St JOHNSTONE captain Dave Mackay believes Lady Luck owes he and his club a semi-final smile. Saints, still waiting on the first piece of major silverware in their history, have lost seven consecutive knockout semi-finals, their last disappointment coming with a 4-0 League Cup defeat by Aberdeen at Tynecastle at the end of January.
Raith Rovers 1 - 3 St Johnstone
SCORERS: Raith: Cardle (21), St Johnstone: McDonald (4), Hasselbaink (49), Anderson (79)
Referee: C Thomson
Venue: Stark’s Park
However, the Perth side, who proved too strong for Championship strugglers Raith Rovers in Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final tie in Kirkcaldy, have an early chance to avenge that defeat by the Dons after the two sides were paired together in next month’s semi-finals.
Mackay, 33, who has suffered his own fair share of semi-final agony in his career, said: “I’m due a bit of luck in one of them so, hopefully, this is the one.
“It would be amazing for the whole club. Obviously, as a player, you dream of getting to finals.
“I have only played in one [the 2003 Scottish Cup final for Dundee against Rangers] and that was a long time ago. They don’t come around very often, especially when you have the Old Firm. Maybe with Rangers being where they are at the moment, it has opened up the last few years but normally it is them who dominate. The last few years it has been clubs outside of them. We haven’t won one yet so this is hopefully the year.”
Tommy Wright’s team had to battle the elements as much as Raith but they got off to a great start when midfielder Gary McDonald opened the scoring in the third minute with a smartly-taken shot from 14 yards.
The lunchtime kick-off for a quarter-final tie live on television attracted just 3,767 fans and they were just settling down when St Johnstone took the lead.
Raith defender Paul Watson barged Saints striker Stevie May in the centre circle and, when Gary Miller hoisted the free kick high into the Fifers’ penalty box, Steven Anderson’s header fell to McDonald, who turned and rifled a right-footed drive past Rovers goalkeeper Lee Robinson.
On a day when the swirling wind made life impossible for both sides at times, Rovers midfielder Joe Cardle levelled in the 21st minute with a moment of real quality.
He picked up possession with time and space and looked up before arrowing a glorious drive past St Johnstone ’keeper Alan Mannus and in off the post for his seventh goal of the season.
The home side dominated towards the end of the first half and defender Dougie Hill headed a Cardle corner just wide from six yards before Ross Callachan nodded a free kick past the post.
Raith started the second half well, with Cardle flashing an angled drive wide of the target after capitalising on some slack defensive play by the visitors.
Grant Murray’s side were made to pay for those misses when, four minutes after the restart, Saints were back in front and in rather simple style when Nigel Hasselbaink sped into the Rovers box before knocking the ball past Robinson.
Defender Anderson then added a third from a corner.
A disappointed Raith manager Murray said: “We had a spell when we were on top for a wee bit but that’s what happens when you play against quality teams.
“If you don’t take your chances when they come along, they will punish you and they punished us in the second half.”
Saints manager Wright said: “I have said to the players that we deserve another crack at a semi-final to lay the ghost of the Tynecastle result.
“Hopefully we can also get a crack at a final.”