Murray Davidson couldn’t bear to watch as a late St Mirren Hampden onslaught threatened to crush his cup final dream.
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson endured rather than enjoyed those torturous last few minutes of Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final, as the Buddies bombarded the Perth penalty box with long-balls and long-throws in search of a dramatic last-gasp equaliser.
But the Perth boss has revealed his own ordeal was nothing compared to that of his players watching in their houses after a coronavirus outbreak spread through the McDiarmid Park camp in the build-up to the match.
And veteran midfielder Davidson, who has missed out on Saints’ 2014 Scottish Cup and 2021 Betfred Cup finals, found the experience of being helpless at home a “horrendous” one.
“All credit to St Mirren because they kept going,” said the Saints manager.
“They put on their big boys and got the ball forward quickly in the last five minutes.
“I think a few people had switched their TV off and had started walking round their gardens at that point.
“A few of the players who missed out had a Zoom call. Some of them turned it off because they couldn’t watch.
👋 Morning, @StJohnstone fans!
— Scottish Cup (@ScottishCup) May 10, 2021
“I know Liam Craig and Murray Davidson were so nervous. They said it was horrendous to watch the game.
“They would much rather have played and been involved.
“It’s unfortunate what happened but the players knew what to do. They all stepped up on the day.
“The way the players reacted to what happened through the week was fantastic.
“For the majority of the game I thought we were superb. We played with a high tempo and you could see the desire and confidence.”
Training routines will now be stripped back for the last two weeks of the season to try and avoid more coronavirus issues as best Saints can.
Davidson explained: “From now until the end of the season, especially with the Scottish Cup, the boys will basically come in their training kit, walk on the grass, train and then go home again.”
There won’t be any of Davidson’s sidelined players available to face Celtic in Saints’ penultimate Premiership fixture on Wednesday night.
“I have changed my team a lot throughout the season so that will probably continue for the remaining games,” he said.
“It’s not an issue for me, whoever I play.
“Look at midfield, where I have the likes of Craig Bryson, Liam Craig, Ali McCann, Murray Davidson and David Wotherspoon. It’s a great choice for me to have in there.
“Liam has been tremendous in the second part of the season.
“He stepped up to the mark when Murray got injured.
— St. Johnstone FC (@StJohnstone) May 10, 2021
“Up front I also have choices, with Glenn Middleton and Michael O’Halloran in great form and pressing for starts.
“I have been very pleased with the fitness of the players. We have always been strong at the end of games.
“The support staff like Alex Headrick and Mel Stewart deserve a lot of credit.”
David Wotherspoon received the man of the match award on Sunday afternoon but it could just as easily have gone to Craig Bryson.
The former Aberdeen and Derby County man’s performance oozed class and control.
“Craig showed again why I wanted to keep him here,” said Davidson.
“He had a hard time up in Aberdeen with injuries so we have tried to manage him and look after him.
“We are seeing the real Craig. His quality and composure was obvious against St Mirren.
“I have tended to play him in the bigger games, against the top sides, which probably hasn’t done him any favours.
“But that shows the level of trust I have in him.
“Craig has a lot of experience and he is a great person to have around the dressing room.
“He has played in huge games down south so he isn’t fazed by anything.”
Zander Clark wasn’t nearly as busy as he had been in the quarter-final (in either penalty box) but his first-half save to deny Lee Erwin was one of the key moments in the last-four contest.
“Zander has played really well in the big games for us,” said Davidson.
“He has produced really good saves at the right time in games.
“His concentration levels are there, especially when we have dominated matches.
“He has come up with world class saves at the right time. To me that’s a sign of a very good goalie.”
Clark and Callum Booth were two players who were “50/50” to even play at Hampden, Davidson reported.
“I thought Callum was sensational,” he added. “His energy levels and ability to use the ball well were tremendous.
“The only thing I would say is that he didn’t shoot quickly enough. He was wanting to take six passes and walk into the net!
“They were both doubts and hadn’t trained all week but the medical staff did a great job of getting them both on the pitch.
“It was a worry. I’ve been in football for a long time now and it’s probably the most stressed I’ve been.
“And I’m not really a stressful person.
“The pro licence doesn’t teach you how to deal with a pandemic.”