Betfred Cup Final preview

I am not sure what is rarer, a Hampden final without Old Firm representation or playing that same game with no fans in the ground. Both of these happen this Sunday as Livingston prepares to battle St Johnstone at an empty national stadium, with both teams looking to double the number of cup trophies in their cabinets. St Johnstone pounced on a weak Hibernian team to take their spot, whilst Livingston prevailed in a tight affair against St Mirren.

There is not much to separate the two sides, with neither team clear favourites. St Johnstone has better recent form, picking up three wins in the last five matches, whereas Livingston mustered two wins within the same period. A rehearsal for the cup final occurred in the league on February 6. St Johnstone were the victors on the day, winning 2-1 at Livingston’s Tony Macaroni Stadium. Callum Davidson and his team will walk out of Hampden with the cup if they manage a repeat of that scoreline.

Livingston’s run to the final coincided with their other-worldly form when manager David Martindale took over the reins. Performances and results have cooled down as of late but it would be unfair to say they’ve run dry. What can be said is that Livingston is in a more precarious position than they were in when the semi-final took place.

Despite neither of these teams challenging at the league’s summit, that does not mean there won’t be premier talent on display. St Johnstone’s Ally McCann is undoubtedly the shining light in the tie. The Northern Irishmen is just 21 and appears primed for a move soon. Jason Kerr is another player of note for St Johnstone; the Scottish centre-back has performed admirably in both the league and their cup run. On the other side, players of note include AS Monaco loanee Julien Serrano and star man Scott Robinson. Neither teams are built off the back of individual performers. Instead, both follow coherent tactical plans which look to maximise the available quality within their respective squads.

Whichever manager gets their hands on the trophy, it will be their first piece of silverware. Both Davidson and Martindale are in their debut seasons as first-team managers. Either manager winning a medal should show that they are on a sound footing for their managerial career. Both managers are widely liked in Scottish football, so their success should be heralded countrywide.

In terms of a prediction, I don’t see this game being an exhibition of attacking flair and finesse. I see this being a low scoring dogfight with glimmers of real quality. Score-wise, if pushed, I would back a 2-1 St Johnstone win. However, I would not be surprised to see this match last longer than the initial 90 minutes. I would encourage people to watch, even if you have limited interest in the Scottish game. With the uncertainty surrounding the completion of the Scottish Cup, the BETFRED cup may be your sole opportunity to take in a Scottish cup final this season.

The match kicks off at 2 pm on Sunday February 28, with your broadcast options limited to Premier Sports for this one.

Image: Wikimedia via Creative Commons
The image shows Hampden Park at a point when fans were allowed in.