Saints on the spot but IRN-BRU Cup bid lives on

Reporter:

Gavin Grosvenor

THE New Saints held their nerve from 12 yards out as they beat Scottish Championship side Livingston on penalties to reach the Irn-Bru Cup third round.

Aeron Edwards put the Welsh champions ahead before substitute Dylan Mackin levelled in the second half for the visitors to force extra-time.

Livingston’s Scott Pittman missed the deciding spot kick as both sides cancelled each other out in extra time of hugely entertaining cup clash.

Five minutes in, Edwards had the first sight of goal as Blaine Hudson won a defensive header high up the pitch but the TNS man fired high and wide.

In a frenetic start, it was surprising to only hear referee Robert Harvey’s whistle for the first time after 10 minutes, despite some tasty challenges.

Livingston’s first sight of goal came on 12 minutes but Declan Gallagher’s shot on the turn sailed over Paul Harrison’s bar.

TNS came close on 17 minutes when Robbie Parry’s raking ball found Jamie Mullan on the right who squared to Wes Fletcher but his back heeled effort was easily saved.

The deadlock was broken on 20 minutes, as Fletcher won a free kick after he was upended by Craig Halkett.

Parry’s floated free kick found its way to the back post and Edwards was there to stoop and head home the deserved opener.

Minutes later, Harrison came to TNS’s rescue when a defensive mix-up saw Halkett free to shoot from four yards out, but the skipper held low to his right.

A combination of Harrison and Connell Rawlinson kept Livingston at bay on 33 minutes with the skipper producing a save before the defender cleared Pittman’s shot off the line.

Gallagher could have brought the Scottish side level six minutes after break but his header from six yards flashed wide.

Josh Mullin came close to leveling the scores on the hour with his well struck effort beating Harrison only to sail wide.

Livingston substitute Mackin brought the tie level on 65 minutes when his deft header from the byline sailed over Harrison and into the net.

After a spell of pressure, the Saints came agonisingly close to restoring their lead but neither Fletcher or Mullan could get on to Edwards’ cross on 77 minutes.

Greg Draper nearly made an instant impact after replacing Fletcher with his deflected effort looping over Neil Alexander and skimmed the bar on 82 minutes.

Hudson should have restored Saints’ lead from the resultant corner only to put his free header from eight yards out over the bar.

Both sides started extra time cautiously as the tempo of the game caught up with the players, with Mullan’s weak shot the closest effort for either side.

Livingston could have stolen the tie late on but on-loan Hearts man Nickolay Todorov smashed his effort onto the bar with minutes remaining.

Mullen, Draper, Chris Seargeant, Rawlinson, Routledge and Harrison were all successful for TNS, with Simon Spender and Brobbel missing in the shoot-out.

However Pittman missed the decisive spot kick after Harrison made two fine saves to deny Mullin and Alan Lithgow.

TNS: Harrison, Spender, Hudson, Rawlinson, Roberts (Pryce 80), Routledge, Edwards, Holland (Seargeant 112), Parry (Brobbel 62), Parry (Draper 80), Fletcher. Subs: Jones, Leak, Cieslewicz

Email:

gavin.grosvenor@nwn.co.uk

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