Livingston 1-0 St Mirren: David Martindale’s side edge through to final

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Scott Robinson (left) headed Livingston into an early lead at Hampden
Scott Robinson (left) headed Livingston into an early lead at Hampden

Livingston survived a late bombardment to edge past St Mirren at Hampden and set up a Scottish League Cup final against St Johnstone.

Scott Robinson’s early header ultimately made it 11 games unbeaten under David Martindale as the club reached just their second major final.

St Mirren had a strong penalty claim dismissed, when Nicky Devlin caught Joe Shaughnessy, and finished strongly.

But Livingston clung on to secure a return to Hampden on 28 February.

Martindale’s midas touch shows no signs of fading, with the head coach’s ninth win the most precious of his embryonic tenure.

Livingston’s only previous silverware came in this competition in 2004 and they hadn’t featured in a semi-final for 15 years. But recent form favoured Martindale’s men in this all-Premiership tie and they wasted no time in asserting themselves.

Jon Guthrie and Josh Mullin both registered shots on target in a frantic start before static St Mirren defending was exposed as the breakthrough arrived.

Robinson was both creator and scorer, initially flicking on a deep free-kick inside the box to Efe Ambrose. When the defender nodded against the crossbar, Robinson’s attentiveness in following up was rewarded with a simple headed finish.

Eamonn Brophy dragged wide from distance as St Mirren tried to muster a response. But the striker was an isolated presence as Jim Goodwin’s men struggled for a first-half foothold while showing no hint of the performance that had claimed Rangers’ scalp in the previous round.

Even the big calls weren’t going St Mirren’s way. They should have been given a penalty when Devlin clattered Shaughnessy on the calf in an attempted clearance, but referee David Munro ignored the appeals. He did likewise after the break when substitute Job Obika tumbled under minimal contact from Julien Serrano.

Devlin should have doubled Livingston’s lead shortly after half-time, slicing a Mullin delivery over the bar. The let-off finally jolted St Mirren to life as Conor McCarthy’s header from a corner was cleared off the goalline by Craig Sibbald, before a dipping Aaron Connolly effort had to be helped over bar by goalkeeper Max Stryjek.

Brophy also sent a header too high as Livingston, having been so comfortable, were pinned back in the closing stages.

Perhaps the best chance for an equaliser fell to Obika from a Kyle McAllister cross, but the striker got him timing all wrong and his attempted header bounced off his shoulder and trickled to Stryjek.

Still Goodwin’s men kept coming, and still Livingston refused to buckle. Shaughnessy sent a header agonisingly wide from a corner before Obika’s drive deflected into the side-netting as St Mirren’s hopes of a first final since lifting the trophy in 2013 evaporated in the freezing Hampden air.

Man of the match – Scott Robinson

The striker capped a tireless performance with his fourth goal in six games to send his side into the final
The striker capped a tireless performance with his fourth goal in six games to send his side into the final

What did we learn?

This was the acid test of Martindale’s capabilities – and his side did him proud. Livingston have played better during their current sparkling run, but this was a gusty, committed performance from a team pushed to the limit.

With Martindale’s Scottish FA ‘fit and proper person’ hearing looming on Tuesday, where he will learn if he can continue in the role after a previous stint in jail, the rehabilitated Livingston leader is fast becoming a real credit to the Scottish game.

St Mirren, meanwhile, can bow out with heads held high. Their jarring regret will be the meek first-half showing that allowed Livingston to wrest control.

They can’t afford to wallow in disappointment, though, with a first top-half finish in the Premiership since 1985 now the target in the remainder of the season.

What did they say?

Livingston head coach David Martindale: “I’m absolutely thrilled for the community, staff, the board, everyone connected with the club. I don’t think anyone remembers how you get to the final, because at times it wasn’t pretty, but who cares?

“It was two honest teams, giving it everything and leaving nothing on the park.”

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin: “We’re bitterly disappointed. The boys are lying on floor in there. There’s tears and a lot of sorrow because we had a big chance to get to the final.

“You need a bit of luck in a game like this, but I don’t think we got any today.”

What’s next?

There’s no respite for either side, with Livingston hosting Kilmarnock in the Premiership on Wednesday (19:45) while St Mirren try to pick themselves up for a trip to Dundee United (18:00).

Player of the match

SibbaldCraig Sibbald

Livingston

  1. Squad number10Player nameSibbald

  2. Squad number17Player nameRobinson

  3. Squad number18Player nameHolt

  4. Squad number6Player nameBartley

  5. Squad number27Player nameGuthrie

  6. Squad number5Player nameFitzwater

  7. Squad number32Player nameStryjek

  8. Squad number2Player nameDevlin

  9. Squad number8Player namePittman

  10. Squad number23Player nameLongridge

  11. Squad number12Player nameSerrano

  12. Squad number14Player nameMullin

  13. Squad number20Player nameReilly

  14. Squad number25Player nameEfe Ambrose

St Mirren

  1. Squad number1Player nameAlnwick

  2. Squad number2Player nameTait

  3. Squad number5Player nameMcCarthy

  4. Squad number25Player nameErhahon

  5. Squad number22Player nameFraser

  6. Squad number9Player nameObika

  7. Squad number20Player nameDennis

  8. Squad number17Player nameMcGrath

  9. Squad number4Player nameShaughnessy

  10. Squad number14Player nameMacPherson

  11. Squad number10Player nameMcAllister

  12. Squad number11Player nameDurmus

  13. Squad number21Player nameConnolly

  14. Squad number3Player nameMason

  15. Squad number29Player nameBrophy

Line-ups

Livingston

Formation 4-5-1

  • 32Stryjek
  • 2Devlin
  • 25Ambrose
  • 27Guthrie
  • 12Serrano
  • 14MullinSubstituted forReillyat 73′minutes
  • 18HoltBooked at 41mins
  • 6Bartley
  • 8PittmanBooked at 64mins
  • 10SibbaldSubstituted forLongridgeat 86′minutes
  • 17RobinsonSubstituted forFitzwaterat 81′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1McCrorie
  • 5Fitzwater
  • 9Emmanuel-Thomas
  • 11Forrest
  • 20Reilly
  • 21McMillan
  • 23Longridge
  • 33Lawson
  • 37Kabia

St Mirren

Formation 4-5-1

  • 1Alnwick
  • 22Fraser
  • 5McCarthy
  • 4Shaughnessy
  • 2Tait
  • 21ConnollyBooked at 52minsSubstituted forMcAllisterat 57′minutes
  • 17McGrath
  • 14MacPhersonSubstituted forObikaat 68′minutesBooked at 76mins
  • 25Erhahon
  • 3MasonSubstituted forDurmusat 68′minutes
  • 29BrophySubstituted forDennisat 81′minutes

Substitutes

  • 8Flynn
  • 9Obika
  • 10McAllister
  • 11Durmus
  • 15Finlayson
  • 16Foley
  • 20Dennis
  • 23Erwin
  • 26Lyness

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, 2021-01-24 17:54:58

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