Completing their journey from a 7-0 humiliation to seventh heaven in seven days, St Mirren yesterday pulled off the shock of the year – north of the border, at least – to reach the Scottish Cup semi-finals by eliminating the favourites.
Billy Mehmet's second-half penalty ultimately made the difference, and both the spot kick and final result were thoroughly deserved after Craig Dargo had been hacked down by Stephen McManus, who in that one act epitomised a team short on constructive ideas.
Only a week ago, the Saints shipped seven in an SPL match at Parkhead against the same opponents. Though both clubs fielded almost identical personnel as in that previous meeting, with 10 starters on each side the same, the perform-ances were utterly different.
Chris Smith, St Mirren's goalkeeper, typified that, with a self-confessed "shocker" last time set against heroics yesterday. In the final seven minutes of the match he stopped two headers from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and a bobbling shot in wet, gusty conditions from Scott McDonald.
"Every single one of my players was outstanding," said Saints' manager, Gus MacPherson. "There was a lot of criticism after last week, some of it justified and some extremely difficult to take, and because of that, special mention has to be given to Chris Smith.
"He showed what he was all about today, there was good decision-making in what was difficult conditions for every player. He looked very confident and assured."
The Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, said he could not articulate how disappointed he was, but his body language yelled "gutted".
He said: "We are out and we didn't deserve to be anything else. We just didn't play well enough.
"It wasn't a tactical game and the weather meant you couldn't move the ball around that much, but we are not going to complain about that. The fact is they played well and we didn't do enough."
Celtic had the ball in the back of the net in the 14th minute, but McDonald's header from Shunsuke Nakamura was ruled offside. They created little else, and paid for it.Reuse content