As football matches went, this one had a rather familiar ring to it. St Johnstone, who for long stretches of the game were dominant, somehow failed to capitalise on their good work and were left with nothing to show for it. For Walter Smith, the result saw him guide Rangers to their fifth consecutive cup final under his second term in office.
With both sides making one or two changes, it was St Johnstone who started the game with the bigger sense of urgency under the persistent snow. There were several good scoring opportunities in the opening twenty minutes, but Morris, Novo, Sheridan and Davidson all contrived not to put the yellow ball in the back of the net.
With a quarter of the game gone, Rangers began to take the upper hand. Some fine play from Davis causing havoc in the St Johnstone defence. Davis’ pressure eventually paid off, when he squeezed home a shot from the tightest of angles to open the scoring.
The Saints came back at Rangers from the restart and they nearly converted a quickly taken free kick on thirty two minutes, but Alexander gathered comfortably in the end. Shortly afterwards, the Saints almost went level when David Weir contrived to thunder a header towards his own goal, narrowly missing the target.
However, this strong pressure from St Johnstone again failed to count when, on thirty six minutes, Lee McCulloch fired home a goal from just outside the Saints’ eighteen yard box. Once again, it was Steven Davis providing the assist that broke down the opposition defence.
St Johnstone had one last effort before half time, with a good header from a corner, but the last five minutes of the first half were mostly Rangers.
The half time interval saw valiant efforts from the Hampden ground staff, as the thickening snow was cleared from the lines. It also saw a change in the lineups, with Derek McInnes replacing Morais with Milne. Certainly, it was once again St Johnstone who started with a real sense of urgency. Most of the play in the opening fifteen minutes of the second half took place around Rangers’ eighteen yard box. On loan Cillian Sheridan continued to be a thorn in Rangers’ side.
Substitutions from Rangers soon followed, with Little replacing the ineffective Lafferty and Naismith replacing a tiring Novo. These changes appeared to break up the momentum and took the sting out of Saints’ attack. A few minutes later, Sheridan went off to be replaced by fans’ favourite, McDonald.
Rangers began sitting back, inviting trouble and were lucky to be awarded what looked like a soft penalty. Naismith’s poor conversion was easily saved by Smith. The miss galvanised the Saint’s support, who had been in fine voice throughout the night, and the chant of, “We’re going to win 3-2” rattled round Hamdpen.
For all of that, it was Rangers who came closest to adding to the scoring, with Fleck offering more and more as the match went on. However, there was to be no further scoring and the match ended with Saints’ rueing the missed opportunity.
It is Rangers who now go on to meet St Mirren in the final in March.
Man of the Match – Steven Davis
Attendance – 17,900