Football: Saints snatch late equaliser

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The Independent Online
VPS Vaasa 1 St Johnstone 1

A FIRST-HALF goal from the home striker Antti Pohja threatened to upset St Johnstone's Uefa Cup campaign in Finland yesterday, but Nathan Lowndes came to the rescue with a late equaliser for the Perth side in this first qualifying round first-leg game.

The Saints' defence was caught out in the 40th minute as Pohja was found in acres of space in the box from Jassa Jallonen's pass, and he shot low past Alan Main.

Sandy Clark's men were looking to qualify for the first round proper and they had several chances to gain the upper hand. However, some desperate defending from the Finns and some wasteful finishing let them down.

Only brave goalkeeping by Panu Toivonen prevented the visitors making an early breakthrough. Miguel Simao's centre found Gerry McMahon on the edge of the box and the keeper came out to block his effort.

The Finns looked dangerous on the break but the Saints were holding firm at the back after conceding seven goals in two games. They should have taken the lead when the ball broke to the full-back John McQuillan on the edge of the box and he caught Toivonen off his line, but Petri Kokko was there to clear. Simao picked up the resulting ball but Marko Suoste cleared the danger.

John O'Neil was given a good opportunity but he headed straight at Toivonen when he should have done better. Late in the first half Pohja struck for Vaasa to make the Saints pay for their missed chances.

The Perth side started the second half brightly. Simao shot wildly over the bar after Jim Weir's cross was headed out before. Toivonen was again alert to push Nick Dasovic's shot around the post, but the equaliser eventually arrived in the 76th minute when Lowndes, the former Watford striker, was on target.

VPS Vaasa: Toiuonem, Kaultonen, Suoste, Koko, Jallonen, Priha, Kangaskorpi, Enqvist, Jaakkola, Pohja, Sykora. Substitutes: Stringhim, Nygard, Sidonen, Essandoh, Sund, Tarkkio, Kaijasitta.

St Johnstone: Main, McQuillan, Bollan, Dasovic, Weir, Dods, Simao, O'Neil, McAnespie, McMahon, Kane. Substitutes: Griffin, Grant, O'Halloran, McCluskey, Lauchlan, Lowndes, Ferguson.

Referee: S Baskakov (Russia).