Nine Saints players leave Europa Conference League after play-off loss at crowded McDiarmid Park

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TASTING last week, distraught this time.

Callum Davidson’s nine men, St Johnstone, crashed during the Europa League conference against LASK.

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LASK converted on the spot to ensure victoryCredit: Willie Vass

Austrians boss Dominik Thalhammer called them “disgusting” after the 1-1 draw in Klagenfurt – and the Saints were exactly the same as they chased their opponents all over the pitch.

But after putting them out of the race for long stretches, it was a story of two benches.

LASK got Husein Balic to spin the game, scoring the opener before winning the penalty converted by Marko Raguz.

For the Saints, the highly anticipated arrival of David Wotherspoon has turned into a disaster.


The verdict

Pike perch clark – Made a great early block to deny Hong a goal in just a few minutes, then managed more to stop Michorl and Hong, but had no luck with the two goals from LASK. 8

Shaun rooney – He moved from his usual right-winger spot in the middle and was playing well until the red haze fell late for both warnings and the penalty conceded. 5

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Jason kerr – The skipper of the Saints stepped in to take on the role of midfielder in the last three and set an example. Can hold his head high after another assured performance on the Euro stage. 7

Jamie mccart – The only one of the three full-backs to play in his usual place and had a tough physical battle against Karamoko for most of the night. Defended solidly throughout. 6

James brown – Deployed as a right-back, so he must have been aware of the danger of Renner and Karamoko when he walked away from the pitch. Has advanced as well as defense. 6

Ali mccann – Considering the most difficult work on the pitch, bringing together the impressive Hong in midfield and doing well. Used to blocking and moving forward when he could. 6

Murray Davidson – Set the tone from the start with some awesome winning tackles that got fans up and bouncing McDiarmid Park. Didn’t deserve to be on the losing team. 8

Glenn middleton – Adds a huge spark of quality to the Saints frontline. Had two powerful targeted shots blocked in the second half as they pushed for a goal. 7

Callum cabin – Faced with the quick Nakamura, he had to be very careful with his defensive duties. Subbed late with the game for his team after the two goals. 6

Michael O’Halloran – He was asked to transform the LASK defense again this week and tricked Renner into an early booking. Excruciatingly close to the end of a rebound before LASK scored his goals. 7

Chris Kane – Once again, he led the line superbly for his team, manhandling defenders and winning key fouls at the top of the pitch. A player transformed in the last twelve months. 7

SubmarinesDavid Wotherspoon (Brown 75) – Was replaced by Brown immediately after the Saints conceded the opening goal. 0 Stevie May (Kane 87) – Brought the game beyond his side. 2 Reece Devine (Booth 87) – Launched in the final minutes for Booth. 2 Liam Craig (Middleton 87) – Given a run for Middleton fair to death. 2 Charlie Gilmour (McCann 90) – Replaced McCann in added time. 2


David Wotherspoon was kicked out for a nudge

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David Wotherspoon was kicked out for a nudgeCredit: Willie Vass

In just seconds, the attacking midfielder was sent off by German referee Daniel Siebert for nudging – before Shaun Rooney stepped on for taking down Balic for the penalty.

The Saints were starved of Liam Gordon and their makeshift defense was under pressure just four minutes later when Hyon-Seok Hong allowed the South Korean to sneak in for a shot on goal.

But despite being exposed, Clark stood straight at his near post and had enough chest to push him away.

The card-happy Siebert was involved early, flashing Rene Renner a yellow for pulling Ali McCann back as the young midfielder pulled away from him to the right.

From the free kick, they fashioned a chance for Chris Kane on the corner but his touch slipped away at the crucial moment.

The away team takes the lead

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The away team takes the leadCredit: Willie Vass

Much like the first leg, after resisting an early flurry, Davidson’s men set out to disrupt LASK’s game plan.

With Kane’s top three, Glenn Middleton and Michael O’Halloran refusing to let the defense settle and Murray Davidson flying in tackles in the middle of the park, they knocked McDiarmid upside down.

And in the 21st minute, the home fans in the East stand, although their team got ahead – only to realize that they hadn’t.

A galloping run from Davidson to the right resulted in a corner kick and with Middleton’s whipped ball wreaking havoc, he gunned Wiesinger before cutting Jason Kerr before flying a few inches wide.

For as comfortable as the Saints looked in spells, not keeping possession in midfield was fraught with pitfalls, as Hong was always on the prowl to unleash attacks.

He stepped forward himself in the 36th minute, slipped a superb ball to Keito Nakamura but Rooney was alert enough to block before he could test Clark.

The Saints team before the game at McDiarmid Park

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The Saints team before the game at McDiarmid ParkCredit: Willie Vass

The first half was as fragmented and disjointed as Davidson would have liked, with his team – led by Davidson – executing the game plan with huge success.

And in the second, again, they had to defend from the start as Peter Michorl saw the goal just inside the box, but Clark stretched out well to his right.

And the Scottish team’s new man was in action again in the 56th minute, beating Hong’s left-footed shot from 12 yards after he had too much room.

Davidson’s team waited and waited for the opportunity to open up – and it happened in the 66th minute.

A bouncing ball from Kane found its way to Middleton, but he couldn’t control it and was forced to clear.

Glenn Middleton challenges the ball

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Glenn Middleton challenges the ballCredit: Willie Vass

This allowed McCann to take a crack that was blocked before it fell on Middleton again, but this time submarine Jan Boller threw in full force to prevent the ball from reaching the goal of ‘Alexander Schlager.

The LASK defense couldn’t protect their keeper three minutes later as Kane laid off again for Middleton, but unfortunately for Davidson’s men Schlager was up to the task to push him back just enough to escape O ‘Halloran.

But, as we’ve seen time and time again in Europe, failing to capitalize was punished at the other end as LASK took the lead.

The local defense simply couldn’t clear their lines, allowing Karamoko to shoot a low cross into the area for the Balic submarine and having created space for himself, he fired a shot above Clark in the upper corner.

Davidson responded by giving Wotherspoon a huge standing ovation – then disaster struck.

After winning a throw to the other side, the attacking midfielder entered Flecker but waved an arm and caught him.

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Siebert didn’t need to think about it before reaching his top pocket.

The decision sparked fury among Saints players, with Rooney losing the lead to Thalhammer on the sideline before clinching a reservation for two wild challenges himself within seconds.

He then walked too, seven minutes from time, for pushing back Balic to concede a penalty.

Sub Raguz stepped up, sent Clark the wrong way, and booked LASK’s spot in the group stages as the usually mild-mannered Davidson traded insults with Thalhammer on the sideline.


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