'Saints in strife & shocks galore' - lessons from League Cup group stage

Marios Ogkmpoe
Hamilton edged through to the knockout phase thanks to a stunning last-minute strike from Marios Ogkmpoe

It's been a bumpy ride for some - and a nauseous nosedive for fans of St Mirren and St Johnstone - to the end of the Scottish League Cup group stage.

With the last-16 draw now complete, and the tournament on the backburner until mid-August, what have we learned from the last two weeks of action?

BBC Scotland takes a look...

Best game

St Mirren 2-3 Dunfermline Athletic: Positivity was in the Paisley air as League Cup-winning skipper Jim Goodwin returned as manager, but his big homecoming celebration quickly turned to deflation. Top-flight St Mirren were three goals down at half-time as Championship side Dunfermline sliced them open on the counter-attack and Ryan Dow, Andy Ryan and Tom Beadling scored excellent strikes.

A few choice words from Goodwin at half-time sparked a response, with Cody Cooke and Danny Mullen netting in quick succession. The Pars held on in a barnstorming finish and things didn't get much better for the Buddies. They were held to draws by minnows East Kilbride and Albion Rovers and ended as one of only two top-flight sides - along with St Johnstone - to fail to progress beyond the groups.

St Mirren v Dunfermline
Danny Mullen slammed home St Mirren's second goal against Dunfermline but they couldn't complete the comeback

Best goal

Marios Ogkmpoe (Airdrie 2-3 Hamilton): For importance as well as aesthetic value, there is no topping Ogkmpoe's marvellous Lanarkshire derby winner. His team were facing an early exit after falling 2-0 down in the first half hour against their League One hosts. A pair of Ross Cunningham penalties after the break restored parity but Accies' qualification hopes were still on a knife-edge until Ogkmpoe delivered in the final minute.

The Greek forward latched on to the ball on the right-hand corner of the box and sent a searing volley dripping under the crossbar to send his side through in style. After only returning to action in April following an 11-month lay-off with a knee injury, the striker deserved his moment in the limelight.

Most impressive win

Cove Rangers 3-0 Raith Rovers: The SPFL's newest club served notice that they intend to take the step up from the Highland League in their stride. As the sole bottom-tier side in Group D, Cove failed to qualify for the last 16 but they did take an impressive scalp to leapfrog Raith in the final standings. And they didn't just beat a Rovers side who finished third in League One last term, they outplayed them.

Jamie Masson set the ball rolling with a first-half opener before Chris Antoniazzi and Declan Glass added gloss to Paul Hartley's first victory as Cove boss. With former Alloa Atheltic and Dundee manager Hartley at the helm and the club already favourites for the League Two title, big things are expected from the Highlanders this term.

Biggest upset

Tommy Wright
Tommy Wright's St Johnstone were stunned by Montrose and and Forfar and failed to qualify for knockout phase

Montrose 1-0 St Johnstone: Tommy Wright's Premiership team bookended their group-stage campaign with embarrassing defeats to League One opposition. The first and most damaging came at Links Park as Stewart Petrie's part-timers grabbed their sole victory in Group B when Terry Masson's second-half strike sealed a memorable shock for the Angus outfit.

Saints clearly didn't learn their lesson and were already eliminated when they signed off with a 2-1 loss at Forfar, prompting Wright to describe his team's season so far as "disastrous". With three defeats from four, and no sign the new striker the club crave after a deal for Stevie May fell through, problems abound in Perth. At least they have a nice easy opening league game at Celtic Park on Saturday...

Biggest surprise

Forfar Athletic: Pitched into Group B alongside two top-flight sides, few would have given League One Forfar a hope of advancing. But they capitalised on St Johnstone's woes to finish behind Ross County and reach the knockout phase as one of the best runners-up.

Nine points from 12 is a hugely impressive tally from Jim Weir's team, who battered Brechin City and Montrose before a stunning win over Saints sealed their progress. Are the fearless Loons capable of another upset in the last 16 against Livingston?

Standout moment

Plucky underdogs: Forfar blazed a trail to the last 16 while League One rivals East Fife squeezed through after beating Dundee United away and earning a bonus-point draw at home to Hearts.

Other notable results for lower-league sides include League Two Queen's Park beating Hamilton on penalties at New Douglas Park and Albion Rovers and Lowland League champions East Kilbride both taking St Mirren to a shootout.

Dundee United v East Fife
East Fife stunned Dundee United 2-0 at Tannadice

Biggest disappointment

Attendances: Saturday's 13 matches attracted a combined 13,906 - Motherwell v Annan Athletic was the only game to have more than 2,000 fans in attendance - and figures throughout the group stage have generally been poor.

For example, Hibernian averaged 17,775 for home league games last season, but their two League Cup ties at Easter Road this term have drawn crowds of just over 5,000. The League Cup group-stage format is now in its fourth season after being reintroduced but, with fans not buying into it, doubts remain over its sustainability.

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