On this day in 1970 St Johnstone travelled to Rugby Park to meet Kilmarnock in a League Division 1 fixture.
Kilmarnock had been Scottish League Champions in 1965 and prior to this match Saints record at Rugby Park had been nothing short of abysmal. From 34 previous visits in both League and Cup matches dating back to 1924 Saints had managed to record a win on only 3 occasions.
Going into the match Manager Willie Ormond stuck with the team that had rescued a point the previous Monday in a 2 – 2 draw at lowly Cowdenbeath thanks to an injury time equaliser by Henry Hall.
He selected the following: – Jimmy Donaldson, Willie Coburn, Jim Argue, Benny Rooney, Alex Gordon, Alex Rennie, Kenny Aird, Henry Hall, John Connolly, Ian McPhee, Fred Aitken. 12th man: – John Lambie.
Belying their previous mixed form the home team opened the scoring in the 11th minute when a Tommy McLean cross caused some confusion in the Saints defence and ended up in the net.
Saints then took complete control and future Scotland keeper Ally Hunter made spectacular saves from both Aird and Aitken. A Hall lob grazed the outside of the post before Henry created the equalising goal in 38 minutes for Connolly who scored from close range.
On the stroke of half time Aitken saw his first attempt on goal stopped on the line by a defender but the big winger latched on to the rebound to crash the ball into the net to put the visitors 2 – 1 ahead.
As you might expect Killie worked hard in the second half to get back on level terms. However, Saints defence withstood the pressure and 16 minutes from the end Connolly scored the third with a swift turn and shot that left the keeper diving in vain.
One minute later it was Hall who took advantage of a poor clearance to run virtually unchallenged into the box and slide the ball into the net past the keeper’s despairing grasp.
Killie did manage to pull one back just on the final whistle through Ross Mathie but it was little more than a consolation.
The Perthshire Advertiser’s reporter in his opening paragraph stated “St Johnstone confirmed themselves as serious challengers for the League Championship with an accomplished display of football”
Reflecting the quality of this special team, in his summary, the reporter also stated “Saints’ victory was the result of impeccable teamwork and in the circumstances it would be unfair to single out any player for special mention”
At the conclusion of that 1970/71 season St Johnstone would finish in 3rd position in the Scottish First Division and qualify for the following Season’s UEFA Cup.