Livingston 2 Ayr United 1
By AU Media
United suffered only their second-ever defeat in the Betfred Cup group stages since the format’s reintroduction in 2016 against a strong Livingston side on Tuesday. A late goal from Ricki Lamie decided the game which ended 2-1 in favour of the home team at the Tony Macaroni Arena, although Ayr’s 2nd half performance seemed good enough to deserve all 3 points.
The Honest Men came into the match with confidence after beating Berwick Rangers 0-7 in their opening game of the season while Livingston had to settle for two points after drawing against Falkirk but winning the penalty shoot-out.
It was the home side though that had the stronger start. Livingston picked up drive and their chances were coming thick and fast, most notably on 24 minutes when outstanding play just inside the box allowed Lyndon Dykes at the back post to set up Scott Pittman for a looping header from close range that went just over the bar.
The Lions eventually took the lead in the 25th min. A pinpoint cross-field pass from Steven Lawless was met by Aymen Souda on the left edge of the box, he controlled it and sent a low shot past Ayr keeper Ross Doohan and it was 1-0 Livingston.
United were put on the spot with their opponents dominating and having the upper hand going into the break.
Ayr switched to five in midfield at halftime and this worked wonders for the Honest Men who looked a changed outfit in the second 45 mins, dominating most of the play.
Ayr found the equaliser with 51 mins on the clock when Luke McCowan crossed in from a tight angle at the left edge of the penalty area after a run that cut through the Livingston defence. His cross was met by Andy Murdoch who flicked the ball into the net from close range. This was no more than United deserved, and they looked the better team from then on, dominating the remainder of the match.
The momentum was with Ayr and the visitors created chance after chance as they pushed for a match-winning goal. United came close on 54 mins when Ross Docherty brilliantly stepped onto the ball then spun and dragged it away from Lawless before passing to Stephen Kelly whose shot from 18 yards forced Livingston keeper Ross Stewart to a full stretch save at the top right-hand corner.
Then, out of the blue, on 83 mins the home side that found the back of the net to take a late and what would turn out to be a decisive lead. Substitute Scott Tiffoney curled the ball into the box after a run down the right wing and as Ayr failed to clear it was picked up by Lamie at the back post for a side-footed shot into the net.
This was tortuously hard on an Ayr side who deserved to take something from the game.