ST JOHNSTONE’S manager was not particularly impressed with the sloppiness of some of his team’s play but, given the way some of the other results panned out around the country, Tommy Wright can be happy that his men are at least into the next round of the Scottish Cup.
Scorers: St Johnstone - May, 25; Jahic, 62
He will be even happier to learn that his players believe they can go all the way and deliver some major silverware for the first time in the club’s history. But he knows they will have to turn in a more complete performance in future ties if that ambition is to be realised.
With Saints sitting sixth in the Premiership, it was always an outside bet that Livingston, sixth in the Championship, would be able to deliver a shock and, in the end,
St Johnstone deserved their win but it could have been a whole lot edgier were it not for the carefully-timed intercessions of top goalscorer Stevie May, who opened the scoring midway through the first half, and new short-term signing, Sanel Jahic, whose 62nd-minute goal gave the Parth side the cushion they needed as Livingston tried desperately to craft a goal that would catapult them back into the match.
The visitors came close on several occasions, testing the home defence and goalkeeper Alan Mannus from set pieces and open play and their willingness to get on the ball and pass betrayed no sense of inferiority. It left Livingston manager John McGlynn baffled, unsure how his side had failed to capitalise on any of the chances but, in a decent match which saw the teams fairly evenly matched, the difference in the end was that St Johnstone were able to convert some of the opportunities that came their way.
Livingston could have opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Callum Fordyce forced an agile interception by Mannus after he connected with Martin Scott’s corner. But, at the other end, Kevin Walker was unable to stop May’s long-range strike low into the corner.
That goal might have unsettled Livingston but, instead, they stuck to their passing game and it was Saints who switched off slightly, allowing their guests to come back at them in search of an equaliser. Fordyce tested St Johnstone from another set piece just before the break but couldn’t find the net and it took the goal from Bosnian defender Jahic, in his first start for Saints, to ease some of the pressure.
The delivery came in from David Wotherspoon and Walker and his defence should have done better but, having failed to clear the danger, they paid the price. There was still almost half an hour to go, though, and Livingston kept trying to find a way through, with the likes of Stefan Scougall and Burton O’Brien ever willing to get on the ball. But, while they carved out some openings as a team, they were frustrated by some quality goalkeeping from Mannus, as well as a brilliant last-gasp tackle from Tom Scobbie to deny Marc McNulty. McNulty had a few attempts, while Fordyce had another before the end and Keaghan Jacobs also forced Mannus to save.
It wasn’t all one-sided, with the Perth side using the width of the park and the pace of their front men to hit on the counter, while substitute Rory Fallon was also denied by the crossbar.
“We knew as a team that it was going to be a tough game,” said May. “Every game in the cup is and you can tell that by the cup shocks that happen in nearly every round. We never underestimated Livingston, we knew they are a good passing side, but we got the job done.”
And now the focus is on progressing. “As a team we know it’s possible this season,” said May. “Every season you believe but, around the club, there is a real buzz when it comes to the cup competitions this season and we fancy our chances. I think the boys really believe it can be done this season. We fancy ourselves against anyone. We have got a lot of quality in our team and we are as hardworking as anyone, so there’s no reason why we can’t get to a final and anything can happen then.”