It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t convincing, but Hamilton Accies made it through to the next round of the BetFred Cup after squeezing past a team from a division two levels below theirs.
Martin Canning’s side rebounded from the opening weekend embarrassment of losing to Ayr United to pip the Championship side, along with St Mirren, to the top spot in Group G via goal difference. Livingston, to their credit, almost ensured the safe passage of a lower league side with an impressing showing at the Superseal Stadium, despite having little to play for themselves as they had only a minuscule chance of finishing as one of the four best runners-up.
“After losing the first game at Ayr it’s obviously great to get out of it as group winners,” said Accies boss Canning. “I thought we played well in the first half but second half was a bit scrappier.
“We had to make some changes and had to think about the game next week [when Hamilton begin their league season at Ibrox].”
The game began at a slow pace and it wasn’t until the 20th minute that either side threatened the goalmouth.
Louis Longridge hung over a tantalising ball to the back post that Dougie Imrie shouldered (yes, shouldered) over the bar from 10 yards.
Two minutes later Accies were in front. Anton Kurakins played a one-two with Alex D’Acol and tried to charge forward.
Though his run into the penalty area was halted, when the ball broke loose D’Acol showed no hesitation is rifling a first-time shot past Liam Kelly from 20 yards.
Rather than wilt, Livingston grew in ascendancy as the half wore on and found themselves level four minutes before half-time, albeit in fortunate circumstances. Sean Crighton’s header from Nicky Cadden’s free-kick came back off the crossbar but rebounded off the diving Remi Matthews in the Hamilton goal and bounced over the line.
Hamilton didn’t exactly come flying out of the traps in the second half, though they did find themselves quickly back in front. A clever training ground routine saw Ali Crawford pick out Louis Longridge with a cross from a free-kick.
The midfielder took a heavy touch but had so much time and space in the opposing penalty area that he was able to collect the ball and drive it into the far corner.
Once more, rather than using the momentum to kill the game off, Hamilton became increasingly slack, with Devlin almost scoring a ludicrous own goal as his wayward pass back hit the side netting. Matthews was then called into action to repel a Cadden free-kick from the corner of the area.
Searching for an equaliser, Livingston introduced both Thomas Orr and Liam Watt and each substitute would waste a great opportunity to tie the game.
Orr sent a shot from the left of the penalty area well past the far post, before Watt blazed high over the bar after Scott Pittman’s effort was deflected into his path by Matthews.