JON GUTHRIE admits Sunday’s Hampden heartbreak against St Johnstone was the most sickening defeat of his career.
However, the Livingston defender is adamant ending Rangers’ unbeaten streak in the Premiership would be the perfect medicine.
Guthrie, a mainstay for the Lions this term, was the man outmuscled by Shaun Rooney for the only goal of the Betfred Cup final — one of the very few times an opponent has got the better of him to register a clean header from a set-piece.
As the powerful stopper sat, dejected on the turf at the national stadium following the full-time whistle, he knew a golden opportunity to become a Livingston legend had come and gone.
However, he is adamant the understandable hangover was brief, with attention forced to immediately turn to an onerous clash against champions-elect, Rangers, at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Guthrie said: “I’d be lying if I said everyone was bouncing around the place. Sunday was a tough day for us, the hardest I’ve had in my career.
“So, it’s probably a good thing that we have a game on Wednesday. That’s taken our focus away from Hampden and given us something to look forward to.
“We’ve just to forget about the final and put it to bed now and, to be fair, everyone was a bit livelier on Tuesday. We analysed the game on Monday, like we always do, and spoke about what we should have done better.”
?? “Was the star man going to be anyone else? The rampaging wing-back scored the Betfred Cup final’s only goal with a tremendous header”
— SPFL (@spfl) March 2, 2021
Inflicting a first league defeat on Rangers this term would not only represent a feather in Livi’s cap, but it would mathematically assure them of a second successive top-six finish — a remarkable achievement, given the club’s modest resources.
Guthrie continued: “There’s still a lot to play for so we need to move on from it and get that top-six finish secured as soon as possible now.
“Would being the first team to beat Rangers make up for [losing the final]? It definitely would go some way towards it. If we could be the team to put a stop to that [run] it would be amazing.”
If Livingston — who did hold the Glasgow giants to a 0-0 draw last August — are to again halt the Gers juggernaut, then they must find a way to shackle a resurgent Alfredo Morelos.
The Colombia internationalist boasts 13 goals this term, but six of those have come in the last nine games. He was described as ‘unplayable’ in the aftermath of a virtuoso showing in last month’s 5-2 Europa League win over Royal Antwerp.
But if anyone thinks Guthrie is viewing the challenge ahead with trepidation, they have another thing coming.
He said: “I love it! These are the games you want to be involved in, testing yourself against the very best and that was something I didn’t really have the chance to do down in England. I didn’t get the chance to play against that calibre of player.
“It’s a big challenge against a top player [Morelos] but we have handled him quite well in the past.
“You know he’s always going to be a threat because he is very physical and awkward but we will be doing our best to stop him — not just as a back four but as a whole team.
“Everyone will need to be at the top of our game and, working hard, we can nullify him.”
David Martindale: ‘You need to turn a negative into a positive’.
Meanwhile, Livingston manager David Martindale reckons a debrief on the pitch at Hampden, mere moments after losing out to the Saints, must set the tone for the remainder of the campaign.
The message was clear: one defeat doesn’t derail our season.
He said: “After the final whistle and we were standing on the pitch at Hampden I got all the boys around and I told them it is done and they can’t let the final define our season. It was over and they can’t change it and they had to move on.
“I did straight after the final whistle because I couldn’t do anything else.
“I have quite a good mental resilience where I don’t worry about things that I can’t change, I can’t change Sunday’s result, I can only change the future. We lost the game, but we have to deal with it and move on.
“I am a believer that you have to take something from adversity and a negative situation. You have to turn a negative into a positive. It is a true saying you learn more about players in defeat than when you are winning games.”