LEAVING Rangers for St Johnstone on loan back in January denied Glenn Middleton the chance to pick up a Premiership winners’ medal with the Ibrox club this season.

And the fact the winger had played for the Govan club in a Betfred Cup triumph over Falkirk in November also meant that he was unable to feature in the Perth club’s final win over Livingston at the end of February.

The 21-year-old, though, can still lay his hands on some silverware on May 22 after helping to ensure the McDairmid Park outfit reached the Scottish Cup final at Hampden yesterday.

Middleton’s arrival on the field in the second-half of a ferociously-contested, incident-packed and enormously entertaining semi against St Mirren yesterday proved decisive.

He provided the spark in the final third that enabled Callum Davidson’s charges to finally edge in front and then build on their lead; he teed up Chris Kane for the opener just seven minutes after taking to the field and then whipped in a free-kick himself three minutes later.

Conor McCarthy pulled one back for Jim Goodwin’s side with four minutes of regulation time remaining when he rose and headed a Jamie McGrath free-kick powerfully beyond Zander Clark.

That made for a few anxious moments for St Johnstone at the death. But they held on to triumph by the narrowest of margins to progress to their second final in less than three months and only the fifth in their entire 137 year history.

They will become the first club outwith Celtic and Rangers to do the League Cup and Scottish Cup double in the same season since Aberdeen achieved the rare feat way back in the 1989/90 campaign if they can defeat Hibernian on Saturday week.

If Middleton performs at the same high level as he did yesterday against Hibs – where he spent the first half of last season – then they have every chance of making a little piece of history. “Glenn came on and produced the magic for us,” said Davidson afterwards.

St Mirren, who had been pipped to a top six place by their opponents in the league after conceding a goal to Hamilton with a minute of their final fixture before the split remaining back in March, were devastated when Willie Collum blew the final whistle.

They were aggrieved to have not one but two strong claims for a penalty waved away early in the first-half – first when Kristian Dennis was fouled as he challenged for a lkay Durmus delivery and then when Jamie McCart handled the shot.

Colin Quaner, the German forward who had replaced Dennis after half-time, had also spurned a gilt-edged scoring chance from just a few yards out when the teams were still level after being supplied by the outstanding Durmus.

It was redolent of the sitter that Chris Iwelumo, the former St Mirren and St Johnstone striker, had missed in front of the same goal at the same stadium after he came on for Scotland in a World Cup qualifier against Norway back in 2008.

Their manager Jim Goodwin spoke on Friday of his fear of his team being branded nearly men after their near misses in the Betfred Cup and the Premiership this term. But this was another case of so-near-and-yet-so-far for them.

"Missing out on the top six by a couple of goals and getting to two cup semi-finals is a decent achievement,” said Goodwin. "It's not something we'll get overly excited about, but it's good considering three or four years ago we were celebrating winning the Championship.

"We don't want to talk about the Championship anymore. We don't want to ever consider going back down there. We want to be up here competing for top half finishes and going far in cup competitions."

In stark contrast to the beaten semi-finalists, St Johnstone, whose only major honour before the 2020/21 season kicked off back in August was the 2014 Scottish Cup, now have a chance to win two trophies this season.

The way they dealt with having four players ruled out by two positive Covid-19 tests in the build-up to the semi-final suggests they will not be deterred by the magnitude of the accomplishment they are on the brink of pulling off.

“It would be massive,” said Middleton. “That’s what everyone is sort of building up for now. I think, for the first time, there was maybe a wee bit of pressure on us today. I think everyone has handled that perfectly.”

Davidson revealed he had downed about six bottles of red wine during the days leading up to the semi-final as coronavirus wreaked havoc with his preparations. The former Scotland internationalist, who was only appointed to his first managerial role last summer, will raise a glass or two in celebration if his men prevail against Hibs. But he is taking nothing for granted.

“For a club like St Johnstone just to get to two cup finals is incredible,” he said. “It hasn’t been done before. We’ll now try and prepare and get everybody right for the final. Up until now, I hadn’t even thought about what it would mean. It was a really good game and I’m just glad we were the ones to get through in the end.

“You won’t see me for six weeks if we do it. Joking aside, I never look too far forward. Hibs are a fantastic side and it’s going to be a very tough game. Hopefully it will be another entertaining one – the Scottish Cup has certainly delivered these last few weeks.”