Livi assistant boss urges players to make home a fortress

Mark Burchill feels as fit as ever
Mark Burchill feels as fit as ever
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Mark Burchill has called on his Livingston players to put the fear factor into their opponents when they walk through the doors of the Energy Assets Arena.

After last weekend’s heroics in Peterhead that saw Myles Hippolyte’s extra-time winner seal Livi’s semi-final berth in this season’s Petrofac Training Cup, the Lions return to their home den tomorrow on league duty with the visit of Alloa in the Championship.

League 1 outfit Stranraer now stand between Livi and their first cup final appearance since they defied the odds to overcome Hibs 2-0 in the CIS Cup at Hampden in March 2004.

However, player/assistant manager Burchill has expressed his desire at seeing his young squad refocus their minds on more pressing matters with Alloa, Raith Rovers and Rangers all due at the West Lothian venue in the next three weeks.

“Every team in this division will lose points when they’re not expected to, but what we have to do at Livingston is make the Energy Assets Arena a very difficult place to come,” Burchill said. “I think everybody knows we play nice football, but we’ve got to make teams scared of coming to Livingston and a place they don’t look forward to arriving at. We want to play an exciting brand which the fans want to see but also by winning games.”

With a League Cup clash at Pittodrie against Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen beckoning, not to mention a visit to Tynecastle to try and shackle high-flying Hearts before the month is out, Burchill says the squad need no further incentives to grind out the three points against a buoyant Wasps side.

“Tomorrow is not a must-win as it’s still early on in the season. But the players, at the back of their minds, will be thinking about the Aberdeen tie, the Hearts game and then the Rangers match so it’s hopefully going to make them perform better over the next couple of weeks. It’s a good thing when you’ve got these calibre of games on the horizon.

“Myself and John McGlynn want to win every game we’re involved in,” the former Celtic frontman explained. “I think the players have been starved of success. A lot of them have been here four or five years and were involved in the two promotions but there has been little success elsewhere.

“John and I have been working together a year now and I think the team is getting steadily better. We brought a lot of new players in the summer and they’re starting to gel so we’re confident this season we can upset a few people.”

Livingston have been ruthless en route to the penultimate stage of this season’s League Challenge Cup, netting four against Queen of the South and Hearts respectively before their narrow win at Balmoor last weekend.

With the clash with Stranraer little more than a month away, Burchill disclosed there is already an air of excitement beginning to build.

“It’s fantastic for Livingston,” he said. “The fans have been starved off any kind of cup run over the last wee while, since they won the League Cup in 2004. So it’s great’s to have this run and hopefully it brings a few more to come and watch us.

“We’ve been away to Queens in this cup as well so we’re just delighted it’s a home draw. It’s difficult going away to these grounds but it was great to get through in extra time and we’re really looking forward to the semi-final.”

At 34, Burchill retains a belief he has more to offer than just his man-managemenet skills. He has made a couple of appearances from the substitutes’ bench already this season and provided the pass for Hippolyte to convert the only goal of the game in the League Cup second-round victory over Queen of the South at the end of last month.

“At the minute, it’s kind of us having a look at the new guys in the squad. But if I’m better at that moment in time and ready to play, then I will. I feel in the best condition of my life so I can definitely play and I will during some part of the season. I can also add some experience and help the younger ones along,” Burchill added.