The build-up to the Scottish Cup fourth round clash between Saints and Rangers was dominated by the Perth side not only giving three stands to the visiting support, of which there was in excess of 7,000, but the cost of ticket, St Johnstone fans having to fork out £30 to feel like a visitor in their home. Only an estimated 450 turned up as thousands of others took up the understandable position of boycotting.
Not much was missed as Rangers edged into the fifth round with a 1-0 win, given to them by a fabulous Borna Barisic in the first half. There was a feeling that this game was going to be a procession. A home tie for Michael Beale's side away from Ibrox. It was less formality and more struggle.
When the half-time whistle blew Beale stood on the edge of his technical area. He was still, as if pondering. Pondering a largely ineffectual, lethargic 45 minutes where once again it was about moments rather than dominance. In fact for periods St Johnstone were the more assured side. In a somewhat new look 4-4-1-1, led by Daniel Phillips, a composed figure in possession and disruptive one out of it, they were compact and organised. The visitors didn’t have the intensity or the wits to get in behind or down the sides. Except once. And once was all they needed.
Malik Tillman and Fashion Sakala. The two figures, sometimes inconsistent but often productive, combined down the left. The latter struck the base of the post and the ball rolled perfectly into the path of Barisic, reacting quicker than Graham Carey, who seconds earlier had replaced James Brown. The Croatian’s shot was brilliantly arced into the far top corner.
Rangers rarely looked like giving up that slender advantage. Only once were they troubled when James Tavernier had to clear a Theo Bair effort off the line, while Andy Considine had done similar up the other end with Remi Matthews pulling of a fabulous stop to deny Connor Goldson.
Beale continues to win. No better quality to have as a Rangers manager. He continues to do what Giovanni van Bronckhorst began failing to do. He’s had to contend with injury issues, of a demanding schedule while he waits for new arrivals, his arrivals. They are doing what is required of them. Keeping on the tails of Celtic in the Premiership, progressing in the cups. But the level of performance, the intensity and tempo needs to improve. There are only so long you can get away with lacklustre displays across large periods of games without being punished.
This game won't be remembered for what happened on the pitch, however. Even Barisic’s stunning strike failed to take away from what has been a sorry spell for St Johnstone fans, missing out on the chance to see their side compete and compete well with Rangers with plenty of positives for Callum Davidson to take.
The fact the full-time whistle barely registered said a lot about the football.