St Johnstone have won the League Cup after a 1-0 success over Livingston.
Shaun Rooney won the game with a trademark header, that effort enough to split the sides in a game St Johnstone edged. It’s the first time the Saints have won the major honour, ending Celtic’s dominance of trophies within Scottish football.
The tight nature of Premiership clashes between these two carried on at Hampden as it took 20 minutes in the first half before either side strung five or six passes together. It was an aerial battle, a physical affair broken up by many long balls and fouls.
Rooney was a key man for St Johnstone and he had an unorthodox battle with Marvin Bartley on the left-hand side, the experienced midfielder deployed out wide in order to limit the full-back. Scott Robinson had passed fit for the Lions too as he looked to be one of David Martindale’s key threats.
He’d create a big chance for Josh Mullin as the striker set his winger up, St Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark with a big hand to stop a Livingston goal. It was the game’s first real bit of quality but both sides were showing endeavour to try and find the opener.
But it was Davidson’s crucial man who would make a big difference before half-time. He had scored a header in the semi-final and he made it two from two in matches at Hampden this season, notching a header in at the near post from a Craig Conway corner.
The game needed a spark and this was the moment to do so, Saints almost taking a 2-0 goal lead three minutes after the interval as Ali McCann’s cross bounced off Chris Kane before Livi stopper Robby McCrorie stopped the ball hitting the net.
St Johnstone certainly had their tails up and were pinning Livingston back, Kane and Jamie McCart going very close, Saints with entire control of the game in the second half. Livingston were holding on to their League Cup final dreams by a thread.
A first final since 2004 and 2014 respectively for Livingston and St Johnstone underlined the rarity of such an occasion. Celtic had dominated this competition in particular over the last four seasons but it was time for new heroes.
It’s the Saints who can claim that tag, Livi running out of steam and failing to test Clark enough as their Perthshire opponents take home their first League Cup back to McDiarmid Park. Here are three things we learned.
One of the key points of discussion from this was Rooney v Bartley on the left-flank. The 34-year-old central midfielder has played on the wing seven times during his lengthy career but Rooney wasn’t to be stopped.
He scored from a set-piece just like he did in the semi-final against Hibs and the right-wing-back was up and down his side all afternoon. His contributions have been key to St Johnstone’s success.
This was a deserved win for St Johnstone and manager Davidson. Rooney’s goal handed them control after a tight opening and they dominated play from there, Livi unable to create any real chances.
One of Davidson’s biggest achievements was his role as assistant manager in the 2014 Saints Scottish Cup win. Now, with him in the manager’s chair, this surely tops that feat.
This will be heartbreaking for the Lions. Given the journey Martindale has been on to get to this point, not topping it off with a League Cup winners’ medal will hurt. But that shouldn’t take away from anything achieved before.
Prior to this match, Livi had a 65% win ratio under Martindale and they look set for another Premiership top six spot. This one will sting, but it should be remembered that Livi beat all the odds to be in this final.
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