A routine victory over a team facing the prospect of a League One relegation battle may not be enough to spark dreams of a repeat of their historic heroics of 2014, but St Johnstone have at least negotiated the first possible bump on the road to Hampden.
A header from Steven MacLean, pictured, after just five minutes and a second from Blair Alston in the 32nd minute ensured any hopes the part-time visitors had of a shock were extinguished early. Saints failed to add gloss to a comfortable afternoon’s work but it was a case of job done and move on.
“Hopefully this is the start of a good cup run,” said manager Tommy Wright. “It’s important for every club. It adds excitement to your season and hopefully adds financial clout to your budget.
“We are always looking to do it and having won the cup recently it’s obviously fresh in our memories, and some of the players are still here. We know that five wins on the certain days that the cup ties are on and you win a trophy. So, four to go.”
Stenhousemuir had barely had time to survey their unfamiliar McDiarmid Park surroundings when they slipped behind in routine fashion. Chris Millar’s cross from the right edge of the box was dangerous and MacLean’s instinctive run and header from six yards out was rewarded with the opening goal.
Saints kept their tempo high throughout the first half and rarely gave their part-time visitors even the glimpse of an opportunity in attack. When the second duly arrived just after the half-hour mark there was a visible wilting in the Stenny ranks. Graham Cummins was brave to flick on a high ball to MacLean and when the striker back-heeled the ball on the edge of the area Alston speared in a low shot with the aid of a deflection.
“We made a great start and really the job was probably done once the second goal went in,” added Wright. “But if I’m being critical of us we should have made more of the possession we had in the second half.”
The interval revived the visitors’ resistance and they earned credit for their second-half performance. Only when Saints’ superior fitness told in the closing stages did the Premiership side look likely to add to their lead, but substitute Chris Kane’s shot on the turn was cleared off the line as the Stenny goal survived one last assault.
“To concede after five minutes was obviously not what we were looking for,” said Warriors manager Brown Ferguson. “It was too easy a goal and I don’t think we really recovered in the first half. We never did ourselves justice but we did that in the second-half.”