Squarefootball Diary; Saints Saddened By Loss; Black Cats Dodge Dross; Villa Thriller Is Blues Chiller

Squarefootball Diary - Sunday April 20 2008

Rangers will play Queen Of The South in the Scottish Cup final after Walter Smith’s side beat St.Johnstone on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Hampden Park.

Daniel McBreen’s extra-time header threatened to spring a shock, but after Nacho Novo’s equaliser from the penalty spot neither Steven Milne nor Jody Morris can match that feat in the ensuing shoot-out. Too furious to speak about his side‘s performance, Walter sends comedy right-hand man and all around cheeky chappie Ally McCoist to the press gathering;

“If anybody is to take credit for today's game it's St Johnstone.” observes the Gers striking legend;

“I thought they were terrific, and I genuinely feel sympathy for them being knocked out on penalites.” he adds, stopping short of offering to withdraw from the final on moral grounds.

Meanwhile Saints boss Derek McInnes joins in the sympathy vote;

“It's hard to take. There's not much you can say to make the boys feel better.” he comments. Ok, so we won’t try.

Game of the day in England depends mostly on whereabouts in the country you live or whether you are of the opinion that Sunderland are safe from relegation. Result of the day is a gong in less dispute, as Aston Villa romp to a 5-1 shellacking of bottom three botherers and second city neighbours Birmingham City.

There’s a brace each for Ashley Young and John Carew, while Gabby Agbonlahor completes the rout following Mikael Forssell’s rude interruption for Blues;

“We're still there fighting for the Uefa Cup. We're in full flow and the Everton game (on 27 April) is a massive one for us.” warns cock-a-hoop Villa boss Martin O’Neil, while Birmingham boss Alex McLeish sets about winning over the Blue half of the city with;

“You have to say that Villa's agenda is totally different to ours - the bottom line is that they are a better team.”

Honest, if slightly inadvisable.

Oh ok Newcastle fans, over to you now. Kevin Keegan’s second coming took a while to get going but it is in full swing after a 2-0 victory over Sunderland at St.James’ Park. Michael Owen heads the first after just three minutes and slots home a penalty just before half-time to leave Roy Keane’s men nervously hovering above the division’s dross;

“We lost three players this week but you can't make excuses like that.” says Roy, making excuses just like that;

“The scoreline of 2-0 was maybe about right but Sunderland fans might say it slightly flattered us.” chips in the perceptive Keegan, clearly unable to repeat anything else that Sunderland fans might say about the result.

It’s the Benjani Bowl at Eastlands where the Zimbabwean plays, scores and refuses to celebrate in Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Portsmouth.

Darius Vassell slides in to divert Stephen Ireland’s hopelessly miss-hit cross for the first, while Martin Petrov’s deflected effort has City cruising. Pompey pull one back through John Utaka but then lose Hermann Hreidarsson for a professional foul on Vassell. Enter Benjani, and a much needed three points for the apparently under-fire Sven;

“I do not feel under pressure - I have been around far too long for that.” he shrugs, quite the expert on overstaying his welcome.

‘Arry is not so ‘appy, bemoaning the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, particularly the bit about not scoring when you are on top;

“We gave away two terrible goals away. We missed some great opportunities to go one-up, but instead we found ourselves two-down.” he laments.

And so with a dizzying spin we turn back to Scotland, where a 1-1 draw between Dundee United and Hibernian keeps both a point behind Motherwell in the race for a UEFA Cup slot in the SPL. Dean Shiels opens the scoring for the Edinburgh side before Noel Hunt‘s equaliser three minutes later.

By Stephen Orford

21 April 2008