How peculiar-looking St Johnstone eventually made it past Dunfermline to book Betfred Cup semi-final berth
Liam Craig scored the decisive penalty to send St Johnstone into the Betfred Cup semi-finals after the Premiership side made heavy weather of their last-eight tie against Dunfermline.
The lower division opponents pinned back the top-flight team in extra time with a goal from substitute Iain Wilson after Shaun Rooney had put St Johnstone ahead.
Paul Watson and Kevin O’Hara saw their penalties saved by Zander Clark. Callum Hendry’s effort hit the upright to put the match back in the balance on an engrossing evening at East End Park. Clark's save from O'Hara opened the way for Craig to emerge the hero.
This had a claim to be described as the tie of the round even if the television cameras did not think so. Shorn of fans, cup ties are robbed of a lot of their magic.
But it was still a contest between teams from different divisions under the lights. There was still the prospect of a shock to provide some frisson among the players.
No goals in the opening 90 minutes suggested that perhaps, on this occasion, the television broadcaster in question were right. As so often happens, St Johnstone scored just three minutes into extra-time through full back Rooney having conspicuously failed to turn their pressure into anything tangible prior to that. But it only encouraged Dunfermline to do likewise. Wilson, who had replaced Fraser Murray at the start of the second-half of extra time, equalised just eight minutes later to
Like Rooney’s, it was his first strike for the club. What a time to get it.
Rooney was set to be the unlikely hero. He had already gone as close as anyone when flashing a header just wide in the opening half. When he eventually did score, it was the type of goal one would expect from a centre forward like Stevie May – or indeed, his namesake Wayne. Rooney, who joined the club in the summer from Inverness, controlled Scott Tanser’s ball from the left in the box before slotting the ball into the corner like a striker operating on instinct.
St Johnstone were clearly determined to avoid being the victims and dominated for the most part. Murray Davidson should have put them ahead ten minutes before half time but his header from David Wotherspoon’s cross from the right cleared the bar.
The waste of such a glaring opportunity near the end of a half when the visitors had applied significant pressure raised the possibility that it might indeed be one of those nights, when an underdog prevails against the odds. The old shortcomings returned to haunt Saints – not being able to put the ball in the back of the net.
Dunfermline certainly upped their game in the second half. Dominic Thomas, their stand-out player, nearly put his side ahead with a delicately chipped effort from the edge of the box that was just too high. Euan Murray was also rock at centre half for the home team.
Callum Davidson had sent out a side not even the most ardent Saints fans might have predicted. The manager left out Danny McNamara and cup talisman Stevie May on the bench.
If it seemed slightly disdainful, the visitors were not made to pay, though it was a lot closer than they would have preferred.