2010 Scottish League Cup semi-final – St Johnstone 0 Rangers 2

 Concluding this series looking back at St Johnstone’s previous appearances in the semi final stage of the Scottish League Cup.

After losing to Hibs at the penultimate stage of the 2006/07 season just three years later would see our favourites reach the last four for the 8th time in their history. Once again Saints faced Rangers and despite two previous defeats at this stage to the Glasgow giants there was still optimism that this improving Saints side could reach the Final.

Both progress and change had been seen during the intervening years with Saints winning the Challenge Cup, narrowly losing two Scottish Cup semi’s to either side of the Old Firm, Owen Coyle moving to Burnley and with his replacement Derek McInnes, guiding Saints back to their rightful place in the Premier League.

So when the rebranded Co-op Insurance Cup got underway in the 2009/10 season Saints had a potentially “banana skin” trip to Ochilview to meet Stenhousemuir on their artificial pitch. However, After Steven Milne had put Saints ahead midway through the first half, further goals from Kenny Deuchar  (2) and Collin Samuel (2) eased them into the next round.

The second round draw took Saints to Arbroath and in similar fashion to the previous round won comprehensively by 6 goals to 0. Scorers that night at Gayfield were Steven Milne (2), Filipe Morais, Kenny Deuchar (2) and Collin Samuel.

The draw for the third round gave Saints another away trip. This time it was Hibernian at Easter Road and in one of the peculiar twists of the fixture list Saints visited their opponents on the previous Saturday in the Premier League. That match had resulted in a 3 – 0 win for the Hibees but the scoreline didn’t reflect the chances Saints had created but squandered. The cup fixture started badly with Stokes putting the home team ahead in the first minute. However, Gavin Swankie levelled 6 minutes later and further strikes from Chris Millar ( 3 minutes after he had come on as a sub ) and Jody Morris gave Saints a 3 – 1 success.

Dundee United were the visitors to McDiarmid Park in the quarter final stages and two own goals in the second half put Saints in the driving seat. A late goal for the visitors meant a nervous end to the match but eventually Saints progressed 2 – 1 on the night.

And so a cold, wet and snowy night welcomed Saints and Rangers players to Hampden Park on Wednesday 3rd February 2010 with 17,371 hardy souls also turning up to watch.

St Johnstone Manager Derek McInnes selected the following team: –  Graeme Smith, Gary Irvine, Danny Grainger, Jody Morris, Dave Mackay, Graham Gartland, Chris Millar, Murray Davidson, Cillian Sheridan, Liam Craig, Filipe Morais. Subs: – Alan Main, Steven Anderson, Kevin Moon, Steven Milne, Peter MacDonald.

Saints, wearing their maroon strips, started confidently enough but it was the ‘Gers who nearly took the lead in just 5 minutes. Novo broke clear and after drawing Smith well out of his goal slipped the ball past the ‘keeper towards the gaping net. Thankfully, Dave Mackay got back in time to clear the ball from the goal line. A really close shave.

Minutes later it was Gary Irvine who came to the rescue ( on the first of many occasions that night ) when he managed to head clear when it looked as if Lafferty would get his head to a Novo cross to the back post.

However, the best chance of the match so far fell to Saints’ Murray Davidson in 17 minutes. The tall midfield man burst into the box to get on the end of a great Irvine cross but unfortunately his header flew past the post.

Next it was Cillian Sheridan who tried a shot from the edge of the penalty area without success

Then a Liam Craig corner was only palmed out by Alexander in the Rangers goal towards Filipe Morais at the edge of the 6 yards box but the winger’s shot was blocked.

Gary Irvine was again the saviour as he cleared a Steven Davis effort from a tight angle. However, the Rangers man was not to be denied as a minute later he was on the end of a Novo cross and, although his first effort was saved by Graeme Smith, the midfield man turned the rebound into the Saints net. 0 – 1 after 28 minutes.

Saints responded with Filipe Morais trying a long range effort which again Alexander struggled to hold in the difficult conditions and minutes later David Weir almost put through his own goal as he headed a Morais cross just over his own crossbar.

But just as we thought that Saints might get back on level terms Rangers increased their advantage with 37 minutes showing on the clock. This time it was Lee McCulloch who scored with a 25 yard shot which slithered under Smith’s body and into the net for 0 – 2.

Steven Milne replaced Morais at half time and midway through the half Peter MacDonald came on for Sheridan as Saints tried to get a goal and get  themselves back into the game. You kind of know that it’s not your day when “Peaso” managed to get in the way of a goal bound Murray Davidson header!

Minutes later Saints man of the match Gary Irvine fouled Naismith in the penalty area and the referee pointed to the spot. Naismith took the kick himself but although he struck it well Smith dived full length to save.

The remainder of the match was played out in heavy snow showers with only a very good Steven Milne shot which went over the crossbar 7 minutes from full time giving rise to any real excitement.

Accordingly, another semi-final ended in disappointment.

