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Ross County exit Scottish Cup at hands of Premiership rivals Livingston

Ayo Obileye celebrates netting a penalty against Ross County.
Ayo Obileye celebrates netting a penalty against Ross County.

Ross County exited the Scottish Cup at the first hurdle after a one-goal defeat to Premiership rivals Livingston.

The much-changed Staggies were slow out of the blocks, with Livi taking an early lead through Ayo Obileye’s penalty.

County began to show some encouraging signs as the first half advanced, without any serious goal threat to show for it.

Although some serious pressure was mounted on the Livi goal after the break the Staggies were unable to convert any of the chances that fell their way.

Alex Samuel nods wide for Ross County.

The result leaves Malky Mackay’s side to focus fully on their league campaign, which resumes away to Dundee United on Wednesday.

Mackay made no fewer than six changes from the side which impressively saw off Motherwell in midweek. Jordan Tillson’s absence was enforced due to his red card against the Steelmen, while Ash Maynard-Brewer, Alex Iacovitti, Regan Charles-Cook, Joseph Hungbo and Jordan White dropped to the bench.

That meant inclusions for Ross Laidlaw, Alex Samuel, Dominic Samuel, Jack Burroughs and Ben Paton, along with a first start for Kayne Ramsay.

Kayne Ramsay made his first start for Ross County.

It was the perfect opportunity for some of the lesser-featured players among Mackay’s squad to stake their claim ahead of a busy run of league matches.

It was Livi who started the brighter of the two sides however, without initially managing to test Laidlaw.

The hosts were presented with the perfect chance to open the scoring on 16 minutes, when a long ball forward by Jack Fitzwater played in Bruce Anderson, with the on-form forward clipped by Declan Drysdale as he bore down on goal.

Obileye had netted a late equaliser when the sides met on league duty the previous month, and he stepped up to the spot-kick duties with a slow run up, but a calm low finish down the middle to beat Laidlaw.

County looked to make a quick response, with Paton seeing a powerful drive from the edge of the box deflected wide by a Staggies team-mate.

The Staggies began to play their way back into the game with some neat exchanges, but struggled to trouble Max Stryjek. The Livi goalkeeper was called upon on 34 minutes when he came out to block Alex Samuel’s angle after he had been threaded in by Connor Randall’s pass.

Malky Mackay in discussion with referee Bobby Madden.

Stryjek was called into action again a minute before the break when he did well to get down to a menacing Jake Vokins delivery, although the linesman had already flagged for offside due to Alex Samuel interfering.

County threatened again in first-half stoppage time when Burroughs received the ball on the edge of the box before trundling an effort wide.

The Staggies made a bright start to the second period, and spurned a glorious chance to level on 49 minutes. Vokins got into a dangerous position down the inside left channel before delivering for Samuel in a great position but a first Staggies goal proved elusive as he screwed his free header wide.

Livi knew a second goal would leave the Staggies with a major challenge on their hands, with the lively Odin Bailey sending a strike into the side-netting on 57 minutes.

Just 60 seconds later, County skipper Blair Spittal was unfortunate to see a low effort from distance palmed to safety by Stryjek.

Another fine chance fell the way of Ramsay three minutes later after he met Vokins’ delivery, but nodded wide at the far post.

Dominic Samuel was next to pass up a headed opportunity when he glanced a Randall cross wide.

At the other end, Laidlaw had to remain alert as Livi looked to kill off the tie with 10 minutes remaining. He initially did well to block a low effort from substitute Joel Nouble with his feet after the former Arbroath loanee had been played in by Alan Forrest, before the goalkeeper turned a Bailey effort around his near post.

David Martindale’s men were able to see out the match to move into the last-16 at the Dingwall side’s expense.

LIVINGSTON (4-3-3) – Stryjek 7; Devlin 6, Fitzwater 6, Obileye 7, Longridge 6; Holt 6, Pittman 6, Omeonga 7 (McMillan 52); Bailey 7, Chukwuemeka 5 (Forrest 46), Anderson 5 (Nouble 60). Subs not used – Maley, Boyes, Lewis, Jacobs, Montano, Shinnie.

ROSS COUNTY (4-2-3-1) – Laidlaw 6; Randall 6, Ramsay 7, Drysdale 6, Vokins 7; Burroughs 6 (H Paton 86), B Paton 6; Callachan 6, D Samuel 5; A Samuel 5 (White 60). Subs not used – Munro, Maynard-Brewer, Baldwin, Watson, Iacovitti, Charles-Cook, Hungbo.

Referee – Bobby Madden 6

Attendance: 1,297

Man of the match: Jake Vokins

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