By Blair McNally
With a place at Scotland’s national stadium up for grabs, both teams came into this vital quarter-final tie at the Tony Macaroni Stadium with nothing to lose. The hosts had bags of confidence, winning the last three under interim manager David Martindale. The away side looked to further their massive upset against champions Celtic in the last round with a place at Hampden Park.
Three minutes in and the Lions were ahead in controversial fashion. Scott Robinson seemed to return from an offside position as he went for the ball with Regan Charles-Cook. The County man proceeded to tackle the ball through the static Staggies defence, who were waiting on the offside decision, into the path of Craig Sibbald who finished calmly down to the keeper’s left.
As expected, both teams were at it straight after the opener and the quarter-final intensity didn’t stop as the Staggies looked to make amends for their early misjudgment. Luck didn’t seem to be on County’s side though as two unfortunate mistakes left them with a mountain to climb only 25 minutes in.
After a scramble to clear the ball in their own box County defender, Callum Morris attempted to strike the ball off the body of a pressuring Robinson, resulting in a bizarre cross finding Alan Forrest free to head in at the back post.
Things seemed to switch after the goal as County went on to have the better of the chances for the rest of the half. Ten minutes before half time the Staggies had their chance to gain a lifeline against the run of play. An excellent interchange found Ross Stewart through on goal, however, his effort was matched by Max Stryjek.
Ten minutes into the second half it was nearly game over as Robinson’s outstanding volley bounced off the upright. The attacker picked up a bouncing ball on the right side of the opposition box, and connected with an emphatic volley, flashing it onto the bar.
Stuart Kettlewell’s team weren’t to have many late chances as County’s Hampden dreams were dashed. 180 minutes separate the Lions and silverware as a semi-final with St Mirren awaits them. Here are three things we learned.
Bright Livi future
The Lions recent run of form seems to have transformed them into a force to be reckoned with under interim manager Martindale. With four wins out of four, it shouldn’t be long before Martindale makes the job a permanent one.
He has single-handedly brought back the best out of this Livingston squad and most notably Marvin Bartley, who has looked every bit the Rolls Royce midfielder he was last season.
Staggies bow out
After pulling off one of the shocks of the season with a 2-0 win at Celtic Park in the last 16, County triumphantly ended Neil Lennon’s hopes of yet another treble.
From this, County should have come into this game the more confident of the two, however, the home side were the ones on the front foot from the get-go, leading to two poor mistakes purely down to a lack of concentration from the high pressure.
Hampden awaits for the Lions
Lions fans have something to look forward to, as they make their first trip to Hampden for a semi-final since 2006.
Now neither side of the Old Firm are involved, there is no reason why Livingston can’t go all the way and win this competition with the way Martindale has them bringing his game to the opponent.