Rangers went on to defeat St Mirren 1 – 0 in the Final to lift the cup.

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In putting this series together it is interesting to note just how often over the previous 8 semi’s that Saints have played well enough but just didn’t get that little rub of the green which is often needed.

In 5 of the 6 occasions that Saints have failed to progress to the Final, the team which did so, went on to win the cup!  Only Dundee in 1967 ended up losing.

Equally, the 1960’s teams did superbly well to reach 4 semi’s in 9 seasons.

And just how special were the teams of 1969 and 1998 which did us proud in reaching the Final.

So, hopefully, this year allied to their undoubted skill St Johnstone will get that little bit of luck that is needed to go on to win this competition.

Come On You Saints.

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2007 Scottish League Cup semi-final – St Johnstone 1 Hibernian 3 aet

Continuing this look back at St Johnstone’s previous League Cup semi-final appearances when we go back to the 2006/07 season for the 7th time the club had reached the last four of the competition.

After the joy of defeating Hearts in the1998 semi, only to experience the despair of losing to Rangers in the final, it was something of a barren 9 years before the next appearance.

The Managerial changes had continued since that 1998 campaign with Sandy Clark, Billy Stark and John Connolly all trying to restore Saints fortunes. Equally, the highs of matches in the UEFA Cup and Premier League had been replaced by relegation to the First Division and visits to the likes of Stranraer and Gretna.

Fresh enthusiasm had been instilled by the appointment of Owen Coyle and following a good run towards the end of the 2005/06 campaign Saints had finished second in the League table.

The first round draw for 2006/07 favoured Saints with a home tie against Third Division East Fife. After a first half in which Saints had struggled, Jason Scotland eventually made the breakthrough just after the hour mark. Martin Hardie added a further goal two minutes later and Scotland netted his second of the match on 70 minutes. The Fifers got a late consolation as the match ended 3 – 1.

Elgin City, also of the Third Division, were the next opponents at “McDiarmid” and, the lowest attendance in the history of the stadium, of only 1,198 turned up to witness Saints bombard their opponents goal for 90 minutes without scoring. In extra time Paul Sheerin did his usual immaculate job of scoring from the penalty spot to open the proverbial floodgates. Ryan Stevenson, Steven Milne and an own goal gave Saints a 4 – 0 victory. All four goals were compressed into a 16 minute period.

Next up was a real test, with Premier Division Dundee United coming to Perth  in the 3rd round. However, goals from Jason Scotland, Steven Milne and Simon Mensing, without reply demolished the Terrors.

The quarter finals produced a plum tie with Rangers at Ibrox where a fabulous Steven Milne double gave Saints a famous victory and passage through to the penultimate stage. ( You will find a full article on this particular match which I published on this site on the 8th November last year ).

The CIS Insurance Cup semi final saw Saints come out of the draw paired against Premier League opponents in Hibernian with the neutral Tynecastle Park as the venue. A crowd of 16,112 turned up for the match on Wednesday 31 January 2007.

Manager Owen Coyle selected the following team : – Kevin Cuthbert, Andy Lawrie, Goran Stanic, Derek McInnes, Allan McManus, Kevin James, Martin Hardie, Simon Mensing, Peter MacDonald, Jason Scotland, Paul Sheerin. Subs : – Bryn Halliwell, Filipe Morais, Andy Jackson, Steven Anderson, Willie Dyer.

Saints got off to the worst possible start. With only 3 minutes on the clock Steven Fletcher put the Hibees ahead from 6 yards when he turned a Sproule cut back past Kevin Cuthbert for 0 – 1.

Showing their character, Saints players responded and Jason Scotland came close when his shot whizzed narrowly past the post.

Hibs really had Saints under the cosh for the first 20 minutes or so and came near to making it two when Scott Brown hit the crossbar with a fierce shot.

However, gradually Saints midfield began to get in more tackles and to gain better possession of the ball. Kevin James height was also causing problems in the opposition penalty box and he almost found an equaliser with a header from a Martin Hardie free kick.

Just before half time Paul Sheerin went close with a shot at the postage stamp corner and then Hardie watched his effort from just inside the box go past the target.

The second half started with Hibs initially holding the upper hand but McInnes, Mensing, Hardie and Sheerin soon restored Saints control. As we all know, Paul Sheerin has a wonderful left foot, and when he delivered the perfect corner to the back post it seemed that Martin Hardie must equalise. Unfortunately, his shot went wide of the goal and the chance had gone.

A little later the same combination worked again, this time from a free kick, but unfortunately Hardie’s acrobatic attempt met with the same end result.

As Hibs broke away, Cuthbert was called upon to make a fine save from Stewart to keep his team in with a chance.

Saints then came close to equalising when a Peter MacDonald snapshot was deflected and hit the junction of the post and bar. This was followed by a Derek McInnes 20 yarder which shaved the post as Saints piled on the pressure.

Their reward finally came in 76 minutes when a smooth passing move involving Goran Stanic and Filipe Morais saw the winger’s cross being headed home by Jason Scotland for a fully deserved 1 – 1.

