Livingston ordered to replay Irn-Bru Cup game

Alan Lithgow played in the win over Crusaders despite being suspended. Picture: SNSAlan Lithgow played in the win over Crusaders despite being suspended. Picture: SNS
Alan Lithgow played in the win over Crusaders despite being suspended. Picture: SNS

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Livingston have been ordered to replay their Irn-Bru Cup tie against Northern Irish side Crusaders by the SPFL next week and have been hit by a hefty fine after they were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in the original meeting between the teams last month.

Alan Lithgow was due to serve a ban after being dismissed against East Fife in a League 1 match on 24 September and despite the SFA advising on their weekly suspension list of 29 September that the defender was to miss “Two first-team matches immediate” Livingston believed that Lithgow was due to serve his suspension in league matches only.

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Lithgow missed out on the League 1 win at Peterhead on 1 October but returned and played the full 90 minutes as the Lions won 2-1 against the Belfast side at the Seaview Stadium on Friday, 7 October.

After the error had been discovered and Livingston were notified that they faced an SPFL charge Lithgow missed out against Albion Rovers last Saturday in the league.

Livingston pleaded guilty to a breach of the cup regulations and as well as having to replay the game they were fined £4,000 with the game taking place at Seaview next Tuesday, 1 November with a 7:45pm kick-off.

The winners of the second meeting will go on to play Welsh side The New Saints in a quarter-final tie on Sunday, 13 November with the decision not to throw Livingston out of the competition a surprise to many.

There has been no mention of Lithgow being suspended for the re-arranged game which would be a further surprise as Peterhead defender Reece Donaldson was forced to sit out a League 1 match with Ayr United in 2014 in a game that was replayed after he had played in the original meeting while banned.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “In the interests of sporting integrity and fairness to both sides, the game will be replayed.”

Livingston manager David Hopkin opted to stick to the club’s no comment approach, however the cost involved in flying to Belfast to replay the game as well as the fine will not be welcomed by the West Lothian side.

Speaking before the first game Hopkin had said: “Finances from the competition meant that we could not send anyone over to watch them so we have had to rely on internet footage and conversations with people who have experience of football in Northern Ireland.

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“The changes to the competition this season with Welsh and Northern Irish sides coming in have been good, however a bit of fine tuning and a look into helping with the costs involved would make them even better.”

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter was, however, delighted that his side are back involved even though it means dealing with a fixture pile-up.

Baxter said: “In cup competitions you are usually either in or you are out. We were out and are now back in at what is a really busy time of the season for us. I am really pleased that we are involved again however the decision has come at a difficult time for us as we have a number of injuries and are facing a run of midweek games.

“To be honest I felt that before the decision was made that we could have done without replaying the game, however we now have a strange carrot to go for. The carrot available now is that if we win we are facing a Welsh side in a Scottish competition the following week. Once I get my head around everything I will ensure that Crusaders prepare for the game in our usual professional manner.”

Baxter added: “We thoroughly enjoyed the first game and it was a fantastic occasion. We had a Scottish Pipe Band here playing for the game and we will need to find out if they are available for next Tuesday.

“It is a welcome second chance for us as we were a bit sore at going out to a goal scored in the last second of injury time. We had been behind but had got level and felt that we had the chances to win the tie and that got caught with a breakaway.”