Manager Owen Coyle gave himself and place in the starting line-up for this CIS Insurance Cup Round 2 match with Elgin City, the Saints gaffer replacing the suspended Jason Scotland.
Derek Young got his second start in midfield while Steven Anderson replaced the injured Allan McManus.
Saints enjoyed most of the possession in the opening ten minutes of the match but struggled to create a chance that troubled visiting keeper Renton although Simon Mensing wasn’t far away from creating a menace after getting on the end of a Goran Stanic lob into the box right on the by-line
Owen Coyle and Steven Milne had half chances before the best chance of the match arrived in 15 minutes when a Kevin James header came off the underside of the crossbar and was cleared to the edge of the box where Paul Sheerin sent in a drive which wasn’t too far away.
The Saints were dominating possession with Elgin unable to build anything meaningful at all but for all the share of the ball they had, the home side were struggling to create clear-cut chances and it was the 35th minute before there was a close call – a Steven Milne shot from the edge of the box going wide of Renton’s right hand post.
Three minutes later an Andy Lawrie pass found Milne on the right hand side of the box and his cross was just a fraction too high for Martin Hardie who managed to get a header in but he put it over the bar.
Two minutes before the break the Elgin woodwork was again rattled, this time by one of their own defenders who sliced the ball against his own bar in a mad five second scramble caused by a great Stanic ball in from the left.
Incredibly, the final chance of the half fell to Elgin City with Mark Booth sneaking in unmarked for a header that went well wide but which represented City’s only half-chance of the first period.
The second half started with Elgin on the back foot again and Steven Milne was first to go close with a diving header from a Derek Young cross.
The 52nd minute saw Halliwell fail to hold a MacKay 22 yard free kick and in the scramble for the resulting loose ball, there were visiting appeals for a penalty when the Saints keeper appeared to grab the standing foot of Martin Johnston.
This opening spell of the second half finally saw City enjoy some possession in the final third but Halliwell was untroubled by a couple of long-range efforts.
Saints made a couple of changes just after the hour mark with Andy Jackson replacing Derek Young and Peter MacDonald coming on for Owen Coyle.
It was becoming increasingly difficult to see where a goal was going to come from – Saints were enjoying so much of the ball but dogged defending and a lack of a spark of invention was keeping Renton in the City goal relatively untroubled. That said, Saints came close twice in as many minutes – a MacDonald header being clutched by Renton and then a Sheerin shot being cleared off the line.
The remainder of the ninety minutes ran down in a frustratingly familiar pattern and for the second successive Tuesday 30 minutes extra time was the order of the day.
The first minute of extra-time saw a great chance for Saints but Milne’s header was straight at Renton who saved well.
The breakthrough finally came in 96 minutes but perhaps in keeping with what had gone before, it was from a penalty kick. A ball into the box by Stanic saw Hardie’s shot blocked but as he attempted to reach the loose ball after Renton had failed to hold the effort he was brought down by the City keeper. Thankfully, Paul Sheerin made his usual immaculate job of the spot kick much to the relief of the bulk of the crowd and significant goal scoring celebrations among the players were conspicuous by their absence.
The second half of extra time was only seconds old when Saints doubled their lead and it was the simplest of goals with sub Ryan Stevenson sending in a low drive from 25 yards and within seconds of the restart Saints scored again to make it 3-0 – something you would not have put money on five minutes earlier. Ryan Stevenson set Sheerin off down the left with a superb pass and the midfielder’s looping cross was met by the head of Steven Milne who got the goal his play deserved.
Against a tired Elgin side Saints were creating chances at will now and MacDonald was only thwarted by a great Renton save. However, ‘Peaso’ was not to be denied and despite being barged into by an Elgin defender he got the final touch to a great Stevenson cross to score from three yards to make it 4-0.
A comfortable win in the end but how Perth fans must have wished they could have got the goals within the 90 minutes.
SAINTS: Halliwell, Lawrie, Stanic, Mensing, Anderson, James, Young (Jackson), Hardie (Stevenson), Milne, Coyle (MacDonald), Sheerin.
Subs not used: Dyer, Cuthbert
ELGIN CITY: Renton, Kazcan, Dempsie, Easton, Dickson, Hind (Low), Gardiner (Campbell), Booth (Cooke), Johnston, Charlesworth, MacKay.
Subs not used: Finnigan, Knight
Martin Hardie in the thick of the action
Goran Stanic on a typical surge forward