Kallum Higginbotham sends St Johnstone to shock Scottish Cup exit

Higginbotham struck in the 13th minute of extra-time.

By Press Association Published: 22 January 2022 - 6.23pm

St Johnstone’s defence of the Scottish Cup ended in embarrassing fashion with a 1-0 defeat to part-timers Kelty Hearts.

The double cup holders were unbeaten in knockout competition last season but succumbed to a 10th successive loss as they crashed out at the first hurdle following Kallum Higginbotham’s strike in the 13th minute of extra-time.

The Premiership side, rock bottom in the league, failed to find a response against their League Two hosts and were booed off by angry fans at the full-time whistle.

The result will ramp up the pressure on under-fire manager Callum Davidson.

Saints came close twice in the space of a few seconds in the 11th minute as they sought an early breakthrough.

First, debutant Tony Gallacher sent in a superb cross from the left that picked out the run of Chris Kane, but the striker’s glancing header was turned away by Darren Jamieson.

And the Kelty keeper came to the rescue again just moments later.

This time, Ali Crawford found a pocket of space and curled in a shot from 25 yards out, only for Jamieson to beat away the effort at his left post.

The tie became bogged down in a midfield battle for most of the remainder of the first-half before Kelty came close on the stroke of half-time.

Striker Nathan Austin eased away from his markers before drilling in a long-range effort, but Zander Clark held on to his right.

St Johnstone emerged from the interval with renewed energy and threatened the breakthrough they wanted just a minute in.

Kelty only half cleared a corner and midfielder Jacob Butterfield’s drilled shot whistled inches over.

Skipper Liam Gordon flashed a 30-yard shot wide of the upright in the 58th minute and Nadir Ciftci nodded a James Brown cross over as Saints ramped up the pressure in search of the opener.

Kelty earned some respite with a Ross Philp drive that sailed just too high but they defended stoutly to force extra-time.

Crawford struck the bar with a free-kick in the 96th minute, but it was Kelty who stunned their Premiership opponents with the breakthrough.

The home side cleared a corner and Gallacher allowed the ball to bounce on the halfway line before being robbed of possession by Alfredo Agyeman to spark a counter-attack.

The substitute retained possession long enough for support to arrive and he picked out the run of Higginbotham.

The experienced campaigner coolly waited for an opening before slotting beyond Clark into the bottom corner.

Saints struggled to find a way of troubling their hosts as time ticked away and replacement Botti Biabi was inches away from a second for Kelty when he struck the bar in the second-half of extra-time.

And when Jamieson held onto Stevie May’s header with the last attack of the tie, it was clear it was going to be Kelty’s afternoon.

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