How Livingston overcame a lackadaisical start to advance in the Scottish Cup

This season’s beaten Betfred Cup finalists were made to work for their passage into the next round of Scotland’s premier knockout competition as a slow start gave them a hole to climb out of against Championship Raith Rovers.

Matej Poplatnik netted the winning goal for Livingston. Picture: SNS
Matej Poplatnik netted the winning goal for Livingston. Picture: SNS

Lewis Vaughan’s early free-kick inspired hopes of a proper Scottish Cup shock with the second-tier side more than matching their Premiership hosts in the early going. But Livingston were able to gather themselves, eventually dominate proceedings and move into the fourth round thanks to goals from Jack Fitzwater and an extra-time finish by substitute Matej Poplatnik.

There was a certain lackadaisical nature to Livingston's early play – sloppy on the ball, not tracking runners, failure to meet their opponents’ intensity – which could be attributed to the contrasting preparations going into the match. Rovers were in their stride having thumped arch-rivals Dunfermline Athletic 5-1 in midweek, while this was the first time Livingston had played in a fortnight.

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It could best be summed up by Reghan Tumilty beating both Alan Forrest and Jackson Longridge on the corner of the penalty area without having to do much except run in a straight line. His shot was saved by Robbie McCrorie but, by that point, Livingston were already 1-0 down.

Martin Bartley fouled Dylan Tait on the corner of the penalty box. This enabled Vaughan to step up and curl a terrific free-kick over the wall and into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

Tait had earlier cleared off the line to thwart Nicky Devlin in what was Livingston’s only threatening foray forward in the opening 20 minutes. They then started to get a grip on the game, squeezing the visitors high up the park and limiting their possession. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas soon forced Jamie MacDonald into a front-post save.

Though they were unable to knock the ball around with the same comfort, John McGlynn’s side still retained a real threat on the counter. Hibs loanee Jamie Gullan twice ran onto through balls that put him clear down the left but twice he picked the wrong option, trying to force a low ball across goal when a shot or a cut-back were better options.

The home side started the second half with greater gusto as Tait was forced to clear off the line again, this time from Longridge, while claims for a penalty were waved away by referee Bobby Madden after Kyle Benedictus appeared to take out Devlin as he crossed.

The equaliser came through a combination of Livi’s two centre-backs. Jon Guthrie knocked a corner back across goal and Fitzwater was there to rifle home the bouncing ball. The two almost combined again a short-time later but Benedictus was able to block Fitzwater’s ahot on the turn.

Raith were clearly tiring as the match progressed with Livingston constantly turning up the pressure, but they almost had the chance to snatch a win in stoppage time as a wonderful Regan Hendry pass picked out Daniel Armstrong running through. The substitute took a couple of poor touches, which allowed Longridge to race back and make an excellent tackle.

Extra-time continued in much the same vein until David Martindale’s men finally found their winner. Devlin raced down the right of the box and found Poplatnik with a simple low cross to tap into an empty net.

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