Stranraer 1-2 Livingston

Livi were grateful for a dominant first half performance as they held off a late rally from Stranraer to claim all three points and return to the top of Betfred Cup Group G.

The Lions struck twice in quick succession just before the break, through Stevie Lawless’ penalty and Aymen Souda second in as many games, to lead at the break but Cameron Elliot struck just before the hour mark to set up a nervy finish at Stair Park.

Gary Holt made two changes to his side from the win over Ayr United a week earlier as Cece Franck Pepe and Robbie Crawford dropped to the bench to be replaced by Jack McMillan and Keaghan Jacobs.

The hosts came in to the game on the back of a 6-0 thumping of Berwick Rangers and made a lively start, Mark Stewart getting in behind the Livi defence inside the first minute before Ricki Lamie got across to block his effort. Ryan Thomson then headed the resultant corner over the bar.

Livi then took charge and Marvin Bartley released Souda down the right and his cross was cleared for a corner. Lyndon Dykes then won another corner but Nicky Devlin glanced Souda’s cross wide. The home side then came close on 18 minutes when Lee Hamilton got in behind the Lions defence but fired his effort across goal and wide.

The visitors were quickly back on the front foot and Lawless’ low cross broke to Souda on 19 minutes but he snatched at his effort and sent it high over the bar. McMillan then did well to keep Lawless’ deep cross in play two minutes later before teeing up Scott Pittman but his tame effort was straight at Max Currie.

It was wave after wave of Livi attack now and Souda did well to win possession before releasing Pittman who found his way into the box before seeing his shot charged down. Pittman was then denied by two last-ditch blocks in quick succession as the Lions continued to batter on the door. After the ball failed to fall kindly for the Lions in a goalmouth scramble on 26 minutes, Dykes’ mishit shot almost found Devlin before trundling wide.

Dykes then saw a back post effort blocked on 28 minutes before a deep cross from Souda found Lithgow but his header was brilliantly saved by Currie, although the offside flag was up in any event. The Lions were then almost gifted the lead eight minutes later when Adam Cummins’ back pass was completely missed by Currie but the ball trundles inches wide. Souda then saw an effort deflected wide from the resultant corner before Lamie headed the next one over.

Livi’s pressure finally reaped rewards four minutes before the break as a typical striker’s challenge from Stewart on Dykes saw the Lions awarded a penalty. Lawless stepped up to send Currie the wrong way from the spot and finally break the deadlock.

Much like London buses, the second goal wasn’t long in coming as the Lions doubled their lead right on half time with a well-worked goal. Dykes was released down the right and cleverly slipped in Devlin who cut the ball back for Souda to slam home into the empty net from six yards and send the Lions in at the break in command.

Half-time: Stranraer 0-2 Livingston

The home side made a similarly lively start to the second half as they had the first, albeit without testing Ross Stewart in the Livi goal. Connor McManus picked up the game’s first yellow card on 48 minutes for pulling back Souda as he looked to burst forward.

After pressure from Stranraer, Livi broke swiftly on 51 minutes and Lawless burst forward before releasing Souda who cut inside before seeing his shot deflected wide. The resulting corner came to nothing and suddenly Livi saw their lead halved seven minutes later when Stewart was slow off his line and Elliott beat him to a throw ball before firing home at the second attempt.

Livi set out to quickly restore their two-goal lead and Souda fired a first-time effort straight at Currie before curling a free kick a yard over the bar. James Hilton then sliced an effort wide from the edge of the box for the hosts before they made their first change, replacing Stewart with David Dangana. Lawless then tried to play in Pittman but saw his through-ball cut out before Livi made their first change on 72 minutes, Jacobs replaced by Crawford.

Stranraer screamed for a penalty on 75 minutes when Thomson went down but the referee waved away their appeals before both sides made their second changes, Chris Erskine replacing Lawless for Livi and Ian Smith replacing Hilton for the hosts.

Dykes came within a whisker of sealing the points for Livi nine minutes from time when a ball over the top was misjudged by Hamilton and Dykes’ lobbed effort over the onrushing Currie dropped inches wide. Scott Tiffoney then replaced Souda in Livi’s final change a minute later. Lamie saw a thunderbolt free kick parried by Currie on 84 minutes before Tiffoney fired the rebound over.

The hosts laid siege to the Livi goal in the closing stages but never came closer than a 25-yard effort from Smith that deflected harmlessly wide as the Lions held on for the three points. A win at home to Berwick Rangers on Saturday will see the Lions into the knockout stages for a third straight year.

Full-time: Stranraer 1-2 Livingston

Stranraer: Currie, Robertson, Allan, Cummins, Hamilton, Hamill, McManus, Hilton (I.Smith 80), Elliott, Thomson, Stewart (Dangana 69)
Subs not used: Burgess, D.Smith
Goals: Elliott (57)

Livingston: Stewart, Devlin, Lithgow, Lamie, McMillan, Bartley, Jacobs (Crawford 73), Pittman, Lawless (Erskine 76), Souda (Tiffoney 81), Dykes
Subs not used: Sarkic, Sibbald, Pepe, Miller
Goals: Lawless (42), Souda (45)

Referee: Craig Napier
Att: 402
Match Report: Andy Crawford

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