Saints headed into Saturday’s clash with Stirling Albion on the back of an agonising defeat on penalties to Brechin City, knowing that a win would guarantee top of Group B and progress to the next round of the League Cup. However, stakes were high because a win for the visitors would see them go top. Saints brought in Graham Cummins and Steven MacLean up front in place of lone striker Chris Kane, and switched goalkeepers to Alan Mannus.
Stirling kicked off, shooting into the Ormond Stand, but Saints piled on the pressure from the offset, as Swanson played in Alston whose low cross was deflected over after two minutes.
And Saints took the lead from the resulting corner as Liam Craig’s deep cross was headed in at the back post by Steven Anderson. 1-0.
At Saints’ next corner five minutes later, Graham Cummins headed at Smith only for his effort to be blocked. Saints weren’t satisfied with their one goal lead.
Saints had the ball in the net again after nine minutes through MacLean, but referee Cook ruled it out for offside.
It could have been two when a looping pass from Easton evaded the entire Albion defence and was controlled by Cummins, but when his pass came to Shaughnessy, the defender blasting over.
Ando looked to double his tally on 22 minutes, heading again from a Craig corner, but Smith matched his effort.
Danny Swanson’s free kick on the half hour mark came back off the wall, but Stirling failed to clear, and after a goalmouth stramash, the visitors were relieved to see Brian Easton’s shot curl wide.
Chris Millar was replaced by Paul Paton on moments later, with Saints making their first change with an hour left to play.
And Steven MacLean had his goal on 32 minutes, as Liam Craig’s corner was nodded across goal by Shaughnessy and headed beyond Smith by Macca for 2-0.
Stirling almost pulled a goal back with five minutes to the break as Bryan Hodge smashed a volley from all of 30 yards at goal, flying inches over Mannus’s bar.
Saints had their third before the break as Steven MacLean floated in an inch perfect early cross for Liam Craig, who nodded into the bottom corner, completely unmarked. 3-0.
And the half finished at 3-0, with Saints in the driving seat, looking a completely different side from Tuesday night.
Saints got the second half underway, and Stirling quickly brought on Scott Davidson for captain Ross McMillan and Marc McKenzie for Sean Dickson.
Saints made their second switch on the hour mark, bringing on David Wotherspoon for Easton, with Alston dropping to right back.
Graham Cummins came close to making it 4-0 when Swanson’s corner evaded Smith in the Stirling goal, but the Irishman just couldn’t get a firm connection with the cross.
Saints’ last change was to replace Danny Swanson with Michael Coulson with 20 minutes to go.
Cummins again came close, as MacLean picked him out with a placed cross ot the back post, but the former Rochdale striker headed just over.
And the Irishman’s luck went from bad to worse, when Coulson’s shot rebounded off the goalkeeper and Cummin’s finish was chalked off for offside.
Stirling brought on Moses Olanrewaju for Henderson with quarter of an hour remaining, looking to reduce the deficit.
One touch passing between Wotherspoon and MacLean culminated with the striker poking his shot wide from six yards, and moments later, Saints broke again and the striker was denied by Smith.
Liam Craig was next to be denied by Smith, as the goalkeeper parried the former Hibs midfielder’s shot from a tight angle behind.
Following a bad landing at a corner, Chris Smith was stretchered off and midfielder Eddie Ferns went in goals for the remaining 10 minutes.
Steven MacLean almost doubled his tally, nodding a Coulson cross just over with injury time looming.
And in injury time, David Wotherspoon made it 4-0 with a swift swing of his left boot, smashing in a MacLean passback from 18 yards.
Cook blew for the last time and Saints finished the match top of Group B, and progressed to the second round of the Betfred League Cup. FT: St Johnstone 4-0 Striling Albion.
St Johnstone: Mannus, Scobbie, Alston, Anderson, Millar (Paton, 30), MacLean, Swanson (Coulson, 70), Shaughnessy, Easton (Wotherspoon, 60), Craig, Cummins. Unused subs: Clark, Davidson, McKay, Kane.
Goals: Anderson (3), MacLean (32), Craig (43), Wotherspoon (90)
Stirling Albion: C Smith Hodge, R Smith, McMillan (Davidson, 49), Henderson (Olanrewaju, 74) , Ferns, D Smith, Verlaque, Dickson (McKenzie, 46), McCue, Forsyth. Unused subs: Binnie, Mills, Cavanagh, Docherty.
Attendance: 2,858 Referee: Barry Cook Man of the Match: Liam Craig.
Match report by Ross Gardiner.
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