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Jim Jefferies <-auth Ken Gallacher auth-> Jim McCluskey
[G O'Boyle 50]
1 of 001 Alan Lawrence 45 ;Dave McPherson 55 SC A

Hearts made to work hard for their place in last four A night of missed chances proves expensive for St Johnstone

Ken Gallacher, Chief Football Writer

8 Mar 1996

St Johnstone....................1 Heart of Midlothian..........2

HEARTS are through to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup for the fourth time in five seasons and their fans are beginning to believe that, perhaps, this could be their year.

Not that there was much evidence of that last night at McDiarmid Park as the Edinburgh side struggled to defeat first division St Johnstone.

The Tynecastle supporters may have been singing "Hearts, Hearts, Glorious Hearts", but their heroes were far from that.

Their experienced defender Dave McPherson, who scored the decisive second goal, admitted: "St Johnstone were the better team for most of the game.

We were given a roasting by the manager at half-time for falling below our standards.

"But we scored the goals which mattered and that is what counts in the cup." With that, McPherson accurately summed up the tie.

The Perth side often showed the neater touches, and, at times, the better passing movements.

Before half-time, they had more opportunities to clinch their place in the last four than Hearts had had.

Yet, it was Hearts who struck to hammer home the lesson that McPherson pointed to after the game.

It would have been interesting to see how Hearts would have coped if they had gone behind in 39 minutes when George O`Boyle missed the best opening of the game up to that point.

Roddy Grant had sent Leigh Jenkinson clear down the left.

His cross to the far post found O'Boyle but the striker's shot went into the side netting.

It was a bad miss and it became even more crucial as the game edged into injury time at the end of that first period.

The match had gone two minutes over time when John Robertson made the pass which allowed Gary Mackay to move beyond the Saints defence on the left and strike the ball into goal.

Alan Lawrence met the cross at the near post and hooked it beyond Alan Main and Hearts were in front with none of them really caring whether they deserved that lead or not.

At the beginning of the second-half things looked even more bleak for the Perth side.

They had lost a goal at a bad time psychologically, and when the teams came out their experienced defender, Jim Weir, had been left in the dressing-room.

Weir had been injured early in the first half, played on, then left the field for four minutes for treatment.

When he returned he never looked as if he was comfortable.

Manager Paul Sturrock was forced to reshuffle his team with Danny Griffin joining Kevin McGowne at the heart of the defence and substitute Gary Farquhar moving into midfield.

The odds seemed stacked against them, yet they demonstrated, just as so many had predicted beforehand, that the gap between the two divisions is not as great as some may think.

Within five minutes they had equalised, with the goal going, deservedly, to O'Boyle, who began and ended the move.

Farquhar sent in a low ball from the left and O'Boyle scored from close range to give the first division men a glimpse of possible cup glory.

Sadly, it lasted for only five minutes.

Alan Preston was adjudged to have fouled John Colquhoun on the right wing.

Steve Fulton took the kick and struck it towards the far post where the towering figure of McPherson was waiting for the ball.

McPherson went up, headed the ball powerfully down, and across the line, and Hearts were back in command.

From then until the end they remained there despite some attacking flurries from the Perth men.

Hearts used their three substitutes following that second goal with Alan Johnston and John Millar replacing the veterans Robertson and Mackay.

Later, after Kevin Twaddle had taken over from John O'Neil for St Johnstone, Alan McManus replaced Fulton.

Before the end, Hearts' French keeper Gilles Russet stopped a long-range drive from Twaddle and held a volley from Farquhar, but Saints could not find a way through.

So, Hearts are the first of the premier division teams to make the last four for what the sponsors would see as a dream line-up in the semi-finals if they are joined by Rangers, Celtic, and Aberdeen.

Last night though, the first division teams who remain will have taken some comfort from the manner in which St Johnstone rose to the challenge.

They proved the pre-match predictions correct, that the gap between the premier division and the first division is growing less and less.

There was just one booking in a game which flowed freely with referee Jim McCluskey showing a yellow card to Jenkinson for a foul on Gary Locke early in the first half.

Afterwards, Saints manager Paul Sturrock said: "We lost concentration at a bad time.

We went to sleep after we equalised and allowed Hearts to go in front again." He added: "We showed that there is nothing between the two leagues." ST JOHNSTONE - Main, McQuillan, Preston, Sekerlioglu, Weir, McGowne, Griffin, O'Neil, Grant, O'Boyle, Jenkinson.

Substitutes - Farquhar, Twaddle, Robertson.

HEARTS - Rousset, Locke, Ritchie, McPherson, Mackay, Bruno, Lawrence, Colquhoun, Robertson, Fulton, Pointon.

Substitutes - Johnston, Millar, McManus.

Referee - J McCluskey (Stewarton).

Taken from the Herald

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