Wednesday 16 July 2014

Spartans tournament summary

Livingston finished third in the Tennents' Ronnie Swan Challenge Tournament after an entertaining weekend football at Ainslie Park, home of Lowland League champions Spartans.

The semi-final draw paired Livi with Dunfermline and Spartans with Falkirk with the winners advancing to the final and the losers going head-to-head in a third place play-off. It was Livi and the Pars who opened the tournament on Saturday afternoon and boss John McGlynn took the opportunity to blood five of his new faces, handing starts to Brad Donaldson, Declan Gallagher, Miles Hippolyte, Gary Glen and Rob Ogleby.

The two sides were slow into their stride, as you'd expect at this early stage of pre-season, and there were few chances early on. The first chance finally came after 17 minutes and it was Dunfermline who made the most of it when they were awarded a free kick just outside the Livi box. Ross Forbes stepped up and curled in a fine low shot which clearly deceived keeper Darren Jamieson, who stood motionless as the ball flew past him into the corner of the net.

Livi were jolted into life by the Pars' goal and came close to an equaliser when Hippolyte made space at the edge of the box and fired in a fine shot which Pars keeper Ryan Scully did well to tip wide. From the resulting corner the ball fell to skipper Jason Talbot but his shot was scrambled off the line. Burton O'Brien then floated in a free kick which carried through to the back post to the unmarked Gallagher who volleyed back across goal and over the bar.

Livi continued to put pressure on Dunfermline and came close again when Hippolyte broke through down the right and stood up a cross which Ogleby headed over the bar. Hippolyte was popping up all over the place and broke through down the left before cutting inside and firing in a low shot which the keeper held with ease. That proved to be the last action of the half as Livi went in 1-0 down.

Dunfermline changed their entire outfield team for the second half while Livi opted to continue with the same eleven who started the match and it was Livi who picked up where they left off at half time as they kept up the pressure on the Pars. First Donaldson broke clear down the right and cut back for Glen who flicked the ball onto Ogleby and his first-time shot was parried by Scully. Talbot then played a long ball forward to Glen who took a touch before firing a low shot just wide.

Livi then made seven substitutions, introducing among others David Robertson, Michael McKenna and Jordan White, to keep some players fresh for the second game on Sunday. White was straight into the action as he broke clear and, after his initial shot was parried by Scully, he could only scoop the rebound over the bar. McKenna then came close to a fluke equaliser when he curled in a cross from the left which looped over the goalkeeper and cracked off the bar.

Dunfermline then came close to a second when Faissal El Bakhtaoui slammed in a thirty-yard piledriver which rattled the bar with Jamieson beaten. Sub Nejc Praprotnik then had the final chance but saw his low shot easily saved by Scully as Dunfermline held out to book their place in the final and condemn Livi to the third place match.

Livi made eight changes for the third place play-off against Falkirk, who had lost 4-1 to Spartans in their semi-final, with only Jamieson, Gallagher and Fordyce keeping their place from the first game. Falkirk, with ex-Livi Head of Youth Graeme Robertson in the dugout, fielded a team made up entirely of youth players with their first team having been in action the south of England on Saturday.

Given the comparative experience of the two sides it was hardly surprising that Livi were completely dominant virtually throughout. They created their first chance when both White and Craig Sives came close after Gallagher's knock down created a scramble in the Bairns box.

Livi were forced into an early change as David Robertson picked up a knock, the former Dundee United man being replaced by Gary Glen. McKenna had Livi's next chance when headed Jack Beaumont's corner over the bar before Shaun Rutherford let fly with a terrific strike from long range which Falkirk's keeper did well to push wide. McKenna then came agonisingly close to opening the scoring when he cut in from the left before whipping in a spectacular strike which beat the keeper all ends up but cannoned back off the crossbar.

After a few more long range efforts to no avail, Livi finally took the lead on Netherlands stroke of half time as a fine passing move involving Fordyce, White and Burchill saw the ball make its way to McKenna and he calmly sidefooted the ball low past the Falkirk keeper into the bottom corner to send Livi in at the break 1-0 up.

Livi continued to dominate in the second half and Beaumont twice came close from long range, first curling a free kick inches wide from 30 yards before coming even closer with a 25 yard effort which rattled the post. Livi then made six changes as five of Saturday's starters returned to the action as well as a first taste of the first team for young right-back Darren Moffat.

The changes failed to disrupt Livi's momentum as they continued to dominate the match and they soon doubled their lead when Hippolyte hit the byline and drilled in a low cut back which was forced over the line by a combination of Danny Mullen and a Falkirk defender. Mullen didn't celebrate too wildly which suggests the touch might not have been his. Livi then made their final change as Jamieson, who will rarely have enjoyed an easier shift, was replaced by Calum Antell.

The victory was rounded off soon after and there was no doubting the scorer this time as Moffat curled in a terrific cross which Mullen rose brilliantly to power a header home. Kyle Jacobs was denied a fourth when his goalbound shot was diverted wide by a fine defensive block but Livi eased through to a victory which secured third spot in a tournament which was won by Dunfermline, who snuck past Spartans on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

Livi are next in pre-season action away to Arbroath on Wednesday evening as the build-up continues ahead of the big kick-off away to Queen of the South in the Petrofac Training Cup a week on Saturday.

Livi team v Dunfermline: Jamieson, Donaldson (Sives), Talbot (Rutherford), Fordyce, Gallagher, Hippolyte (Praprotnik), Kyle Jacobs (Robertson), O'Brien (Beaumont), Mullen (McKenna), Glen (Burchill), Ogleby (White).

Livi team v Falkirk: Jamieson (Antell), Rutherford, Sives, Gallagher, Fordyce (c) (Moffat), McKenna (Hippolyte), Praprotnik (Kyle Jacobs), Beaumont, Robertson (Glen), White (Ogleby), Burchill (Mullen).

Match report: Andrew Crawford