SCOTTISH football’s standing took another battering in Perth this evening as St Johnstone were eliminated from the Europa League by a team ranked 446th in European football.
Tommy Wright had complained pre-match that Scotland’s European representatives don’t get enough help but in truth Saints let themselves down badly.
They were level on aggregate when Michael O’Halloran scored but lost a terrible goal 17 minute from time which effectively killed the tie.
Brad McKay managed to win the game late on but Saints were out on away goals and it was all off their own making.
It was a poor effort over the two legs and they should have done better.
They can argue they were missing players but it is no excuse.
Saints looked nervous early on as they stood off their opponents and failed to put them under any real pressure, perhaps cautious of not making any mistakes.
However, they settled in after 15 minutes and began to impose themselves on the Armenians had clearly come to sit in and frustrate the Perth side.
Increasingly, O’Halloran began to see more off the ball and Saints started to look all the better for it.
He served notice of his threat when he made a terrific run down the right in 25 minutes and delivered a great cross but Chris Kane headed wide from a decent position.
However, there was nothing the Armenians could do to stop O’Halloran in 34 minutes as Tommy Wright’s men roared into the lead.
Tam Scobbie played in a deep free kick which was cleared only as far as Joe Shaughnessy who lobbed the ball back into the box.
It broke to Frazer Wright whose shot was blocked by Kasparov but O’Halloran was there to slam the rebound high into the net.
It was just what Wright and his team needed. However, again they seemed to apply caution rather than attempting to build on their advantage,
Indeed, there was a scare just before half-time when Khoren Veranyan was allowed a free header from Aram Bareghamyan’s corner but thankfully for Saints he sent his effort over the top.
They were missing an entire midfield in the shape of Murray Davidson, Chris Millar, David Wotherspoon and Simon Lappin which certainly did not help but there should have been more purpose about their play.
Once again it was left to O’Halloran to enliven the team – and the crowd – when he made a superb run down the right side, despite the attentions of four Alashkert defenders, to win a corner in 63 minutes.
Then a minute later St Johnstone’s task was made slightly easier when Karen Muradyn was sent off for a second yellow card for a foul on Kane having been booked in 10 minutes for impeding Fraser Wright.
Saints still needed another goal and knew they could not afford to concede but the unthinkable happened in 73 minutes.
They were caught completely flat-footed as Araran Arakelyn played what seemed a simple ball over the top and suddenly Norayr Gyozalyn was through on his own.
Alan Mannus was too late to see the danger and as he raced off his line Gyozalyn simply lifted the ball over his head.
The Saints fans could not believe what they were seeing and their hearts sank as they realised European football was over for another season so desperately early.
They were given a lifeline four minutes from time when former Hearts defender Brad McKay hit a swerving right foot shot in off the left post from the edge of the box.
However, they could not find another goal and they were out on away goals.