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St Johnstone 2 Aberdeen 1: Striker's perfect riposte to pelters as St Johnstone's perseverance pays off

THEY are the most unlikely bunch of history makers.

Steven Anderson throws his shirt to the fans. Picture: Martin Shields
Steven Anderson throws his shirt to the fans. Picture: Martin Shields

Where such as Henry Hall, Kenny Aird, John Connolly, and, yes, Ally McCoist failed in a St Johnstone shirt then such as Steven Anderson, Chris Millar, Michael O'Halloran and James Dunne have succeeded.

St Johnstone have reached a Scottish Cup final for the first time in 130 years of their history with a team of players who would not stop traffic on Perth high street. This is a club so undervalued, so overlooked that one could be forgiven for believing any ultimate final win would be greeted by a swift chunter around the city in an open-top tractor. There may be jibes at how long it has taken the club to reach a final but they will be affectionate. This is a club that is well run, well organised and, well, reliant on the kindness of both friends and strangers when it comes to surviving in a modern world.

Their ascent to the final yesterday was marked with virtues that were gently warming on a chilly afternoon. Much was made of Saints' run of semi-final defeats that stretches to seven in all competitions in the past 15 years and eight in their Scottish Cup history. The players were thus burdened with a past that has an added personal resonance, many of them having featured in the 4-0 League Cup semi-defeat at Tynecastle in February. They were, too, shorn of Lee Croft, the Englishman being declared unfit just before the match.

An Aberdeen goal through Niall McGinn must further have weighed upon the collective psyche and when Stevie May missed a good chance to equalise then the St Johnstone players could have been forgiven for believing that not only was this not their day, it was not their 130 years.

They were rescued by football values that have proved resistant to age. They worked, they believed and they won. Players who are as famous as a band of Estonian harpsichordists were quietly effective. Millar, at 31, tirelessly patrolled the area in front of his back four, Dave Mackay will never achieve the eminence of his more famous namesake but he was similarly unyielding, O'Halloran, signed from Bolton Wanderers after never making an appearance for the Lancashire side, came in late to replace Croft and deserved the hug from Tommy Wright, his manager, when he was substituted.

There were others. Alan Mannus thanked Derek McInnes, now the Aberdeen manager but once in charge of St Johnstone, for giving him a chance when no-one else in Scotland would. The goalkeeper's gratitude did not stop him breaking his former manager's heart with a brilliant save when St Johnstone were already 1-0 down.

In front of him ran James Dunne, on loan from Stevenage, and Frazer Wright, at 34, on loan from an exhibition marked The Typical Caledonian Centre-Half.

St Johnstone thus were brilliantly served by their players but Wright, too, commands respect and admiration for the way he set up and galvanised his side. May was placed in a wide-left position and the 21-year-old showed extraordinary discipline and commitment in the face of non-stop taunting. He also shrugged off a miss in the first half. Assailed by the roar of "Who the **** is Stevie May", he answered conclusively. The Aberdeen fans ken noo. His two goals were a personal triumph and the result of collective effort, not least from Steven MacLean, a former Rangers player whose employment before his arrival in Perth was a loan spell at Cheltenham Town. May takes the headlines, MacLean took the bumps and knocks without complaint, and dished them out with an unfailing generosity.

Wright, too, addressed the flaws that led to defeat in the semi-final of the League Cup. The May-MacLean pairing gave St Johnstone a threat in attack and possession was guarded lest Aberdeen repeat the breaks that consigned St Johnstone to defeat at Tynecastle. There was still danger for the Saints and Aberdeen will rue misses from Peter Pawlett, Adam Rooney, Barry Robson and McGinn.

However, the history boys of St Johnstone deserved a victory that was 130 years in the making. And so did their fans. One stumbling out of the main stand in an understandable delirium shouted: "We are on our way to Hampden."

He was immediately informed the final will be played at Celtic Park. He replied briskly: "Who cares?"

Who indeed? The fact that St Johnstone have made a William Hill Scottish Cup final makes mere details irrelevant.

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