RANGERS THROUGH AFTER SCARE - St. Johnstone 0 Rangers 2 (McCaffrey og 42, Novo 78)
Rangers are through to the Fifth Round of the Scottish Cup following tonight's 2-0 win over St. Johnstone in Perth tonight - but it was an almighty struggle for most of the game until an own goal from Stuart McCaffrey turned the match on its' head.
The Ibrox men will now face Forfar Athletic at Station Park in the last sixteen - the 'Loons' having overwhelmed Forres Mechanics 6-1 this evening.
"Gers Manager Walter Smith made one change from Inverness with Nacho Novo being replaced by Steven Naismith, who was making a welcome return from a nine months injury absence sustained against the very same opposition as tonight in last year's semi-final.
'DAVID MURRAY MUST GO' proclaimed one banner amongst the travelling support on a bitterly cold night.
It was the home side who were first to threaten in the second minute when Gavin Swankie's eighteen-yard wide-angled free-kick was fisted behind by Allan McGregor.
Liam Craig twice came close to opening the scoring - firstly in fifteen minutes when his shot from the edge of the box from an Andy Jackson pass was touched over by McGregor, then seven minutes later his snap-shot from twenty yards whistled just wide of the target.
The home supporters were anticipating an upset as they taunted the Light Blue legions with "Broxi Bear - you're up for sale."
It was all Saints - Jackson's net-bound volley from Derek Holmes' header striking McGregor's legs in 32 minutes.
"Your season's over - why don't you go home" chorused the Perth fans - but when the opening goal arrived, perhaps inevitably, it came at the other end.
It was something of a personal disaster for home goalkeeper Alan Main who could easily have cleared the danger yet passed straight to Steve Davis. The midfielder fed Kris Boyd who squared across the face of goal to Kenny Miller only for the ball to be sliced into his own net by McCaffrey.
Rangers had been so bad during the first 45 minutes that the interval chat was that they were deliberately playing for a draw in order to cash in on a replay that would be televised by 'SKY'...
Somehow however one anticipated that there was only going to be one winner now with Rangers growing in confidence. Main redeemed himself somewhat in 56 minutes when he turned wide Miller's curler from Kirk Broadfoot's long pass.
St. Johnstone however had not yet given up the ghost - Derek Holmes' header from a cross from substitute Collin Samuel cross being deflected wide, then from the resultant Craig corner Kevin Rutkiewicz's header was just over.
Novo substituted for Naismith in seventy minutes - and sealed the win eight minutes later when he slotted home a square pass from Davis after Barry Ferguson had released the Ulsterman through on goal.
John Fleck, who had created history in last year's final as the youngest-ever player to win a Scottish Cup Winners' Medal, came on after 85 minutes alongside Lee McCulloch as they replaced Boyd and Miller respectively.
There were incredible scenes in the closing minutes as St. Johnstone fans moved on to the track in an attempt to intimidate the 'Gers fans - who thankfully ignored their taunts. Finally the police cleared the miscreants.
In the dying seconds Davis almost made it three when his shot from a Novo cross was blocked by Main.
Rangers were through - but it had been a less-than-impressive display from the Cup Holders.
Afterwards Assistant Manager Alistair McCoist commented:
"We're absolutely delighted to come through a tough hurdle tonight. We knew St. Johnstone would give us a tough game. They're top of their own League, undefeated for fourteen games."
ST. JOHNSTONE Main; Irvine, Hanlon (Sheerin 70); Morris, Rutkiewicz, McCaffrey; Millar, Craig, Holmes, Jackson (Samuel 58), Swankie (Milne 86)
UNUSED SUBS Gartland, McLean
RANGERS McGregor; Broadfoot, Weir, Bougherra, Papac; Davis, Mendes, Ferguson, Naismith (Novo 70); Boyd (Fleck 85), Miller (McCulloch 85)
UNUSED SUBS Wilson, Alexander
REFEREE Dougie McDonald