Falkirk 1 Livingston 2 aet : Bairns bow out

James Craigen levelled for Falkirk. Picture Michael Gillen
James Craigen levelled for Falkirk. Picture Michael Gillen

Falkirk blew their bright Betfred Cup campaign in a dismal defeat after extra time.

The Bairns were disjointed and far from their previous in the competition where they won all four group games, conceding just one goal.

Craigen spun his markers and tucked the equaliser away.

Craigen spun his markers and tucked the equaliser away.

Rafaele de Vita’s flick in extra-time left Robbie Thomson rooted to the spot and sent Falkirk out with £35,000 in prizemoney. Their opponents will take a minimum of £60,000 under the new competition prize pot.

Peter Houston’s side was unconvincing from the start. Livingston were more than a match for the Bairns and took a deserved lead after half an hour that James Craigen cancelled out. After the break the Bairns continued to struggle, but it wasn’t until extra time that their Betfred bubble eventually burst.

The visitors’ ball retention frustrated Falkirk for periods and the Bairns were pinned back in their defensive area for longer than comfortable spells.

Falkirk are more used to passing through teams and they did, at times early on but it was all too infrequently.

Luca Gasparotto was targeted in his unfamiliar right-back area but it was cross balls where the Bairns again looked fragile and Robbie Thomson was twice outmuscled when contesting them early on – once prompting a goalmouth scramble that Falkirk just survived.

Myles Hippolyte had a point to prove against his former club and was one of the brighter Bairns on the night, but he went close with a 30yard effort he floated over Neil Alexander after the goalkeeper headed a long ball to his feet, but his effort was cleared by the retreating Craig Halkett.

It proved timely as Livingston progressed up the park and scored, when Scott Robinson knocked in a cross from the Bairns left at the front post.

It was no less than Livingston deserved but Falkirk responded when Mark Kerr sent James Craigen bursting through, but he miscontrolled. With two men around him he had the presence of mind, and poise, to pivot and tuck the leveller past Alexander.

That’s how it stayed til half-time, though ref Andrew Dallas’ whistl;e relieved pressure on the Bairns as defensive nerves jangled.

The worries continued in the second half, but the Bairns gradually improved despite more crosses troubling the shaky defence.

A slide-rule pass from Myles Hippolyte seemed perfect for Natahn Austin but the gangly forward couldn’t find a burst to receive the pass.

Lee Miller replaced Alex Harris and Joe McKee soon replaced Hippolyte who was struggling with cramp.

Miller improved things for Falkirk, until then the only bright light had been the return of Tom Taiwo in the midfield.

Falkirk almost snatched a late winner when Paul Watson saw a low strike with two minutes to go pushed out by Neil Alexander. Luca Gasparotto at the backpost sent the ball back in from a tight angle but Alan Lithgow knocked it off the line.

Extra time saw little to ignite the game which was petering out, but Livingston’s flick from Rafaele de Vita gave the visitors the lead for the second time when he flicked across the flat-footed Thomson.

Both sides used their fourth substitute option in extra-time, but Peter Houston’s last rol of the dice – Scott Shepherd on for James Craigen – couldn’t turn the tide.