An outstanding substitute performance from Rangers loanee Glenn Middleton has sealed St Johnstone’s Scottish Cup final spot after a 2-1 win over St Mirren.
The winger was brought on after 65 minutes and set up Chris Kane for St Johnstone’s opener before scoring a stunning free-kick inside nine minutes of coming on. Lee Erwin and Collin Quaner went close either side of half-time for St Mirren, who thought they should have had a penalty after Jamie McCart’s alleged handball in the first half.
Conor McCarthy pulled one back for St Mirren five minutes from time but it’s the League Cup holders will look to complete an outstanding cup double when they face Hibs on May 22nd.
Erwin’s chance was the best of a first-half with chances for both teams. This game looked to be a tight one on paper but both teams had spells in the game where they could have at least broke the deadlock. St Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark denied St Mirren superbly on the half-hour mark, his hand blocking Erwin from point-blank range.
The Perthshire club had suffered two positive Covid-19 tests prior to this game but their squad was still strong. They rallied towards the end of the first half and St Mirren keeper Jak Alnwick was called upon to save a high shot from Shaun Rooney. St Johnstone’s right-back had scored every time he had played at Hampden this season prior to this game but his effort was well-saved.
There was controversy too as St Mirren claimed for a penalty, McCart’s arm appearing to block an Erwin shot but referee Willie Collum said no. The Paisley side were knocking at the door and Quaner missed a big chance after the hour-mark, not able to turn the ball into the net from three yards out.
St Johnstone were looking to complete a dream season with a historic cup double after winning the League Cup in February and Middleton’s appearance from the bench inspired them to take one step closer to that. He’d scored the goal that sealed a top six Scottish Premiership spot since arriving from Rangers but more important moments beckoned.
First was Kane’s goal on 69 minutes. Driving the touchline, his cross met Kane’s foot and the striker did well to guide it past Alnwick. Then Middleton’s goal was something special, beating his former Rangers teammate between the St Mirren sticks with a powerful free-kick from 30 yards out.
He almost had a second assist as he breezed past Jamie McGrath to tee up Kane again, but Alnwick somehow managed to tip it over the bar. McCarthy handed St Mirren hope, heading into the net from a free-kick as the Paisley club rallied, but it wasn’t enough.
Middleton’s work made it job done and St Johnstone are left dreaming of a cup double, St Mirren gutted again after losing a second semi-final of the season. Here are three things we learned.
Middleton’s performance here will be remembered in St Johnstone folklore. Coming off the bench after the hour, the winger set up and scored for his team to seal a huge match with former club Hibs. St Johnstone want to bring him back from Rangers next season and it’s easy to see why.
It’s another bitter blow for St Mirren. After losing the League Cup semi-final, they missed out on the top six by two goals. Now they have fallen at the late hurdle again, and while it’s been a good season for the Paisley club, there is a strong sense of what could have been.
Who’s had a better debut season as a manager than Davidson? Already having won the League Cup, now his team are Scottish Cup finalists. Add a top six Scottish Premiership finish into the mix and potentially European group stage football, it’s a truly remarkable job from the Manager of the Year contender.
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