Football: Simao spark burns Well

Motherwell 0 St Johnstone 2 Dods 71, Simao 80 Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 7,660
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The Independent Online
ST JOHNSTONE are 90 minutes away from their second cup final of a splendid season after a ruthless display of finishing booked their place in the Scottish Cup semi-finals.

While Motherwell laboured without their own departed talisman, Owen Coyle, Saints seized the day at Fir Park. Darren Dods' header and artful plundering from Miguel Simao left the League Cup runners-up dreaming of eclipsing that honour. Simao plunged in the knife with 10 minutes left, getting to a loose ball ahead of Andy Goram and flicking it over the struggling former Scotland goalkeeper.

Traditionalists would disapprove of only one of the quarter-finals actually being played on the designated day, but such is the power of television that the only all-Premier League tie of the four ensured Fir Park monopolised the attention.

Motherwell, however, have not enjoyed the glare of publicity recently. Six weeks ago, they were flavour of the month after ending Hearts' reign as cup holders, but it has been nothing but bad news since. First Goram's choice of friends in Northern Ireland drew unwanted headlines, then came a 7-1 drubbing by Celtic, and then Coyle was transferred to Dunfermline on Friday claiming he was forced out the club.

In the frenetic opening, Roddy Grant, whose recent rash of goals have done much to push St Johnstone into third place in the league, twice brought the best out of Goram. On the first occasion, he dived full length to claw back Grant's 25-yard shot, and then, in the 28th minute, the burly striker watched Goram beat out his shot after a fine set-up by Nathan Lowndes.

Yet John Spencer's booking for a late tackle on John McQuillan underlined that the nasty undercurrent ran deep.

Lowndes, who had been booked just before half-time for his feud with Shaun Teale, was replaced at the interval by Simao and the Portuguese forward injected variety and pace into St Johnstone's attacks.

Twice they came close to breaking the deadlock. Paul Kane's 51st minute corner had Goram struggling and his weak punch was returned by Grant, only for Teale to clear the header off the line. Gary Bollan's corner was equally troublesome, with Dods' glancing header bouncing wide.

Well's toothless display underlined how much they missed Coyle, especially in the 71st minute when his deputy, Derek Adams, blazed a volley over the bar after neat work from Spencer and substitute Pat Nevin opened up St Johnstone.

Within two minutes, Motherwell paid the price for that profligacy. Bollan delivered another deep corner and Dods rose to power a header into the space beyond Goram.