By Ben McNicol
St Johnstone’s European dream is over after Austrian side LASK ran out 2-0 winners at McDiarmid Park to reach the Europa Conference League group stage.
Husein Balic and Marko Raguz silenced another bumper home crowd to win the play-off second-leg, which was poised at 1-1 after the first leg in Austria. Substitute David Wotherspoon was shown a straight red card within 60 seconds of coming on before Shaun Rooney also saw red for Saints after a last-man challenge.
After 21 minutes, the home fans thought their side had taken the lead when Glen Middleton’s dangerous corner took a deflection off Philipp Wiesinger then Jason Kerr and bounced inches wide of LASK goalkeeper Alexander Schlager’s net.
It was a first-half that lacked quality and control from either side, but recently called-up Scotland keeper Zander Clark showed why he’s been on head coach Steve Clarke’s radar as he made two outstanding saves in quick succession to keep the Austrians at bay.
It looked as if Callum Davidson’s men were beginning to tire and after failing to clear their lines, they were punished. Mamoudou Karamoko was given far too much space inside the box and he cut the ball back for Balic, who slammed home high into the roof of the net.
Everything went downhill from there as the anticipated arrival of Wotherspoon ended in disaster as he was shown a straight card within a minute of coming on. Rooney then received a red by bringing down Balic inside the box. Raguz stepped up and sent Clark the wrong way to ensure progression for the visitors. Here are three things we learned.
Euro adventure ends
St Johnstone’s European dream is over, but what a time they’ve had over the last month. They’ve given their fans some memories to cherish forever and have gave European regulars LASK and Galatasaray a very good run for their money in both legs.
Substitutes change the game
Substitutions tend to be made to try and help swing the game in your favour, but that was only the case for one side. Wotherspoon was sent off within 60 seconds of coming off the bench while Thalhammer’s subs paid dividends as both Balic and Raguz got on the scoresheet.
Back to league business
Now that European football is over, it’s important that Saints get their league campaign up and running. They’ve yet to pick up maximum points so far this season despite playing three opponents who finished in the bottom six last year.
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