Maybe it’s time for a bit of Hampden Park rebranding.
The Mount Florida McDiarmid has a nice ring to it.
Let’s face it, the national stadium is becoming a home from home for the Perth side.
After writing another part of club history in this most glorious of seasons by knocking Rangers out of the Scottish Cup, Callum Davidson’s men will be embarking on a third trip to the south side of Glasgow in three months.
With the way they’re playing, and the way they have just got themselves to another semi-final, it will take quite a performance to stop them from making it four.
The phrase ‘greatest ever’ doesn’t last long when you’re talking about Saints these days.
But this victory may have to go straight to the top as far as greatest ever one-off cup result is concerned.
It was undeniably the most dramatic.
With Rangers having done what you have grown to expect Rangers to do – scoring a late extra-time goal – Saints responded in stoppage-time of that extra-time by coming up with the sort of equaliser that would make Roy of the Rovers think: ‘This is all a bit far-fetched’.
ST JOHNSTONE EQUALISE IN THE 120TH MINUTE! 😱😱
Goalkeeper Zander Clark flicks it on and Chris Kane slots it home! 🔵⚪
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) April 25, 2021
Zander Clark, magnificent all evening, got his head to a Liam Craig corner and helped the ball on for Chris Kane to score.
Then, the Perth keeper saved two spot-kicks in the penalty shoot-out and Ali McCann ended up being the man who clinched their spot in the last four.
What a time, and what a way, to beat Rangers for the first time in the Scottish Cup after 13 attempts.
With the season Saints are having, you wouldn’t want to draw them next, that’s for sure.
Davidson’s team selection and set-up had ‘what’s the worst than can happen’ written all over it.
For the matches against the top teams and the high stakes ones he has invariably gone with a one up front formation.
On this occasion though, encouraged by his players’ display against Rangers in midweek as well as having as near to a free hit as you get in professional sport, he started with both Stevie May and Guy Melamed.
Even the one change Davidson did make following Wednesday night’s draw was an attack-minded one – replacing Callum Booth with Scott Tanser at left wing-back.
It was Steven Gerrard who made several tweaks – as he said he would – five in total. The big guns were all back and so was the 4-3-3 system.
We had a nice sub-plot of Northern Ireland team-mates up against each other in central midfield and the young buck landed the first blow in the second minute of the contest.
Unfortunately for Saints, after McCann took the ball off Steven Davis’s toes and slipped a ball through the middle for May to chase, the striker was caught making his run too soon and was flagged offside.
The visitors had settled into the game nicely and earned themselves a few early corners.
When one of them broke down, however, they got a warning of how effective a counter-attacking team Rangers can be.
One sloppy touch from Tanser and within the blink of an eye Clark was making a fine save with his feet to deny Glen Kamara.
That corner gone wrong nearly resulted in it being 1-0 Rangers but another one from David Wotherspoon almost had the opposite result.
This time he picked out Tanser on the edge of the box. The Englishman struck as pure a volley as you could wish to see – perhaps too pure – and had it been a couple of yards either side of Allan McGregor there would have been a late goal of the season contender.
There was nearly a late blunder of the season contender just after the half-hour mark when McGregor could count himself to be a very lucky man.
Taking far too much time on the ball to pass it out from his six-yard line, he was closed down by May who managed to get a solid foot to a sliding block and it could just as easily have flown under the bar as over it.
Rangers finished the half more strongly than they started it and Alfredo Morelos should have scored at the back post when a Borna Barisic out-swinging corner was helped on by Filip Helander.
It was maybe no bad thing that referee Alan Muir didn’t add on much stoppage time as temperatures were rising as half-time approached, with Craig and Morelos clashing and then Wotherspoon sliding in late on Ianis Hagi.
You would imagine Davidson would have been extremely satisfied with a goalless scoreline at that stage, with the second period game plan being to hang in as long as possible and see if continuing to frustrate an opponent toiling to find its title-winning fluency may bring big end of match rewards.
He made a change shortly before the hour – Kane replacing a weary-looking Melamed.
A few minutes later things got a bit too close for comfort when Clark was beaten by a Morelos header from a Tavernier cross.
It’s one of football’s oldest clichés that you need the breaks at Ibrox and the ball coming back into Clark’s arms after it struck his right hand post certainly fell into that category.
Wotherspoon, like Melamed, hadn’t been able to put his creative stamp on the tie and swapping him with Craig Bryson was Davidson’s next change. Then it was Michael O’Halloran for May.
Morelos has enjoyed many special afternoons and nights as a Rangers player but this wasn’t one of them.
With his last touch of the game before being replaced by Kemar Roofe he failed to beat Clark with another back post header on 81 minutes.
The save from the Perth keeper was a fantastic one, though, as was one he produced to deny Scott Wright after he had danced through the Saints backline.
At the other end O’Halloran had a chance to get a shot away, albeit from an acute angle, but McGregor kept it out easily with his right boot.
Into extra-time we went and Clark picked up where he left off in the 90 by making a reaction save to stop Helander scoring at his near post.
Saints were a live goal threat themselves and Shaun Rooney came close with a left foot 18-yarder at the start of the second period. Then O’Halloran came even closer when he raced clear of the Rangers defence and forced McGregor to make his best save of the match.
Just as we looked to be heading for penalties, Tavernier gave Clark no chance with a downward back post header from an inswinging Joe Aribo cross.
In this most incredible of seasons there was another scarcely believable twist to come when in the last minute Clark came up for a corner, got his head to it and Kane scored a tap-in from his assist.
There wasn’t time for any more action and the tie had to be settled by a penalty shoot-out.
Clark was again the hero, saving the first and fourth spot-kicks from Tavernier and Roofe.
Saints were four from four flawless.
Craig, Booth, Jason Kerr and finally, McCann, sent them back to Hampden.
It’s a place they’re getting to know very well.