GOOD things come to those who wait. It is little surprise, then, that James McFadden’s first goal of a frustrating campaign was mighty good.
Scorers: Livingston - Denholm (90); Motherwell - McHugh (16), McFadden (73)
Referee: B Colvin
The mercurial Scotland international who, in truth, had been enduring another fairly ordinary evening after being restored to the Motherwell starting line-up, produced the kind of inspired finish which few others in Scottish football are capable of with 18 minutes to play.
A long cross fell to the feet of Lionel Ainsworth in the right channel of the box and the winger produced a driven delivery across the face of goal.
McFadden had no right to connect with a cross which was slightly behind him and travelling at pace, yet improvised a truly brilliant back-flick to direct the ball into the net and double Motherwell’s lead.
It ended a nine-match goalless streak in some style and finally quashed the stubborn resistance of Livingston – albeit the Championship side lacked much cutting edge to go with their diligent effort throughout.
Motherwell claimed the lead in the first-half, with Bob McHugh managing to twist his neck sufficiently to nod the visitors into the lead. And any aspirations of a comeback were diminished after Jason Talbot was dismissed for a foolish lunge on Steven Hammell and the subsequent intervention of McFadden, albeit a late Denny Denholm goal did ensure a finish which was more nervous than the balance of play merited.
Attention for Motherwell now turns to today’s last-eight draw and, thanks to the heroics of Morton at Celtic Park, they have every reason to believe that claiming a first major trophy in 22 years is viable in a competition which is wide open.
It is a compliment to the increased level of expectation which abounds in North Lanarkshire that such a drought seems ludicrous. Belying their meagre resources and decreasing budget, Motherwell continually challenge near the summit of the top-flight, attracting envious glances from clubs historically twice their size.
Yet that form has not translated into cup competitions. Their run to the Scottish Cup final of 2011 was only the fifth time the club have reached the last four of either cup competition in the past 20 years.
Whisper it around those in claret-and-amber, but this season’s League Cup could be the perfect opportunity to put that record to bed.
What of John McGlynn’s relationship with this competition? Frankly, the Livingston boss must be sick of the sight of it. Having guided Hearts to the final last season he was denied the chance to lead the team out, being removed from his position before the Hampden showpiece – which the Jambos would go on to lose anyway. He is too proud to admit any lingering hurt publicly, but a positive result last night would have been cathartic for McGlynn. Ultimately, it was not to be.
Livingston: Jamieson; Fordyce, Donaldson, Mensing, Talbot; Scougall (Denholm 77), Jacobs (McDonald 69), Scott, O’Brien, McNulty; Barrowman (Burchill 82). Subs not used: Walker, Wilkie.
Motherwell: Neilsen; Ramsden, Hutchinson, McManus, Hammell (81); Ainsworth, Lawson, Carswell, Francis-Angol; McFadden, McHugh (Sutton 69). Subs not used: Hollis, Vigurs, Cummings.