Livingston boss David Martindale explains how he'll approach Premier Sports Cup ahead of Rangers opener

Livingston boss David Martindale will use their Premier Sports Cup group stage matches to fine-tune his squad ahead of their cinch Premiership curtain-raiser at home to Rangers.

The Lions ended their pre-season preparations on a high with a 6-0 defeat of Linlithgow Rose in midweek at the Tony Macaroni Arena with midfielder Josh Mullin – who spent last season out on loan with Hamilton Academical – bagging a hat-trick.

Former Hearts striker Esmaël Gonçalves marked his return to Scottish football with a terrific second-half strike from the edge of the box, while winger Cristian Montaño netted a double. New Australian centre-back signing, Phillip Cancar, looked assured in the heart of the defence.

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“It was just good to get minutes in the boys’ legs and gives the new boys a wee taste into Scottish football – you are going to get tackled, you are going to get pressed, it's physical and aggressive,” said Martindale.

Livingston manager David Martindale is taking the Premier Sports Cup seriously. His team kick off their competitive season against Albion Rovers on Saturday. Picture: Simon Wootton / SNS

“Esmael's goal was an unbelievable finish. Josh was out on loan last season. I spoke to Josh and he said he wants to stay and fight for his position. What more can you ask; he comes in, scores three goals and one assist, you can't really ask for much more.”

The competitive action gets underway for Livingston on Saturday with a visit to Albion Rovers in Group G of the Premier Sports Cup, and after ending last season’s Scottish Premiership campaign unbeaten in their post-split fixtures, Martindale, who hopes to add one or two more new signings, is eager to carry that form into the new season.

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He continued: “We always qualify but it's a difficult cup section this time to be fair. It gets you ready for the league action hopefully, I treat it seriously, you have to treat these matches with the upmost respect. Our opponents will be giving everything they can. It's a difficult cup section but one I am looking forward to.

“I will try and give everyone as much game time as I possibly can while putting out a competitive team out on the park and trying to win that game of football. I don't think we can treat any games lightly. we are coming up against the Premiership play-off finalists [Inverness], the League One champions [Cove Rangers] and the League Two champions [Kelty Hearts], so it will be really difficult.

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“I will try and give the squad as much game time as I can, keep it as fresh as I can but you obviously have one eye on Rangers as well, you've got to prepare the squad and get as much game time into these boys as you can.

“We want to take the momentum of last season [into the start of this season], but it's easy talking about these things, it's always a bit more difficult trying to do it.

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“I think we are in a far better place than where we were this time last year, but when you look at this year's fixtures it's a tough run of fixtures for us, but you are going to have to play each other at some point in the season. Hopefully we can make a better start than what we did last year.”