13 December 1924 – Last Match at the Recreation Ground – St Johnstone 4 Kilmarnock 2

As indicated in the headline above, on this day in 1924 St Johnstone met Kilmarnock in a League Division 1 match at the Recreation Ground, which would be the final match to be played there, before moving to their brand new stadium –  Muirton Park.

Saints first ever games in the Spring of 1885 had been played on pitches on the lesser South Inch and at Hillyland. The Recreation Ground which was situated just off the Edinburgh Road ( across the road from the prison and behind the present day petrol station) had been the venue for home games since the start of the 1885/86 season. Drainage at the ground had always been a major problem and when promotion to the First Division was eventually achieved at the end of the 1923/24 season it was necessary to have a first class pitch and stadium.

Despite signing a number of new players during the summer including Davie Ellis from Manchester United, Bob Penman from Albion Rovers, Jimmy Howieson from St Mirren and others, Saints were finding it difficult in the higher division to get any consistency into results.

Accordingly, going into the match they were second bottom of the 20 team league with only 14 points collected from 19 games played.

Recent form showed that, after 4 straight losses they appeared to have stopped the rot, with a 2 – 2 draw away to Queen’s Park, being followed by a 1 – 0 victory over St Mirren at Paisley. Whilst Kilmarnock had one more point than Saints they were five places higher up the table.

Mind you, there were only 6 points separating Motherwell, who were one point behind Saints, and the 5th top position occupied by Partick Thistle.

Manager David Taylor selected the following team for the Kilmarnock match: – Jimmy Dempster, Bob Penman, Davie McClure, Jock White, Andrew Swallow, Bob Pender, Davie Ellis, Tommy Glancy, Jimmy Fleming, Johnny Hart, Jimmy Sanderson.

Despite heavy rain making the pitch resemble a quagmire a crowd of 5,000 turned up and were surprised to see Kilmarnock take the lead with only 10 minutes on the clock. 0 – 1.

Just 2 minutes later, however, Jimmy Fleming had Saints back on level terms when he crashed the ball home following something of a scrimmage inside the visitors 6 yard box. 1 – 1.

Immediately following the restart the Saints centre nearly put his team ahead but Gould, the visiting keeper, made a fantastic save to keep out his shot from point blank range.

Killie restored their lead midway through the half when Dempster was just fractionally late in getting down to a fine shot from Smith after he had broken through the home defence. 1 – 2.

In what was clearly an exciting end to end match Glancy levelled the scores in 29 minutes driving home to make it 2 – 2.

There was still no letting up in the intensity of play with both sets of forwards creating and missing chances. Then Johnny Hart received a great pass from Sanderson and after driving into the box he was pulled down on the point of shooting. A stonewall penalty which Glancy dispatched with aplomb. 3 – 2.

This was not the end of the excitement or scoring. Firstly, Fleming saw a shot rebound from the post, and then minutes later, he beat the keeper all ends up with a great shot for 4 – 2.

Just before the referee blew his whistle for half time Ellis struck the crossbar with a beautiful effort.

The second half got underway where the first half had left off with initially Saints coming closest. The visiting keeper made a great save from a Fleming header before Bob Pender skimmed the crossbar with another header.

Play then went down to the opposite end and for the next five minutes it was all Killie but Saints defence stood firm.

With such a relentless pace on a heavy pitch it was understandable that the players would begin to tire and the remainder of the half was played at a much slower pace and consequently fewer goalmouth incidents. The main interest turned to whether or not Fleming could score his first senior hat trick. However, it was not to be, and the game finished 4 – 2 to Saints.

The old arena had witnessed many fine games in a whole variety of competitions but the first half of this one must have been right up there as one of the most memorable.

At the end of the season Saints finished in 11th position comfortably in mid table on 35 points.

Jimmy Fleming played 75 times for St Johnstone, scoring 44 goals during his 2 years at Perth. In October 1925 he was transferred to Rangers with three Ibrox players coming to Saints. He famously scored 9 goals for the Gers in a 14 – 2 Scottish Cup tie against Blairgowrie.

With Rangers he would go on to win 3 full International caps for Scotland. One of those caps was in 1929 against Germany in Berlin in a game in which both Sandy McLaren and Willie Imrie of Saints also appeared. Willie Imrie scored the Scotland goal in a 1 – 1 draw.

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