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Saints secure first Scottish Cup

17 May 2014 16:31:52

Saints secure first Scottish Cup

St Johnstone won the William Hill Scottish Cup for the first time in the club's 130-year history with a 2-0 victory over Dundee United at Celtic Park.

United midfielder Ryan Dow hit the post before Saints defender Steven Anderson, in his testimonial year, headed in a David Wotherspoon corner as a pulsating first half moved into stoppage time.

Tannadice striker Nadir Ciftci struck the bar with a free-kick early in an occasionally tetchy second half and the Saints had to defend for their lives at times before striker Steve MacLean ensured history would be made with a second after 83 minutes to send their 15,000 fans - a third of the population of Perth - into raptures.

The McDiarmid Park side were appearing in their first final of the competition and few outside Tannadice will begrudge them the trophy, albeit they rode their luck at times against a side they had beaten three times in four Scottish Premiership meetings this season.

The biggest Tangerines support ever of close to 30,000 fans who made the journey from Tayside, and who helped create such a colourful spectacle in the east end of Glasgow, slipped out after the final thinking of what might have been in their second final in four years.

Amid the frenetic, full-blooded opening minutes in which United looked the more likely, Saints goalkeeper Alan Mannus nervously fumbled a cross by Dow but no-one in orange was in position to take advantage.

Neither side could or would put their foot on the ball, with possession changing hands at times by the pass.

In the 10th minute 27-goal Saints' striker Stevie May had a speculative shot from distance which failed to bother United goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak but which showed the highly-rated 21-year-old was in confident mood.

Cierzniak was made to work moments later when Wotherspoon knocked the ball back to fellow midfielder James Dunne just outside the box. T he playmaker's strike was true but was tipped over the bar for a corner, from which Saints defender Frazer Wright failed to make a decent connection from Brian Easton's delivery.

There was an unsuccessful claim for a United penalty when Dunne lashed the ball against what look like Wright's arm and there was another let-off for the Perth side in the 32nd minute when Dow's clever flick from an Andy Robertson cross beat Mannus but rebounded off the post before being cleared for a corner which came to nothing.

United ended the first half on top but found themselves behind by the time they ran up the tunnel.

The PA announcer at Celtic Park had just revealed that there would be a minimum of one added minute when Anderson rose at the back post above Keith Watson at the corner to power his header past Cierzniak, setting off an explosion of blue in the stands.

Saints, though, survived another close call at the start of the second half after Dunne was booked for a foul 20 yards out.

Ciftci's curling free-kick beat the defensive wall and Mannus but came down off the bar and on to the back of the Irishman, who gratefully grabbed it inches from the line.

There was even more drama at the other end moments later when May had the ball in the net at the second attempt with his hand, for which he was booked, with the Perth forward claiming his header had crossed the line.

It was breathless, end-to-end action.

Wotherspoon's long run into the United box ended with his shot parried by Cierzniak and, when United broke, Mannus had to push Robertson's drive round the post for a corner, which the McDiarmid Park side survived.

Mannus then had to race from his goal to foil Dow and then Watson in the same move.

Lee Croft replaced Michael O'Halloran for Saints before Brian Graham came on for Paul Paton, the United striker firing wide of the target from 14 yards within minutes of his 77th-minute introduction.

As the tension increased another notch, Ciftci worked a yard of space for himself 25 yards from goal before drilling his right-footed shot just wide of the post.

However, with seven minutes remaining, Saints got the clincher.

MacLean found himself the beneficiary of a deflected May pass to go clean through against Cierzniak and, although the United keeper got a block on the first effort, the striker knocked in the loose ball while lying on the ground, before running to take the acclaim of the fans, who knew the wait to see the Scottish Cup coming to Perth was over.


PA

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