by John Reid

It’s tales of the unexpected in the Stramash this week as the league cup takes centre stage with two unexpected finalists – St. Mirren and Hearts.

St. Mirren deservedly booked a place in the final after a 3-2 win over Celtic, which incredibly was the first time the Paisley side had scored against Celtic in three years.  New signing Esmael Goncalves gave the Saints an early lead, and even though Gary Hooper levelled right on half-time, the turning point came in five second half minutes, as firstly Charlie Mulgrew missed a penalty for Celtic, and then conceded one which Paul McGowan converted. Steven Thompson made it 3-1 shortly after, and even though Mulgrew did score a late consolation goal the Paisley reached their first final since 2010.  For Danny Lennon it was a day of triumph, whilst Neil Lennon’s poor record at Hampden continued, and he branded his team ‘soulless’ and ‘spoilt children’.

Hearts won a thriller at Easter Road 6-5 on penalties against Inverness, after the game had ended 1-1 after extra time.

Hearts had the better of the first half chances, but were made to pay when Andrew Shinnie gave Caley the lead.  But Hearts levelled through their very impressive new loan signing from Liverpool, Michael Ngoo.  Hearts were then reduced to ten men when Scott Robinson was sent off, but Caley were unable to take advantage, with even the prolific Billy McKay missing a sitter.  And so, after eleven straight penalties were converted, Inverness’ Philip Roberts blasted the ball over to send the majority of the fans into raptures.  For Hearts this is a huge financial boost, whilst Inverness were left to rue a great chance to reach their first cup final.

There were only three games in the SPL this weekend, and all ended in draws.  Aberdeen and Hibs and Dundee and Kilmarnock drew 0-0, whilst Dundee United and Ross County drew 1-1, with both Gary Mackay-Steven and Richard Brittain scoring terrific goals.

In the first division the top two both won, Morton beating Raith 1-0 and Partick defeating defeated Cowdenbeath 2-1.  Second division leaders Queen of the South had their game postponed, so second placed Alloa cut the gap at the top of the table to sixteen points with a 4-1 win over Stranraer.  The only game to go ahead in third division was Montrose’s visit to Rangers, and they came away with a creditable 1-1 draw which left Ibrox boss Ally McCoist furious with his team’s performance.

There is a full card of SPL fixtures this midweek, with Celtic against Kilmarnock, St. Mirren’s encounter with Inverness looking the stand-out matches.  The Stramash will be back on Thursday with a round-up and a look ahead to next weekend’s Scottish Cup games.