Spot on: How more Scottish Cup penalty shoot-out drama sent St Mirren back to Hampden at Kilmarnock's expense

What is it about the Scottish Cup, goalkeepers and penalty shoot-outs this season? A night after Zander Clark proved anointed as St Johnstone pulled off an almighty shock against Rangers, St Mirren prevailed over Kilmarnock, ultimately because Colin Doyle had feet, and hands, of clay.

The St Mirren players celebrate after winning the penalty shootout . (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
The St Mirren players celebrate after winning the penalty shootout . (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

An engrossing, error-strewn, 120 minutes that produced six goals - the score 2-2 after normal time, 3-3 after extra-time and then 5-4 on penalties - proved a personal nightmare for the home keeper. The goal bonanza began in abject fashion for him with only 25 minutes on the clock. A cross from the right flank by Ilkay Durmus that drifted his way should have been the simplest catch. Instead, he treated the ball like a bar of soap, allowing it to squirt through his hands and drop behind him and into the net.

However, despite that mortifying mistake, his team, following a whacky, winding contest, found themselves 3-2 up with only a minute of extra-time remaining. Doyle then, rashly, came to the edge of his area to confront Jake Doyle-Hayes, and only succeeded in taking man after the ball in a challenge on the St Mirren man. It led referee Don Robertson to point to the spot for the second time across the epic, with Jamie McGrath making the call count and bringing his team back from the brink with a confident conversion.

The Kilmarnock keeper could still have made amends in the shoot-out, but he really didn’t get close to any of the five penalties he faced. It meant that a miss by Rory MacKenzie, the third taker with Kilmarnock first up in the deciding phase, proved decisive.

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin at full time during the Scottish Cup Quarter Final between Kilmarnock and St Mirren at BBSP Stadium, Rugby Park . (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

It wasn’t supposed to be Kilmarnock’s night. Yet, somehow, despite being without talisman Kyle Lafferty through injury, despite going a goal behind, and despite being forced to play with 10 men throughout almost the entirety of extra-time, they almost found a way to earn a first appearance in the Scottish Cup semi-finals since they won the tournament in 1997.

Instead, though, it was St Mirren that claimed only a second last four appearance since their 1987 triumph, and a first since 2009. Indeed, it seemed for all the world that the see-saw encounter would be settled 3-2 in the home side’s favour by dint of a controversial call from Robertson. It appeared that McAllister got a touch on the ball when he challenged Brandon Haunstrup in the 101st minute just inside the box. However, the official read it differently, and Ross Millen gleefully accepted the opportunity to drill the resultant spot-kick down the middle.

The fact is though that the Rugby Park club lived dangerously all evening, and couldn’t escape without punishment when it truly counted. In their defence, that was perhaps a consequence of being a man short after Nicke Kabamba was forced off with injury five minutes into extra-time, Tommy Wright by then having committed replacements at the three allowed intervals.

An engrossing contest that was always in the balance and always played at full pelt, the vigour with which both teams attacked their tasks said everything about the semi-final line-up they were aiming to complete. The absence of both Celtic and Rangers from the competition’s last four for the first time in 15 years seemed to sharpen instincts. Well, at least when it came to guts being bust to make things happen in their opponents’ final third. In contrast, good defending requires calm assurance and concentration. There was little evidence of either facet across the evening.

Doyle was not alone on that front. Although his first howler came early, even at this stage, an advantage for a St Mirren side in the ascendancy across the opening exchanges felt as if it could be telling. Especially when the loss of Lafferty to a training injury the day before the tie had deprived them of a player who had bagged 10 goals in his previous six games to extricate the Ayrshire men from a perilous relegation predicament.

Yet, this didn’t take account of how fragile the Paisley club could prove at the back. A mere 12 minutes after going 1-0 up - and passing up a chance to double their advantage - their backline was found wanting when Zeno Issen Rossi showed a desire to meet a Chris Burke corner that wasn’t matched by any opponent. The Bournemouth loanee absolutely galloped into the box to batter a header high past Jak Alwnick.

A minute before the interval, the St Mirren defence were then utterly static as George Oakley made a piercing run down the right and delivered an inch-perfect cut-back for Greg Kiltie to steer an effort in off the far post, his low drive taking a slight deflection.

A tie that proved twistier than a corkscrew kept defying easy predictions, though. Following a late spell when they really cranked up the pressure, it was Kilmarnock that were this time aerially found wanting as Joe Shaughnessy was able to rise up above all others to make it 2-2 with a thumping header.

St Mirren did the pushing, only to find themselves looking at the exit door with Millen’s successful penalty hit, but in a competition that has never gone to type, they showed courage to force a third shoot-out of the four quarter finals and then hold their nerve within that.

Kilmarnock (4-4-2): Doyle; Millen, Rossi, Broadfoot, Haunstrup; Burke, Mulumbu (Tishibola 76), Power (Dicker 90), Pinnock; Kiltie (McKenzie 90), Oakley (Kabamba 81). Subs: McGowan, Dickamora, McKenzie, Whitehall, Waters, Rogers.

St Mirren (4-4-2): Alnwick; Fraser, McCarthy, Shaughnessy, Tait; Henderson, McGrath, Doyle-Hayes, Durmus (McAllister 72); Dennis (Erharon 61), Erwin (Quaner 61). Subs: Mason, McAllister, MacPherson, Finlayson, Reid, Lyness.

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