By Ben McNicol
Livingston moved clear at the top of Group H with a 2-1 win against Championship side Alloa Athletic.
Robert Thomson’s strike had the part-time side deservedly ahead at the break, but two quick-fire second-half goals from Alan Forrest and Josh Mullin were enough to secure all three points for Gary Holt’s men.
The two sides started their Betfred Cup campaign’s with relatively comfortable wins during the week, Livingston winning 5-1 away at Edinburgh City while Alloa ran out 2-0 winners against Airdrie.
It was a slow start to the game with both sides happy enough to feel each other out, but once the opening goal arrived, the game burst into life.
The first chance of the afternoon arrived in the 10th minute. A cross into the box by Julien Serrano wasn’t dealt with by the Alloa defence and the ball fell kindly for Mullin who could only blaze his effort over the bar.
Peter Grant’s side were very well set up and they impressed, especially in the heart of midfield through Innes Murray and Raymond Grant.
It was the Championship side who took the lead just after the half-hour mark. A cross into the box caused all sorts of trouble for the Lions defence. Max Stryjek made an incredible save to tip the initial header onto the bar, but Thomson was on hand to bundle the rebound over the line.
Livingston responded well and they thought they had equalised just before the interval when Jay Emmanuel-Thomas glanced home a header beyond Neil Parry. However, the linesman judged Craig Sibbald to have been in front of the goalkeeper and was therefore in an offside position.
The Lions came out roaring in the second half and this time did pull themselves level within seconds of the restart. Emmanuel-Thomas’ curling effort from the edge of the area was well saved by Parry but unfortunately for him it fell straight into the path of Forrest who had the easiest of finishes from close-range.
Mullin completed a quick-fire turnaround, putting Livingston ahead just a couple of minutes later when his looping cross deceived everyone and dropped into the net at the back-post.
It was a completely different Livingston side from what was on show in first half and they were unfortunate not to add another one or two more goals to the scoreline.
JET seriously impressed on debut, and once again he came close to getting his goal when his powerful header forced Parry into an excellent tip over the bar before Forrest nearly grabbed his second of the afternoon when his effort came crashing back off the woodwork.
The Wasps tried to rally back and take the game to penalties. The closest they came to doing so was when substitute Kevin Cawley’s volley was well saved by Stryjek, who had been a passenger for the majority of the second half.
Overall, Livingston edged this one following a dominant second-half performance, but there are plenty of positives for Alloa to take into their Championship campaign which gets underway next Saturday.
Here are three things we learned from Livi’s triumph over the Wasps.
Livingston Move Clear at The Top of Group H
It was far from plain sailing in the first half for the Lions as everything that normally goes against you in a cup upset did so. However, whatever Holt said to his side at half-time certainly worked as they utterly dominated the second half.
The JET takes off
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was handed his Livingston debut this afternoon and the big Englishman seriously impressed and it’s clear to see how big an asset he could be for the West Lothian side. The Englishman can count himself very unfortunate not to have added a goal as well which would have topped off a fine afternoon.
Despite being defeated, Peter Grant will undoubtedly have plenty of positives to take from this one as his side were the much better side in the opening 45 minutes. It has been a recurring theme so far in this year’s competition that lower league teams have struggled with fitness and ultimately it was the same fate again at the Toni Macaroni Arena this afternoon.