Raith Rovers took a massive step towards the last-16 of the Premier Sports Cup with a gutsy 0-0 draw against Livingston — despite losing out on a bonus point on penalties.
The Kirkcaldy club matched their Premiership opponents throughout a watchable contest in West Lothian and, with a little more care in the final third, could have grabbed all three points.
However, they were indebted to Jamie MacDonald for a super double-save in the second half as the Lions — fresh from a shock 2-1 defeat against Alloa in their previous Group D clash — sought to make up ground.
Livi prevailed on 6-5 on spot-kicks, with young duo Dylan Tait and Aaron Arnott seeing their efforts saved by Max Stryjek, leaving them on five points.
Raith still top the section with seven, one point ahead of Fife rivals Cowdenbeath.
A victory at home to Alloa on Saturday will see John McGlynn’s side through to the knockout phase of this competition for the first time since the experienced manager’s return to Stark’s Park in 2018.
Former Livi boss McGlynn showcased his tactical versatility by switching to a 4-4-2 diamond for the trip to his old stomping ground, with Aidan Connolly — at the tip of midfield — in behind Dario Zanatta and Lewis Vaughan.
And the trio caused havoc in the early stages with their energy, movement and direct running, resulting in Zanatta rippling the side-netting and shooting narrowly wide before the 15-minute mark.
There were howls for a penalty kick from the boisterous band of travelling Rovers fans when a speculative Vaughan strike struck the arm of Jack Fitzwater. Referee Willie Callum was unmoved.
The Lions roar
The Lions showed signs of stirring midway through the first-half when Bruce Anderson stung the palms of Jamie MacDonald from a prohibitive angle — but it was never likely to beat the ex-Hearts stopper.
Vaughan lashed a snap-shot narrowly wide as the Rovers began the second 45 minutes on the front foot.
Ex-Dunfermline loan star Anderson, a summer signing from Aberdeen by Livi, was the hosts’ brightest spark and fizzed a powerful drive off target after finding a yard of space on the edge of the box.
Having been relatively untroubled for 65 minutes, Rovers keeper MacDonald illustrated his worth with a splendid double-save, parrying a Christian Montano shot before blocking Anderson’s attempt to turn home the rebound.
Fitzwater then smashed a drive over the bar after a kind break inside the box. For the first time, Raith were rattled.
However, McGlynn toughened up his backline with the introduction of Dave McKay and, latterly, Arnott in place of the more offensive Connolly, ensuring the visitors steadied the ship.
Despite seeing out the contest, there was some late disappointment for Rovers when Tait and Arnott failed from 12 yards, allowing Livi — whose only missed effort came from Craig Sibbald — to win the shootout.