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St Johnstone 2 Aberdeen 1: What a difference a May makes

WITH his ponytail, tattoos and wispy beard, Stevie May looks as if he should be playing bongos in a hippie commune in Formentera and grumbling about Ibiza selling its soul rather than making his way in this often heartless trade of money and machismo.

The St Johnstone players celebrate Stevie May's second, and winning, goal six minutes from full time in front of their supporters at Ibrox. Picture: SNS
The St Johnstone players celebrate Stevie May's second, and winning, goal six minutes from full time in front of their supporters at Ibrox. Picture: SNS

But it is in his actions that this 21-year-old offers an insight into his true personality. Beaches are clearly for the summertime only. When there's work to be done at the business end of the season, this tenacious little fellow, with the work ethic of a pit pony, is exactly the type of guy you want to call upon.

St Johnstone were going nowhere when he produced a pirouette Rudolf Nureyev would have been proud of ahead of cancelling out Niall McGinn's opening goal just after the hour mark. They had barely laid a glove on Aberdeen all season - losing two of three SPFL Premiership games, failing to score a goal and suffering a 4-0 humiliation in the League Cup semi-finals - and were struggling to land any telling blows in this particular confrontation.

May had squandered their best opportunity, toe poking the ball straight at Jamie Langfield midway through the first half after benefiting from a melee in the penalty box and being given a clear sight of goal.

Lesser men might have retreated into their shell in the wake of such a high-profile miss. May had spoken earlier in the week about his continued failure to score against Aberdeen and was given his customary degree of abuse by their supporters over the course of the 90 minutes.

The two finishes that ended their hopes of a 'double' and earned St Johnstone their first William Hill Scottish Cup final appearance in 130 years of existence proved that the robust physical presence of the Perthshire striker, with 25 goals for the campaign, is more than matched by a certain psychological strength.

His manager Tommy Wright looked to the heavens when May's winning goal hit the net. For his opposite number Derek McInnes this match must have resembled a descent into some kind of personal hell. He puts great emphasis on discipline at his club. How infuriating it must be that his side conspired to throw away a match that was comfortably within their grasp through a combination of profligacy and plain, simple error.

For starters, they missed four clear chances - one each for goalscorer McGinn and Peter Pawlett, and two for Adam Rooney - and St Johnstone would not have had the opportunity to get themselves back into contention on 61 minutes were it not for crippling and costly confusion in defence.

Full-back Shaleum Logan directed a volley of abuse at team-mate Langfield after having to direct a Dave Mackay cross behind for a corner when the goalkeeper failed to take control of the situation.

David Wotherspoon's delivery bounced around the box before James Dunne hooked it into May's path at one corner of the area. With one touch, he made possession his own, spun, and released a left-footed shot that flew into Langfield's left-hand corner.

His second, scored six minutes from time, was not quite so clinical, but what does that matter in the grand scheme of things? May, fittingly, created the chance by beating Logan to a long ball from Mackay and nodding it on to Stevie MacLean. MacLean is a skilful, underrated player. He has developed a fine on-field relationship with May this term and knew precisely where to place the ball to allow his striking partner to bustle through the heart of the Aberdeen defence and release a low shot that went straight through Langfield and into the net.

The body language of McInnes' players told its own story. They had blown the opportunities that had come their way and proved masters of their own downfall.

How well it had started for them, too, with McGinn scoring his fourth goal in four games on 15 minutes. Rooney positioned himself well to receive a chest-high ball from Ryan Jack and lay it off to Pawlett.

Showing fast feet and a deft touch, he slipped McGinn through on goal with a delicately weighted pass and the Northern Ireland internationalist despatched the ball into the advancing Alan Mannus' left-hand corner with a stroke of his right foot.

Rooney could have killed the match stone dead on 23 minutes before St Johnstone had even managed a shot on target. McGinn put him clean through on goal from the right - only for the Irishman to hit the ball of the Perthshire side's goalkeeper's left leg.

Even with St Johnstone gaining a solid foothold as the second half developed, Aberdeen passed up another gilt-edged chance three minutes before May decided enough was enough and seized the occasion by the scruff of the neck.

McGinn got himself into a great position on the left and, rather than play an early pass to Rooney, barged through the middle like a sexually frustrated rhinoceros before cutting inside and rolling the ball into the path of the onrushing Pawlett. The midfielder sliced his first-time effort so badly that it ended up bobbling out of play for a throw-in in front of the Main Stand side of the field.

With the scores at 1-1, Rooney put a header from a Willo Flood cross straight at Mannus and McGinn, with bags of time, somehow contrived to put the ball wide of the near post after Barry Robson had placed a terrific cross flush on his forehead.

May did not need to be asked twice when his match-winning opportunity came. He may look like a dishevelled casualty of the rave generation, but this is a lad who knows exactly what he wants and where he is going. In the short term, it is Celtic Park on May 17.

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