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May's cup ambition has not been trimmed by cutting criticism . . .

HE could hardly be more conspicuous.

Stevie May's personal Scottish Cup semi-finals record is not one wrapped in triumphal ribbons but the St Johnstone striker remains optimistic of reaching the final this season. Picture: Steve Welsh
Stevie May's personal Scottish Cup semi-finals record is not one wrapped in triumphal ribbons but the St Johnstone striker remains optimistic of reaching the final this season. Picture: Steve Welsh

Squat and burly with his long hair flowing, Stevie May patrols the front line of the St Johnstone attack with such an obvious visibility he is an inviting target for snipers.

Those firing the bullets can damn both in roars and whispers. The latter is the method used by those who denigrate the 21-year-old's performances by insisting he lacks that yard of pace, that he has not quite the technique to prosper at the very top.

Yet May stands on the brink of breaking a post-war goal-scoring record for St Johnstone. The Scotland under-21 internationalist has scored 18 goals in the SPFL Premiership this season, equalling a top-flight record set by Paul Wright back in season 1991/92.

This is no season in the sun, no sudden burst of productivity. May scored 19 goals in 22 games at Alloa Athletic and 25 in 33 appearances with Hamilton Academical. Both were loan spells and it is thus clear why St Johnstone welcome the 21-year-old back to the background aroma of fatted calf.

He has also attracted interest from Rotherham, Peterborough and Preston with more suitors likely to be calling in the summer.

The most obvious compliment, though, may be the roars from the Aberdeen fans at the Scottish Cup semi-final.

"I think most fans dislike me for some reason or another - but especially them," said May. "You kind of ignore it but, in the end, it would make it that bit sweeter if we were able to turn them over in the semi-final."

He is wry over both being the target and his reaction to it. "Why do they dislike me? They must not like my hair. I've had it cut now, so they might take a fancy to me. At 1-0 in the League Cup semi it wasn't that noticeable. At 4-0, it was a bit harder to ignore. But I would never let something like that affect me in a negative way. If anything, it spurs me on to do well."

There may be another reason. May knows he has never scored against Aberdeen in four attempts this season. The criticism is thus tainted by a taunt.

"They have made a lot out of that," May said of the Aberdeen fans. "It was similar last year, when I was at Hamilton, because Partick Thistle were the team I couldn't find the net against. They gave me a bit this season - but eventually I managed to score the last time we played against them."

May, though, is unfussed by the uproar that accompanies every movement when on the ball, restricting himself to the comment that a goal against Aberdeen would be made "much sweeter".

He added, however: "Having said that, I don't care if one of the Aberdeen players kicks it in, as long as the ball goes in their net and we get to the final."

May knows the degree of difficulty presented by Aberdeen at Ibrox on Sunday. St Johnstone have won only one match in 10 against Aberdeen. The Saints' history also shows eight losing semi-final appearances in the Scottish Cup.

He prefers to consider this record as evidence that Aberdeen are heavy favourites and may falter under this burden.

His personal record in the Scottish Cup semi-finals is not one wrapped in triumphal ribbons. "Yeah, that wasn't exactly a dream start - 3-0 down before the first half finished," he said of the semi-final defeat by Motherwell last season.

There was further disappointment for May at Tynecastle in the League Cup semi-final. Now he looks with hope towards Ibrox on Sunday where his and his team's cause could be helped by the inclusion of former Rangers forward Steven MacLean.

May was outmanned and outmuscled by Aberdeen central defenders Russell Anderson and Mark Reynolds at Tynecastle but MacLean would make it a more interesting battle on Sunday.

"There was massive disappointment after that loss," said May of that semi-final defeat. "But we had another agenda after that game - we had to go and finish in the top six. This is another massive game for us."

How big? "The biggest game of my career. For the club, it's also the next big step. We've done everything else, gone into Europe, consistently finished in the top six," he said.

"But we've struggled to get past this barrier. If it's going to be any season that we go on to win the cup, it might as well be this season."

And if it is his goal that takes St Johnstone past Aberdeen, the maligned May could be forgiven for both giving a shout of triumph and experiencing a quiet sense of satisfaction.

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