St. Johnstone travelled away to Arbroath on Sunday in the first knock-out round of the Premier Sports cup as the current holders began their defence of the trophy.
Callum Davidson's side really struggled at Gayfield and a much changed St. Johnstone team lacked cohesion for large periods of the game as the championship outfit gave a good account of themselves and can certainly feel aggrieved at losing on penalties.
[St. Johnstone vs Arbroath was a hard fought affair]
At the end of the day as poorly as Saints played they managed to get their name in the hat for the next round, where we have drawn Dundee away in the quarter-finals.
Here are 4 talking points from Sunday's shootout win vs Arbroath:
Saints Need to be Better up Front
St. Johnstone were lacking in the attacking third yesterday especially in the first half where nothing seemed to gel as a front three of Middleton, Hendry and May struggled to get ball. This lead to the forwards having to drop deep, leaving few players forward.
There was some nice link-up between May and Devine which caused a few problems for Arbroath whilst Middleton and Brown on the other side also troubled the opposition back line a few times. Devine won another penalty as he was brought down by the opposition keeper.
Middleton does what he does and looked the biggest St. Johnstone threat going forward as he ran with the ball directly at goal and got a couple of shots off. He was first to get to the ball to put it in the back of an empty net following Kerr's saved penalty and also had a shot crash off the bar and bounce over the line which wasn't given by the linesman.
[Middleton nets the equaliser]
After Middleton and May both came off we looked toothless up top. Hendry struggled for touches as he didn't have another striker to bounce the ball off of and ended up isolated for large periods. Until McCart's 105th minute leveller from a corner we didn't look like scoring.
We need to be better than that in future, we are very lucky that we somehow scored twice because we have played much better and not scored at all. Hopefully this can serve as a lesson to be learned.
Arbroath Are a Solid Side
Give credit where credit's due: Arbroath were brilliant yesterday. The 'red litchies' had a game plan and executed it to a tee. They were direct, they pressed high and used set pieces to their advantage.
[Arbroath battled hard for the full game]
From a Saints point of view the goals were extremely avoidable but Arbroath took them well well. Once the game went to extra time they were the ones who came out fighting and despite only being a semi-professional outfit their fitness was immense.
At times they looked like the only team who wanted to win and put a lot of effort into the game. There were a few periods where they were on the backfoot and defended for their lives but never did they really look under the cosh, unlike their Premiership counter parts.
If you had watched that game without knowing which side was which you would have thought Arbroath were the top flight team, not Saints. A great performance from all involved however, they fell short in the end.
[Joel Nouble puts his side in front]
Despite losing the tie Arbroath should come out of this one with their heads held high.
St. Johnstone's Penalty Situation is Concerning
Out of the 6 penalties taken by St. Johnstone we scored 3 over the course of the match.
Jason Kerr's effort was saved in normal time down the centre of the goal but luckily Middleton was on hand to spare the 'skippers blushes.
After 120 minutes of football couldn't separate the sides it went to a penalty shootout. Arbroath took first into the home crowd.
Arbroath missed 3 of their 5 penalties in the shootout with all of them going off target (hitting the post, the bar and smashing over entirely). Whilst St. Johnstone had the chance to go 3-1 up but ended up passing the opportunity up (in what I can only assume was for the entertainment factor) before McCann won it with the final pen. The final score was 3-2 from 10 penalties taken.
[McCann prepares to take the final spot kick]
However, we won the shootout in the end this time. That can only be a good sign.
The Away Support Was INCREDIBLE
Despite Sunday certainly not being St. Johnstone's finest hour the away support was superb. There were St. Johnstone fans than Arbroath fans at the game and we were heard in full voice.
[Fans turned out in large numbers]
Saints appeared to have sold out their away allocation and the fans didn't stop from minute 1-120. The reception of Glenn Middleton was brilliant when he was subbed off, the goal celebrations were immense and at the end of the shootout the overwhelming emotion of relief spilled over.
It is amazing to see St. Johnstone fans back out supporting the club the best we can. This team deserves it.
Onto Dundee in the quarters!