13 September 1961

On this day in 1961 St Johnstone defeated Motherwell 3 – 2 in a League Cup Quarter Final first Leg tie at Fir Park.

Saints had progressed through a tough Sectional group and had surprised many by overcoming Hibernian, Celtic and Partick Thistle to reach the last 8 eight in the competition.

Results were: Hibs ( H ) 1 – 1, ( A ) 1 – 4, Celtic ( A ) 1 – 0, ( H ) 2 – 0, Partick Thistle ( A ) 0 – 0, ( H ) 4 – 3.

Interestingly Roddy Grant’s father, Bobby, scored the winning goal at Parkhead.

In the League Saints had seen off Aberdeen by 4 – 1 at Muirton the previous Saturday, so the team went into the Motherwell match with confidence.

However, in the past Fir Park had not been a happy hunting ground for Saints.

In 17 previous visits they had only managed to record one League win ( 1 – 0 in 1935 ) with a similar scoreline in a League Cup Quarter Final tie in 1955.

Manager Bobby Brown selected the following team: – Billy Taylor, Charlie McFadyen, Jim Lachlan, Jim Little, Jim Ferguson, Ron McKinven, Matt McVittie, Ronnie Wright, Ian Gardiner, Johnnie Bell, Joe Henderson.

In what is reported as a thrilling end to end match Motherwell were the better side in the first half.  Saints, however, were not out of it and had some very good chances to take the lead during the first 25 minutes.

McVittie had a shot cleared off the line, Henderson shot over from a good position, the ‘Well keeper had a fine save from Gardiner, and Bell shot straight at him when clean through.

As often happens Motherwell went ahead immediately after this. 0 – 1.

Nonetheless this was a resiliant Saints team and the visiting fans were jumping for joy on 38 minutes when Ian Gardiner proded the ball home from 6 yards after great wing play by Matt McVittie. 1 – 1.

Just as the interval approached came tragedy for big Jim Ferguson when he headed the ball into his own goal. 1 – 2.

Billy Taylor was having a fantastic game in goal for Saints and was very much man of the match. During the early stages of the second half he made save after save to keep Saints in the game.

Then on 66 minutes came the turning point when Henderson dashed down the left wing before passing to Gardiner who in turn squared nicely for McVittie to pick his spot. 2 – 2 and game on.

Saints were now on top and 10 minutes from time Ronnie Wright scored an absolute beauty, hitting a 20 yarder into the top corner for 3 – 2.

In the final minute both Taylor and Lachlan made do or die saves to maintain the visitors hard fought advantage.

The second leg at Muirton the following week ended in a 1 – 1 draw to take Saints through to a semi final tie with Rangers.

For supporters of that time the names Taylor, McFadyen and Lachlan rolled off the tongue as it seemed that they were always the first three names on the teamsheet.

My research shows that, in fact, they appeared together in 126 matches, which is twice that of the next nearest,  Donaldson, Lambie and Coburn a decade later.


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