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St Johnstone stars’ play-off pedigree revealed: From Michael O’Halloran’s Wembley drama to Shaun Rooney v Callum Booth

Shaun Rooney and Callum Booth faced each other in 2019.
Shaun Rooney and Callum Booth faced each other in 2019.

Play-off football is all new to St Johnstone.

But plenty of their players have tasted the high stakes, nerve-shredding end-of-season contests with previous clubs both north and south of the border.

Courier Sport looks back on their experiences down the years.

From Michael O’Halloran’s Wembley penalty shoot-out that went all the way to the goalkeepers to Callum Booth’s trauma with Dundee United, there have been plenty of moments to remember and forget.

Zander Clark

In the month Saints were lifting the Scottish Cup eight years ago, Clark was trying to help loan club Queen of the South into the Premiership.

In the quarter-final the Doonhamers beat Falkirk 2-1 at Palmerston but lost 3-1 in the return leg, with future Tommy Wright recruit Blair Alston scoring the winner moments from the conclusion of extra-time.

Zander Clark playing for QoS at Ibrox.

This was a golden era for Queens and they made the play-offs the following year as well.

Rangers knocked them out – by just one goal.

Shaun Rooney

Saints’ cup final talisman has also had a couple of (failed) attempts at play-off promotion in his career.

In 2015, Rooney was part of the Queen’s Park side trying to get out of League Two that got past Arbroath but then lost 2-1 on aggregate to Stenhousemuir.

Four years later he and Jamie McCart were Inverness Caledonian Thistle team-mates (coming up against Booth) when the Highlanders were well beaten by Dundee United after knocking out Ayr United.

Liam Gordon

That 2015 Queen’s Park v Arbroath contest featured Gordon – on loan from Hearts – in maroon.

The current Perth captain got a stage further with Peterhead a couple of years later but they were thrashed 7-2 over the two-leg final by Forfar.

Liam Gordon during Peterhead's play-off against Forfar.
Liam Gordon during Peterhead’s play-off against Forfar.

Jamie McCart

At least there will be someone in the Saints defence on Friday night who knows what it’s like to emerge out of the play-offs victorious.

McCart was on loan from Celtic at Alloa in 2018 when they beat Dumbarton (after extra-time) to secure promotion to the Championship.

Jamie McCart celebrating with Alloa.
Jamie McCart celebrating with Alloa.

As mentioned above, 2019 with Caley Thistle was a different story, though.

Jacob Butterfield

Given Butterfield has spent the vast majority of his career in the English lower leagues, it would have been a big surprise if he hadn’t sampled some play-off action.

That happened just the once – 2016 at Derby County, in the company of Craig Bryson.

The Rams lost to Hull City and Butterfield only played the second leg of the semi-final.

Liam Craig

Craig’s two seasons away from McDiarmid Park with Hibs brought back-to-back play-off heartbreak.

The 2014 season’s climax was particularly brutal – and relevant to Saints’ current situation – given the Edinburgh club were the Premiership side when they lost to Hamilton Accies.

After taking a two-goal lead back to Easter Road, Hibs collapsed in front of their own supporters and ended up being defeated on penalties.

The following year Rangers beat them 2-1 in the semi-final.

Ali Crawford

One man’s East Road trauma was another man’s career high.

Crawford was a key man for Accies in 2014.

He is Saints’ most successful play-off performer, having helped Hamilton beat Dundee United in 2017 when they were the top-flight side.

Even Crawford doesn’t have a 100% record, however.

In 2019, he played for Doncaster Rovers who were beaten on penalties by Charlton Athletic.

He did convert his spot-kick, mind you.

Ali Crawford converts his penalty for Doncaster.
Ali Crawford converts his penalty for Doncaster.

Callum Booth

If Crawford’s record is the best of the current Perth squad, Booth’s is the worst.

There was a 2010 play-off final defeat to Forfar when he was on loan at Arbroath, then more misery as a Partick Thistle player in 2018 as the Premiership Jags were defeated by big underdogs Livingston.

Inverness defender Danny Devine shared the pain of that one.

The unwanted Booth hat-trick was completed with United the year after.

His last kick of the ball as a Tangerines’ player was the final penalty saved by St Mirren keeper Vaclav Hladky.

It was a shoot-out that still puts a shiver down the spine of United fans as every one of Robbie Neilson’s volunteers failed to score.

Cammy MacPherson was an unused substitute.

I’m sure he doesn’t mention it!

Craig Bryson

Before the 2016 disappointment alongside Butterfield, Bryson had got even closer to the Premier League with Derby two years earlier.

This should really have been the Rams’ day.

Playing against 10 men at Wembley for the last half-hour, chance after chance was missed before Bobby Zamora scored for Harry Redknapp’s QPR in the last minute.

Michael O’Halloran

Think you know everything about a three-time cup winner with St Johnstone?

Go straight to the top of the class if a young O’Halloran’s contribution to a memorable Wembley final rings a bell.

As a 21-year-old on a two-month loan from Bolton Wanderers, he was introduced during extra-time of Sheffield United’s clash against Huddersfield Town, with Championship football at stake for the two Yorkshire clubs.

O’Halloran made it 6-6 in sudden death of the penalty shoot-out (two kicks after Harry Maguire) but when it was the turn of the two goalkeepers to step up, United’s Steve Simonsen was the one who missed.

3 St Johnstone talking points: A timely play-off warning, Callum Davidson’s 2 Inverness selection dilemmas and a summer of goalkeeper change

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