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St Johnstone 1-0 Falkirk: Saints take control of Betfred Cup group

The Saints players celebrate Stefan Scougall's winner.
The Saints players celebrate Stefan Scougall's winner.

St Johnstone seized control of their Betfred Cup group with a narrow but comfortable win over their Championship opponents.

A first half Stefan Scougall strike was enough to help Saints leapfrog League One Montrose ahead of their weekend trip to Forfar.

The only bad news for the former Sheffield United man was being out of the contest midway through the second half after suffering a facial knock.

The Perth club’s latest signing, Matty Kennedy, secured international clearance after his weekend switch from Cardiff City on a two-year contract and the left winger was listed among the substitutes.

Striker Tony Watt, who netted the winner against Montrose at the weekend, led the line on his home debut, with Scougall playing a supporting role.

There was an unfamiliar look to the Falkirk line-up, with manager Paul Hartley undertaking a major overhaul of the Brockville squad which avoided relegation last season, although one-time Saint Paul Paton cut an instantly recognisable figure in the engine room.

The Northern Ireland international tried his luck from 30 yards in the 12th minute when Zander Clark left his line to punch clear a swinging Thomas Robson free-kick from the right flank, only for his ambitious effort to find the keeper.

Saints skipper Liam Craig tumbled to the turf after a shove from winger Deimantas Petravicius but referee Craig Thomson ignored the touchline altercation.

Minutes later roving centre Watt posed problems for the Falkirk rearguard cutting in from the wing but his teasing cross found no takers.

On a clammy evening players from both sides took advantage of a head knock sustained by Scougall in the 25th minute for a water break.

Saints forged ahead in the 31st minute with their passing play unlocking the Bairns defence.

Playing in a number 10 role, Scougall pounced on a pass from Drey Wright, exchanged touches with full-back Richard Foster and stroked a fine 16-yard finish into the far corner of the net.

The Bairns were being pinned back and a low driven free-kick from Perth skipper Craig almost teed-up a close range chance for Watt seven minutes from the interval.

And with Saints on top Murray Davidson missed out with a spectacular bid to connect with a Wright cut-back on the stroke of half-time.

A finely delivered Foster cross was heading for Watt before defender Scott Harrison rose to head clear in the 50th minute.

The Bairns posed a threat with a long ball aimed at Dennon Lewis, the one-time Watford striker. But keeper Clark was alive to the danger and raced from his area to head the ball clear.

And in the 64th minute a misplaced Wotherspoon pass presented Robson with an opportunity but the winger dragged his shot wide, to the obvious relief of the errant Perth midfielder.

Scougall suffered a blow to the face in the 68th minute and was replaced by Irish youngster Kyle McClean for the closing stages.

Keeper Fasan denied Watt with a point-blank save and Davidson had a net-bound effort bundled past for a corner.

Falkirk did push forward in the closing stages and provided home fans with a late scare, only for keeper Clark to block Scott Harrison’s angled strike with his legs and preserve a third successive clean sheet.

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