St Johnstone victorious as Falkirk pay the penalty
St Johnstone maintained pole position in their Betfred Cup group by seeing off the challenge of Championship side Falkirk.
Referee Bobby Madden awarded the Perth side three first-half penalties, with Liam Craig missing the first but Danny Swanson twice converting when he assumed responsibility from the spot.
A scrappy third goal after the interval rounded off a comfortable win, Steven MacLean initially credited but Joe Shaughnessy possibly getting the final touch.
With highly-regarded midfielder Will Vaulks lured south to Rotherham earlier in the week, Bairns manager Peter Houston wasted no time in blooding replacement John Rankin.
The home side were first to pose a serious threat, after 11 minutes, when Brian Easton's cross picked out MacLean 12 yards out and the centre-forward's looping header dropped onto the roof of the net.
Saints' early superiority was reflected in the award of two penalties in the space of 10 minutes.
First, Craig watched a tame strike beaten out by keeper Danny Rogers after Tom Taiwo took the legs from Swanson with a badly-timed challenge.
Madden again pointed to the spot in the 25th minute after spotting Paul Watson's tug on Shaughnessy.
Swanson took over spot-kick duties and his strike found the top corner despite the best efforts of on-loan Aberdeen keeper Rogers, who got a glove to it.
And the dismayed Bairns were penalised yet again in the 37th minute for Luke Leahy grabbing at Graham Cummins, which allowed Swanson to blast home his second.
Referee Madden was rounded on at half-time by various Falkirk players, who felt they had been denied a spot-kick of their own when Steven Anderson bundled over striker James Baird.
The Bairns tried to gain a foothold but Rankin was denied from distance by keeper Alan Mannus, with the Northern Ireland international turning his shot round the post.
Then midfielder James Craigen slammed another long-range effort wide of the target.
A well-timed Shaughnessy tackle was required to prevent Bairns skipper Mark Kerr snatching a close-range lifeline.
But in the 69th minute Saints ensured they would top the group when MacLean got the key touch in a goalmouth scramble and Shaughnessy helped the ball over the line.
Source : PA