Derek Lilley had a League Cup semi-final build-up like few others have had before – but he’s hoping Livingston have an easier time of it in a tie they’ve got a slight edge in.
The former striker won the League Cup with Livi in the 2003/04 season, scoring one of the goals in the final against Hibs as David Hay’s side won a major trophy. He scored in the semi-final too as the Lions beat Dundee 1-0 at Easter Road.
But before that, financial problems had hit West Lothian: “Our semi-final circumstances were strange as we had just gone into administration. I think it was the morning of the semi-final. It was lunchtime or something because we were in a hotel in Edinburgh for pre-match. It was literally before it was about to happen. We didn’t have a training session between the news and semi-final.
“It was very close, too close for me to be honest. But we were fortunate that we had a good group of guys, experienced guys. We had to park it and put it to one side as best as we could.
“There was a lot of media about as the team was doing quite well. We were mid-table and had a chance of getting into the top six and then had a national cup final to look forward to.
“But there was so much media about at the time and we actually snuck out the backdoors at times just to get into our cars and out the way of it. There was stuff like that and a few people did get made redundant as well, which got attention at the time.
“But the noise quietened down and once we got past that, the players that were left were the players the manager had. We just knuckled down and got on with it.”
Now nearly 17 years on from Livingston’s finest 90 minutes at Hampden, David Martindale is taking the Lions to face St Mirren in a League Cup semi-final this weekend. Ahead of a game with Celtic on Wednesday, the Lions are unbeaten in nine, winning eight of those matches.
Against a Buddies side which opposing boss Jim Goodwin says that up front is where they must improve, Lilley thinks Livi have a chance: “I think the year we got to the final, Hibs beat Celtic and Rangers to get to the final, which probably didn’t help them physiologically. But from our perspective, you have got to beat the next team in front of you.
“Both teams wanted to seize the opportunity and both of these sides will also want to do that. You won’t get to that many semi-finals and play a non-Old Firm side, so both sides will see it as a massive chance to get to a cup final.
“Livingston have done well this season. I know they changed the manager and at the time I thought changing Gary Holt was a bit odd. You never quite know people’s motivations but people have their own reasons for doing things.
“But David Martindale is doing phenomenal and it’s great, they obviously have a great team spirit and from a coaching perspective it’s a really happy camp. If you have that combination, you feel as if you can beat everything.
“It’s been a tough few years from them so it’s good to see them doing well. The semi-final will be treated in isolation and they’ll have expected something from these Celtic games in the Premiership. St Mirren have been going well but Livi are putting the ball in the net consistently.
“St Mirren haven’t been doing that consistently and I feel Livi have the edge on that front. But with my ties I can’t say I back St Mirren, I need to say 4-0 Livingston or all the Morton fans will be on me!”
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