoney, J.Robertson, Smith, Malone, Moffat, Trouton (McKernan 45), McGeggan, McGowan, McManus (Wardlaw 78), Roberts (R.Roberts 79)
Subs not used: Williams, Burke
Ref: G Salmond
Match report by Dave Black