How previous goal attempt against Hearts inspired Zander Clark to Scottish Cup heroics against Rangers

When Zander Clark charged upfield in stoppage time of extra time at Ibrox on Sunday night, his mind flashed back to an afternoon in Dumfries six years ago.

Zander Clark's downward header is turned in by St Johnstone striker Chris Kane to make it 1-1 in stoppage time during the dramatic Scottish Cup tie at Ibrox. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

On that occasion, the then rookie goalkeeper on loan at Queen of the South came agonisingly close to grabbing an equaliser in a Championship fixture against Hearts.

Having fallen 2-1 behind in the closing stages, Clark went up for a 93rd minute corner and saw his header clip the outside of Hearts ‘keeper Neil Alexander’s left hand post.

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It’s an obscure incident which only Clark readily recalls. Not so his contribution to St Johnstone’s dramatic Scottish Cup quarter-final triumph over Rangers which will live long in the tournament’s folklore.

St Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark celebrates with his team-mates after the dramatic 122nd minute equaliser in the Scottish Cup quarter-final win over Rangers at Ibrox. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

When the 28-year-old got his head to Liam Craig’s 122nd minute corner for Chris Kane to stab home Saints’ stunning equaliser, he helped force the penalty shoot-out in which his saves from James Tavernier and Kemar Roofe clinched a place in the last four for the Perth club.

“I remember going up there during a game against Hearts when I was at Queen of the South and hitting the wrong side of the post,” said Clark.

“If a goalie goes up at that stage for a corner, he’s just trying to cause a bit of havoc. Everybody’s got a player they’re supposed to be marking. If somebody just picks you up, it’s usually one of the bigger ones.

“It’s about creating a bit of uncertainty. It is a risk for the defending team if you take a man off from marking a centre-half or a striker (to mark the opposition goalkeeper).

“I saw the ball all the way, got a glance on it, it hit Kano and we scored. That was that. It’s a great feeling. I’ll now need to see if the chairman will give me an assist bonus!

“I didn’t think I’d scored, I could see Kano put it in. But everybody was running to me so I was milking it!

“Then I just wanted to make sure we were all in place for the restart. I didn’t want Rangers scoring from the half-way line after that.”

Clark and Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor indulged in some good-natured banter before the penalty shoot-out which saw Craig, Callum Booth, Jason Kerr and Ali McCann all beat the Ibrox veteran with aplomb.

“Allan and myself were just having a laugh about how hard it is to save a penalty with the new rules (about movement off the line),” said Clark.

“You’re not allowed to do anything - it’s a free shot from 12 yards and they’ve made it even harder for goalies.

“But I was able to switch my focus quickly for the penalties. A shoot-out can be a bit of a lottery but if you do your homework you give yourself a better chance – which we had.

“Thankfully I saved the first one and the standard of the penalties from our boys was incredible. I’ve saved another one and Ali has finished the job off.

“After winning the League Cup this season, we’ve given ourselves the chance of a double. We’re going back to Hampden for the semi-final, which is great in itself. We’ll continue to take it game by game.”

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