Tuesday, 22 March 2011

St. Johnstone 1 Brechin 0

A game of little quality, that failed to live up to the heights of the initial tie, was comfortably won by St. Johnstone and takes them into the semi-final where they will face the winner of Motherwell versus Dundee United.  Brechin rarely threatened and, predictably, looked a very tired side.

Derek McInnes recalled Alan Maybury to the side, dropping Graham Gartland, and started with Chris Millar in the centre of midfield ahead of Jamie Adams.  One change for Brechin saw Gary Fusco brought in at the expense of Jamie Redman.

Jim Weir lined-up his side in an orthodox 4-4-2 with Rory McAllister and David McKenna in attack, although the pair were devoid of support from their midfield who sat behind the ball for most of the match.  St. Johnstone also took to the field in a 4-4-2 although their midfield was very fluid throughout the first half, even if their passing was not.  Liam Craig started on the left but would often drift inside and Chris Millar, the main creative spark for the home side, was free to roam all over the pitch.

First half

Brechin defended well for the most part, however, their only tactic going forward was to hit long balls towards McAllister, with McKenna running in-behind in the hope he could pick up any flick-ons.  They were forced into an early change when right-back Paul McLean hobbled off in the eleventh minute to be replaced by David White.

Even though St. Johnstone attempted to pass the ball around they were also prone to aimless punts up-field.  They created a number of chances early on, one of which forced Craig Nelson into a smart save and another which Craig should have finished after a low cross from Murray Davidson.

When they kept the ball on the ground, most of St Johnstone’s play was focused down the left through Craig, who looked to hit the strikers with early crosses.  Other than this, St. Johnstone had a frustrating tendency to pile players up towards the edge of the Brechin box and hit the ball long and high towards them.

There was a period in the first half where Millar would drop almost in line with his centre-backs in order to receive the ball but his willingness to create from deep was ignored as St. Johnstone continued to hit the ball long.

Peter Enckleman was forced into an excellent save from a low Fusco strike with just over half an hour played and McAllister wasted a decent opportunity after a shocking error from Steven Anderson, but that was as about as good as it got for the visitors.

Brechin were made to rue those missed opportunities when Colin Samuel opened the scoring after thirty-six minutes.  The ball broke to Davidson midway inside the opposing half and he sent a nicely weighted ball over the top of the Brechin defence.  Samuel outmuscled Gerry McLaughlin and saw his first effort rebound off the centre-half.  The ball then dropped to Samuel again and he fired across Nelson and inside the far post.  It was a decent finish from the Trinidad and Tobago striker, however, the goalkeeper’s attempt at a save was less than impressive.

Second half

The restart saw Brechin immediately show intent to search for an equaliser and they spent a short spell in the St. Johnstone half.  Nevertheless, they failed to create any chances and soon began to display signs of tiring.  Craig Molloy and Neil Janczyk were at the heart of some nice, if short-lived, passing moves but again found themselves overrun by St. Johnstone’s more energetic midfield.

The midfield four of St. Johnstone was now a lot more rigid than it had been in the first half and they now looked to get the ball towards Danny Invincible more often than not, whether to feet so he could run at Brechin left-back Andrew Cook or else via long diagonal balls.  The Australian managed to get the better of Cook on a few occasions but the resultant chances were wasted by his teammates.  None more so than a terrible effort from McDonald which flew high over the bar but which, in fairness, bobbled slightly before he unleashed his strike.

The match petered out to a close with Brechin struggling to get McAllister and McKenna in possession in dangerous areas and St. Johnstone rarely threatening to add to their lead.  The Perth side will now face Motherwell or Dundee United in the semi-final at Hampden and will have to tp their game significantly to have any chance of reaching their first ever Scottish Cup final.

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