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Cowdenbeath 0 St Johnstone 3: Perth side ease through delayed tie to set up St Mirren meeting

After an interminable wait for this tie to finally take place, St Johnstone wasted no time securing their passage to the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup at Central Park last night.

Steven MacLean rolls in a penalty to put St Johnstone two goals ahead
Steven MacLean rolls in a penalty to put St Johnstone two goals ahead

The encounter was originally due to be played on December 1 but succumbed to the weather on four separate occasions, much to the heightening frustration of both clubs. The freeze in Fife finally relented over the weekend and, at the fifth time of asking, it was the Perth side who took advantage of the relatively amiable conditions to book a last 16 tie against St Mirren. The hosts were laudably dogged, but tired in the second period, shipping goals to David McCracken, Steven MacLean and Gregory Tade.

While Steve Lomas, St Johnstone manager, last week bemoaned the perpetual postponements, you cannot help but feel the numerous deferrals had a more damaging effect on Cowdenbeath. The part-timers have struggled to find anywhere to train in the last three weeks but found themselves playing a second match against full-time opposition inside two days.

Little wonder, then, the visitors took the initiative in the early stages. St Johnstone quickly claimed complete territorial dominance and, through a Dave Mackay free-kick, forced Thomas Flynn into a fine early save. Murray Davidson then threatened with an effort from distance, firing a volley a foot over the crossbar. Thomas Scobbie was next to try his luck following some cute interplay with Liam Craig, but the subsequent shot on his weaker right foot had the same outcome as Davidson's.

With Cowdenbeath creeping back into the contest, they almost claimed the lead on the half-hour mark, with Dean Brett curling a superb effort inches past the post. In response, St Johnstone went even closer. Craig was allowed a troubling amount of space 25 yards from goal and his sumptuous swerving effort rattled an upright.

Having waited 16 days for resolution in this fourth-round encounter, you sensed St Johnstone had no intention of waiting another two for a replay in Perth. After just seven minutes of the second half Steven Anderson rose highest to head a Craig corner towards goal. Flynn produced a marvellous sprawling save before the ball was hacked off the line. However it only cleared as far as McCracken, whose trundling effort trickled into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

Anderson was proving imperious in the air and almost doubled the advantage, nodding just over the bar from another fine delivery.

Increasingly encumbered by fatigue, Cowdenbeath were struggling, but were presented with a terrific opportunity on the break. Kyle Miller, however, dragged his low shot wide.

St Johnstone, conversely, were able to introduce a player who won the trophy last term, Craig Beattie, and his impact was immediate, slotting a delightful through-pass for MacLean, who crashed to the turf under challenge from Flynn. Despite the goalkeeper appearing to make contact with the ball, referee John Beaton awarded a penalty. MacLean slotted in to the net with consummate ease.

Gloss was applied in the later stages as Tade broke a ragged offside trap before dancing past Flynn and rolling in to the net.

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