St Johnstone 2, Brechin City 1
Plucky Brechin City were knocked out of the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup by St Johnstone after a gritty performance against the SPL side at McDiarmid Park.
Murray Davidson opened the scoring for the home side after just five minutes but Paul McManus equalised for City in the 26th minute.
Saints caught City cold when they grabbed the lead for the second time just a minute into the re-start when Francisco Sandaza fired home from close range and, although City tried hard to get back into the match, the home defence successfully restricted their opportunities and City’s cup dreams for this season came to an end.
City’s team, announced just before the game, showed only one change from the side which defeated Forfar the previous Monday, with Gerry McGlauchlan coming in for the injured Scott Buist.
However, full-back David McClune suffered a recurrence of an injury during the pre-match warm-up and was replaced by Gary Fusco.
There were places on the bench for new signings Ewan Moyes and David Crawford.
As the game kicked off, Bryan Hodge assumed McClune’s left-back role with Fusco slotting into the left side of midfield.
The match was barely five minutes old when City found themselves a goal down.
Carl Finnigan had time and space to move towards the City penalty-area and he fired in a low, fierce drive which Craig Nelson did well to parry.
Unfortunately, however, Davidson was on hand to slot the rebound into the net.
Even at this early stage, the home side’s slick passing and off the ball movement was causing City problems but they had a couple of half-chances three minutes later when a good David McKenna pass sent McManus clear on the right and when his cross came into the box, Jim Lister, then Fusco both had shots blocked by the home defence.
A good move from Saints in the 14th minute almost reaped dividends when a good pass from Dave MacKay created an opportunity for Alan Maybury but he overan the ball and the chance was lost.
Saints continued to exert a lot of pressure though with Jody Morris heading a Davidson cross from the right past the post in the 21st minute and the same player came close again three minutes later but his header from a Liam Craig cross was again wide of the target.
Saints were well on top but they were shocked to the core just a couple of minutes later when City sensationally grabbed the equaliser.
Morris made a complete hash of a pass-back to keeper Peter Enkelman and McManus intercepted to round the keeper and slot the ball into the empty net. This goal gave the visitors confidence and Lister tried a shot from around 25 yards four minutes later which was well saved by Enkelman.
The game was now much more evenly balanced and, with nine minutes of the half remaining, a Sandaza shot from around 20 yards was well wide if the target.
The second-half had hardly got underway when City found themselves behind for the second time.
A cross from MacKay found Sandaza in space in the penalty-box and he wasted no time in dispatching a low drive past Nelson. City were down but not downhearted and a McManus long-range effort was well saved by Enkelman in the 54th minute.
City then had strong claims for a penalty denied by referee Mike Tumilty when a shot from Garry Brady appeared to strike the arm of Steven Anderson and at the other end Nelson did well to save a 25 yarder from Maybury.
Hodge then came to City’s rescue in the 63rd minute when he deflected a Finnigan effort for a corner.
With time beginning to run out substitute Derek Carcary collected a good pass from fellow sub Charlie King but he blasted the ball wide of the target from a tight angle.
City’s disappointment was compounded deep into stoppage time when McGlauchlan was given his marching orders by referee Tumilty for a second bookable offence.
St Johnstone - Enkelman, MacKay, Maybury, Morris, McCracken, Anderson, Finnigan, Davidson, Haber, Craig and Sandaza (Robertson).
Brechin City - Nelson, McLean, Fusco (Crawford), McGlauchlan, Dunlop, Brady, McKenna (King), Molloy, Lister (Carcary), McManus and Hodge.
Crowd - 2467.