Less than two decades on from playing European football and winning the League Cup, Livingston have been consigned to League One football next season and an uncertain financial future.
The contrast of emotions at full-time in an incredible and dramatic 120 minutes of football was stark. Stranraer now have a shot at replacing their opponents in the Championship after an amazing tie climaxed with strikes from the visitors’ Liam Dick and Jamie Longworth in the second-half of extra-time.
Trailing 5-2 from Wednesday’s first-leg, Livingston looked poised to pull off the unthinkable when Danny Mullen’s 89th-minute effort and Craig Halkett’s drive in the 94th minute pulled them level on aggregate after earlier strikes from Liam Buchanan and Jordan White, and a sensational volley from Paul Cairney for Stranraer.
However, a club that has twice suffered the pain of administration must now face up to life in League One.
“The game was lost on Wednesday,” moaned Livingston manager David Hopkin. “To come back from a 5-2 deficit in any game of football is difficult, but fair play to the team they got it to 4-1 and I would have taken extra-time before the game.
“To lose the way we did was disappointing but we haven’t been relegated today, it’s been over the course of a full season.
“I’m really, really disappointed for everybody connected to the club – the fans, the board.
“There will be discussions on Monday and we’ll see what happens with my own position then. But I’m positive enough; we’ll bounce back and we’ll be stronger next season.”
Buchanan pounced on a Cairney mistake to round keeper Cameron Belford and slide in Livingston’s 18th-minute opener, before White hammered in when Buchanan’s drive from an indirect free-kick awarded for a pass-back was repelled by a wall of Stranraer players’.
When Cairney lobbed Marc McCallum with a stunning second-half volley, it looked to be all over for Livi, but they restored hope with the late strikes from Mullen and Halkett.
But it was the part-timers of Stranraer who prevailed in extra-time and who can now look forward to a two-legged derby against Ayr United for the right to play in next season’s Championship.