Why Livingston skipper Marvin Bartley thinks losing unbeaten run to St Johnstone may benefit Betfred Cup final hopes

It would be stretching things to say David Martindale seemed slightly relieved that his side lost to St Johnstone on Saturday.

Marvin Bartley holds off St Johnstone's David Wotherspoon as Livingston succumbed to their first defeat under manager David Martindale (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)

However, the Livingston manager was far from downcast. Indeed, he has no right to be gloomy after 14 unbeaten games previously since becoming manager. With Aberdeen also losing, his side are still very much in contention for a European place. They have a relatively kind run of league games to the split, including Hamilton Accies at home on Wednesday.

As a characteristically jaunty Martindale himself explained, the first defeat of his managerial career was bound to happen sometime. In a way, if the run was to come to an end, perhaps these were the preferable opponents – and this was the right time.

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After all, the teams meet again in the Betfred Cup final a fortnight on Sunday. It will of course be a different pitch – indeed, it will be a different form of surface. There will also likely be several different players on show. But it’s impossible not to read something into this result and wonder if St Johnstone will be able to repeat the trick at Hampden.

Martindale has turned chopping and changing his side into an art form. Saturday’s 2-1 defeat was the first time such alterations – he made three changes to the team which beat Aberdeen 2-0 last midweek - did not produce a favourable outcome.

Other than regulars such as goalkeeper Max Stryjek, Nicky Devlin, Efe Ambrose, Jon Guthrie, Scott Pittman and Scott Robinson, the backbone during the recent run, it’s not possible to know for sure who might make-up the cup final team.

The St Johnstone line-up is slightly easier to predict – injury permitting. Chris Kane, who ran himself into the ground on Saturday, is bound to start up front, for example. The impressive back three of Jason Kerr, Jamie McCart and Liam Gordon will surely form their rearguard, aided by influential wingbacks Shaun Rooney and Scott Tanser – the scorers of both their side’s goals at the weekend.

Callum Davidson hopes midfielder Murray Davidson can recover from an injury sustained when Rangers striker Kemar Roofe went over the ball in a challenge last week. He's currently rated 50-50.

Although the St Johnstone manager scoffed at the suggestion that a win in West Lothian might have a bearing on what happens in Mount Florida, Livingston skipper Marvin Bartley believes the Perth side might be unable to prevent over-confidence creeping in.

“Hopefully they become complacent and thinking that they’ve beaten us here and ended our run,” said the midfielder. “Hopefully they just think they only need to turn up in the final and they’ll do the same thing. We’ll be a different animal. We suffered a few defeats at the start of the season.

“The one thing we have to look at is the run we’ve been on. We have to be proud of that. No one can take that away from us. Yes, we’ve lost the game and you should be disappointed but a 14-game run prior to this was absolutely fantastic.

“That’s what we reminded ourselves of in the dressing room,” he added. “Yes, we lost the game and three points but we should be proud of the run. The message is just to try and start another run.”

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