Hibs dominated the clear chances in the first half but Jason Kerr punished Jack Ross’ side for not taking them by thumping a header home before half-time. Then in the second half, Saints swept the Hibees aside, Shaun Rooney heading home before Craig Conway scrambled the ball over the line to confirm their spot at a Hampden showpiece.
This competition was wide open for all four teams involved, St Mirren and Livingston to contest the other semi-final. Without the presence of the Old Firm, Aberdeen and Hearts, winnable ties had presented themselves to each side.
But that didn’t mean things would be easy, Hibs and St Johnstone playing out close encounters this term in the league. Ross’ side were favourites in this one though as the biggest team left in the cup.
They did look most likely to score first as Callum Davidson’s were left pinned back, Jamie Murphy passing up two huge chances after 20 minutes. His first point-blank effort was saved by Zander Clark before his easy tap-in was chipped off the bar.
Jackson Irvine had an effort hit the frame of the goal while Paul Hanlon also watched an effort pass him by, clawed away by Clark. Taking your chances is key on the big stage and that’s what Hibs didn’t do.
Contrast that to Davidson’s men, who were clinical when needed. As a corner was floated into the box 35 minutes in, Ryan Porteous found himself underneath the ball, Saints captain Kerr rising highest to net with St Johnstone’s first opportunity.
It was against the run of play but Kerr’s goal had them deservedly ahead, simply based on the fact they were clinical. Ross’ side looked to have blown a huge opportunity as Rooney rose highest from a free-kick four minutes after the break, bulleting a header past Ofir Marciano.
This fully took the wind out of Hibs’ sails and Conway settled things after the hour mark to ensure no way back for the Hibees, Rooney fizzing a delightful ball across the box as he turned provider, the veteran Saints man getting it over the line.
One great moment for Hibs in the midst of another bitter afternoon in Mount Florida was the introduction of Scott Allan after the third goal, the influential playmaker battling a fitness issue to make a welcome return to football on the biggest of stages.
St Johnstone were in control after their third goal though, defeat never looking like a reality as they had some opportunities to add more pain onto another miserable day at Hampden for Ross’ men. But another goal wasn’t needed, as Livingston or St Mirren await St Johnstone in the final, Here are three things we learned.
What a victory for Davidson’s men, the finest of his reign so far. His side had to sit tight and weather the Hibs storm in the first half but once they got ahead, and then added a second, there only looked to be one winner.
They now head to their first final since Davidson was in the dugout alongside Tommy Wright in the 2014 Scottish Cup final, which Saints fans know the story of very well. A special mention for Rooney, who was key on the right flank for his boss.
Hibs’ Hampden woe
Eight semi-finals have come Hibs’ way in seven years and this was a sixth defeat. It’s another painful exit from the cup for the Easter Road side, perhaps more of a blow than the Hearts defeat in the Scottish Cup last October.
Given that they were the favourites for this cup after the eliminations of Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts and Rangers, Ross will ponder what could have been after another defeat on the big stage.
An unlikely final
In a League Cup season full of shocks, perhaps we should have expected another at Hampden. St Johnstone have reached their third national final and meeting them there will be either Livingston or St Mirren.
Nobody could have predicted this final in August, but here we are. Even more so now is this a huge chance for the Perth club, as one of the teams outside the SPFL’s traditional ‘top six’ will win a major tournament this year.
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