In addition to achieving the win they hope will kick-start their Premiership campaign, Motherwell should also believe they’ve found the catalyst capable of transferring their cup form to the weekly grind of league football.
Danny Johnson got his first start since making a move from Gateshead and the striker did not disappoint, scoring the only goal of the game and impressing in attack as the visitors moved into the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup.
So appreciative of the 25-year-old’s performance were the Motherwell crowd that they booed his departure from the field on 75 minutes as Conor Sammon took his place.
By that point it was almost academic with Livingston, who started brightly, failing to trouble the away goal as time ticked down. After two defeats in their opening two league games, without scoring a goal, beating Premiership opposition away from home was exactly the kind of remedy Stephen Robinson’s men needed as they seek to replicate the feel-good factor of last season.
“He’s a goalscorer, and whichever combination I put him with he looks like he’ll score goals,” the Motherwell manager said of his match-winner. “He’ll get better and better as his fitness improves.
“There was never any panic from me. If you look at our squad from last year, with our injury list, we wouldn’t have been able to cope. Having options will stand us in good stead going forward.”
The game got off to a terrific start with each side coming close to scoring twice in the opening ten minutes. Livingston had a pair of spectacular efforts, as Steven Lawless sent a snapshot crashing back off the crossbar, while player-manager Kenny Miller tested Trevor Carson’s reflexes with a looping shot from 25 yards.
Motherwell, meanwhile, created two chances for Johnson. The striker forced Liam Kelly into a reaction stop, then hit the woodwork himself as he thwacked the stanction between post and bar.
At the other end Lee Miller fired into the side netting following great work by Scott Robinson, before Motherwell’s Richard Tait saw a point-blank header superbly repelled by Kelly.
The young stopper could do nothing, however, when Johnson opened the scoring on 23 minutes. Curtis Main’s cut-back from the left was calmly finished by the summer recruit. The visitors had the chance to double their advantage before the half, but found Kelly again thwarted their bid, denying Main from close range.
Kenny Miller made a change at the half in a bid to improve his side’s fortunes. Though it was like for like in terms of the formation, it did alter the dynamic on the hosts’ left-hand side with defender Ricki Lamie coming on for attacking midfielder Egli Kaja at wing-back.
The game responded in kind and it would take 20 minutes for the next, and only, chance of the second half. When it arrived it came for substitute Allan Campbell, who sent a low drive off the far post after turning on the edge of the Livingston penalty box. The hosts would enjoy some late pressure but couldn’t burst through a stubborn away rearguard.