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St Johnstone 2 Dundee United 0: First final, first cup, first class

THE patience of the Saints has finally paid off.

Steven Anderson beats Keith Watson to David Wotherspoon's corner at the back post to send St Johnstone on their way to Scottish Cup glory Photograph: Stewart Attwood
Steven Anderson beats Keith Watson to David Wotherspoon's corner at the back post to send St Johnstone on their way to Scottish Cup glory Photograph: Stewart Attwood

After the small matter of 130 years without one, the Perth club can finally call themselves major trophy winners after yesterday's William Hill Scottish Cup final victory over Dundee United. Grandparents, parents, and children alike gloried in this moment: the oldest cup in Scottish football was but 10 years old back when St Johnstone were formed.

Amid all the superstitious talk of fate, centring on the form of Stevie May and the May 17 fixture date which doubles as his shirt number, the goals came not from the 21-year-old, but from Steven Anderson and Steven MacLean. Anyone who regards St Johnstone as a one-man team was thoroughly disabused of that notion yesterday.

No, the Perth side are a blend of players at varying stages of their careers who utterly commit to the collective, and yesterday was a reminder of how powerful that can be. This comes right from the top, with the canny boardroom management of chairman Steve Brown and his father Geoff, whose prudent stewardship of this club in the wilderness years - when they found themselves outspent by competitors, often with money they didn't really have - only added to the sense that this day was long overdue.

Their Tayside rivals Dundee United, who had to wait until 1994 for a first Scottish Cup win themselves, even if they took it as recently as 2010, were to have no Arab spring. While they had the edge in the crowd statistics, bringing around 28,000 to the Perth side's 16,000, that still represented about a third of the population of Perth.

And Saints boss Tommy Wright appeared to score a minor tactical victory when his amateur psychology about Jackie McNamara leaving out teenagers Ryan Gauld and John Souttar came to fruition. Both started on the United bench, while the former Northern Ireland goalkeeper went with the same side which prevailed in the semi-final against Aberdeen.

This was the seventh Scottish Cup final held at Celtic Park, and the first since 1998. The Perth side had won the last three meetings between the two sides, with May scoring five in the process. And once all the pyrotechnics were out the way - some official, and a tangerine smoke bomb from the United - it was St Johnstone who settled the quickest.

First James Dunne stung the palms of Radoslaw Cierzniak from long range, then the goalkeeper had to be alert to defy Frazer Wright's half-hit effort. Wotherspoon seemed relieved to be on the field, given his last-minute omissions for both Hibs' Scottish Cup finals in his time there. He almost had the opener when he showed good balance and trickery to come off the left and fire in a finish which deflected into the arms of Cierzniak.

So dormant had United been during this opening period that it seemed only a matter of time before they erupted as an attacking force. And with Alan Mannus displaying occasional signs of nervousness, this they duly did when a sweeping move finally allowed Andy Robertson forward, and the PFA Scotland young player of the year's cross was met early by Dow. The Saints fans breathed a sigh of relief when his flick struck the inside of the post and traversed the six-yard-box before being cleared.

Anderson, in his testimonial year, has developed a recent habit of scoring goals, but he will never net a bigger one than yesterday's. Pledges to his testimonial fund are likely to increase significantly after he was isolated one-on-one at the far post to meet Wotherspoon's perfectly-flighted deep corner kick. Cierzniak complained he was impeded but in truth he was never getting there, the goal a carbon copy of one the same man scored against United in April.

Thanks to the immediate arrival of the half-time whistle, United had 15 minutes to stew over it all, and maybe it was inevitable that the second period would become a more tousled, harum-scarum affair. Ciftci, who would soon find himself engaged in mortal combat with Frazer Wright seemingly under every high ball, thought he had the equaliser when his flighted ­ free kick struck the underside of the bar, a grateful Mannus clutching it on the line after fearing he would knock it over.

But soon an incident occurred that made that controversy seem like a detail. Wotherspoon's free kick found Wright, whose looping header seemed perfect for May. Whatever was coursing through his grey cells, the striker untypically mistimed his initial header then elected to palm the ball into the net when surely he could have got something legal on the ball. The effort was first awarded, then overturned on the apparent advice of the additional assistant referee behind the goal.

Ciftci whistled one drive narrowly wide from 25 yards and substitute Brian Graham spurned two glorious opportunities late on, but May soon could breathe a sigh of relief. The ball broke off a covering United defender into the path of the excellent MacLean, who recovered his wits quickest after a 50/50 with the goalkeeper to steer the ball into the net from a seated position. The only other issue was locating his shirt again as he ran, bare-chested, into his supporters, earning a booking. It was a moment of bedlam which was 130 years in the making.

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