QUEEN of the South may well be on the march to Hampden – again. Nearly seven years after their maiden appearance in the Scottish Cup final, the Doonhamers are dreaming of a return after sending holders St Johnstone crashing out.
Scorers: Queen of the South - Lyle 48, Reilly 90
Second-half goals from Derek Lyle and Gavin Reilly ensured the Dumfries side’s place in tomorrow’s quarter-final draw.
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“We’re absolutely delighted,” said Queens’ boss James Fowler. “Obviously it is a bit of an upset given the league they’re in but, with the players we have and being at home, we didn’t feel that this was an impossible task.
“I think the way we played showed that. We’ve had some decent wins here. We’ve beaten Hibs and Rangers. But this has probably got a bit of extra spice to it given it’s the cup and St Johnstone are from the league above.”
Saints were tackling Queens in the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1985 when they secured a 1-0 victory at their old Muirton Park ground.
James McFadden, the Tartan Army’s darling of Paris, was just a toddler back then but he was Saints’ big hope here, recalled to the starting line-up to replace Steven MacLean.
Queens were forced to weather some early pressure from St Johnstone, whose supporters had made the journey south in strong numbers.
Murray Davidson, the Saints midfielder, had his senses cleared when he was on the receiving end of a crunching Chris Higgins tackle 25 yards from goal in the seventh minute.
Referee Steven McLean deemed the Queens defender’s challenge worthy of a caution then whipped out his new can of vanishing spray before Dave Mackay’s free-kick was deflected wide.
The visitors were purposeful in the early exchanges and enjoyed reasonable spells of possession in the home side’s half but a Danny Swanson cross-shot apart, Queens keeper Jim Atkinson had little to do.
Queens gradually gained a foothold in the match and went on to create the better opportunities as an opening 45 minutes featuring more guts than guile drew to a close.
Ian McShane was just off target with a volley from just outside the box before Kevin Holt fired wide after a late run into the area to reach Lewis Kidd’s pinpoint delivery.
The Dumfries men started the second half as they finished the first, advancing with intent.
Paul Burns had a glorious chance to break the deadlock when he collected a Holt ball in the box but keeper Alan Mannus made an impressive block.
Queens took encouragement from that foray, though, and were to be rewarded seconds later.
Reilly swung over a cross which found Kidd whose pass was knocked home from close range by Lyle, pictured.
Michael O’Halloran was sent on by Perth boss Tommy Wright in a bid to rescue the situation but he fluffed his lines when presented with a chance from a Davidson header with only Atkinson to beat.
It turned out to be as close Saints came and, in the 89th minute, their reign as cup holders was over as the Doonhamers sealed victory.
There was plenty of space for the hosts to exploit on the counter attack with substitute Stephen McKenna’s centre finding Reilly, who kept his composure and beat Mannus.
“To go out of the cup at any stage whether you are the holders or not is disappointing,” said Wright. “We never really carved them open or created enough opportunities.”