Livingston keeper Max Stryjek happy to be back in the headlines for the right reason as club closes in on Hampden cup return
The Pole, whose fumble against the Dons last week had cost his side a share of the points, made amends in the Premier Sports Cup penalty shoot-out, making a sudden-death save from St Mirren’s Kyle McAllister to usher his side through to the quarter-finals following a 1-1 draw.
In a repeat of last season’s semi final, the West Lothian side again emerged victorious – but there were several points throughout the 120 minutes and even during the deciding spot-kicks when that outcome hung in the balance.
The Paisley outfit started positively, their hosts then came into the game and looked at ease, pulling the strings as the likes of Craig Sibbald, Alan Forrest and Scott Pittman began to dictate the play.
But while the game see-sawed, there was never a point when either team looked down and out.
Pittman had an early effort, but St Mirren responded when last season’s cup winner Scott Tanser latched onto a ball forward. Forrest and Odin Bailey then linked up well, but Greg Kiltie blew one of the best openings of the match.
The original ball forward was cleared by Ayo Obileye, but only as far as the incoming St Mirren man, who had time and space but couldn’t beat Stryjek.
Jim Goodwin’s men were unsettled by an injury to Charles Dunne within the first half-an-hour, but it would prove a fortuitous switch as Conor McCarthy came on in his place and he was the man who levelled the score after Livingston had assumed the lead.
That opener had come four minutes from the interval, with St Mirren punished for a lack of urgency and ideas in the middle of the park turned over possession to Sibbald and he raced forward to play the ball into the path Forrest, who calmly slotted the ball through the legs of a defender and beyond Jak Alnwick.
A strange game, well contested, it was one that proved stop-start as injuries took their toll and the momentum swung from one team to the other.
Before half-time Stryjek had to pull out another save, coming off his line to provide an obstacle for Brophy who was darting through.
That block was vital, but the leveller did eventually come when Livingston seemed slow to react to a 82nd-minute Tanser freekick and McCarthy ghosted in at the back with time to take a touch, and pick his spot.
The guests had the ball in the net again within minutes but the flag was up. David Martindale’s men were the team hanging on at that stage.
But, having made it to extra time, they stepped it up, leaving the outcome difficult to predict, although given the tenacity of both teams, the fact the action spilled over into extra time and penalties was not a surprise.
St Mirren had to see out the last of the action with 10 men when Tanser was sidelined with cramp with his manager out of substitutions.
But in the end, with two penalty misses each, it came down to sudden death and McAllister and Stryjek. This week the keeper was the hero.
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