As Saints strove for the winner 6’ 7” Kevin James was pushed forward into a centre forward role. However, at the end of the regulation 90 minutes the teams were locked at 1 – 1 and so 30 minutes of extra time followed.

Two minutes into the first period Saints were hit by a sucker punch when Hibs were awarded a free kick 25 yards from goal. Murphy curled his kick around the defensive wall and whilst Cuthbert managed to get his hand to the ball, he could not keep it out. 1 – 2.

Saints tried manfully to get back on level terms and just before the half time changeover they had a strong penalty claim turned down. Scotland appeared to be fouled in the box when attempting to get on the end of a Morais cross but the referee said “no pen”.

The final 15 minutes followed a similar pattern as Saints tried their utmost to level the match but just could not find the equaliser. Seconds from the full time whistle in a Hibs breakaway Benjellou made it 3 – 1 and the dream was over.

As in previous semi finals Saints had given an excellent account of themselves against higher level opposition and on this occasion the final scoreline definitely flattered Hibs.

Once again Saints found that the team that had beaten them in the semi’s would go on to lift the cup as Hibernian defeated Kilmarnock 5 – 1 in the Hampden final.

Saints would also miss out on promotion to the Premier Division on the final day of the season when Gretna scored a late, late, goal to win the First Division by a single point.

Once again it was proved that there are such fine margins between success and disappointment.

1998 Scottish League Cup semi – final – St Johnstone 3 Hearts 0

In the six years that had elapsed since the previous appearance in the 1992 semi final, when Saints lost to Rangers, a lot had happened at McDiarmid Park. Alex Totten had been replaced by John McClelland and he in turn by Paul Sturrock. The team had been relegated from the Premier League and after 5 seasons in Division 1 had been promoted again in 1997. Paul Sturrock had completely reshaped the team and re-established Saints as a Premier League team.

When the 1998/99 Season got underway there was optimism that Saints could once again make a real impact on Scottish football.

After a bye in the first round of the competition, Saints met Stranraer in the second round at McDiarmid Park. A number of good chances were squandered in the first half before three second half goals by Keith O’Halloran, Paddy Connolly and George O’Boyle finally overcame their lower league opponents.

The third round saw Saints face a tricky tie with Falkirk at Brockville where Saints had been embarrassed earlier in the year going down 3 – 0 in the Scottish Cup. On this occasion it took a 90th minute Paul Kane goal to allow Saints to progress.

Prior to the quarter final match with Hibernian at McDiarmid Park, Paul Sturrock had been lured to the vacant Manager’s post at Tannadice and his replacement Sandy Clark had been recruited from Hamilton Accies only days beforehand. What a start for Sandy as Saints turned on a brilliant display of attacking football to sweep the Hibees aside 4 – 0.  A crowd of 8,165 saw two goals from new recruit Nathan Lowndes and single strikes from Gerry McMahon and John O’Neil take Saints through to the semi final.

Hearts were Saints opponents at Easter Road and there was no repeat of the 1962 semi when Hearts won convincingly. This time it was the Saints fans in the 12,027 attendance who were in for a real treat.

The Manager chose the following team: – Alan Main, John McQuillan, Gary Bollan, Nick Dasovic, Darren Dods, Alan Kernaghan, John O’Neil, George O’Boyle, Allan Preston, Miguel Simao, Paul Kane. Subs were Gerry McMahon, Roddy Grant and Nathan Lowndes.

The first decent chance of the match fell to Simao in nine minutes when his pace took him past McPherson to reach Dasovic’s lobbed pass but he lifted the ball over the keeper and the bar.

Hearts who had won the Scottish Cup in the summer were made to look a poor lot by this dynamic St Johnstone team. The first half was all Saints and O’Neil nearly put us ahead when he worked a neat one-two with O’Boyle which put him clean through. However, after partly rounding the keeper the goalie recovered to get back and turn the wing man’s effort round the post for a corner.

From the resultant flag kick another chance came along. Preston’s cross was headed down to Kernaghan by Dasovic, but the big defender’s shot was blocked on the goal line before the Hearts keeper managed to grab it.

The goal was merely delayed. Four minutes before the interval another Preston corner eventually found Dasovic just inside the penalty area and the Canadian Internationalist wasted no time in drilling the ball into the far corner. 1 – 0.

Saints second goal by Preston in added time at the end of the half was a candidate for goal of the season. Picking up a Simao pass on the left wing “biscuits” let fly from fully 25 yards giving the keeper absolutely no chance as his rocket shot flew into the top corner of the net. 2 – 0 and fully deserved.

Hearts started the second half with the Manager’s half time team talk still ringing in their ears but despite their efforts Saints defence was in no mood to let them have a sight of Main’s goal.

It was soon back to the other end when Kane sent O’Boyle scampering down the right wing. His great cut back was entercepted by Weir just as Simao was about to add the finishing touch.

Back came Hearts and after a poor clearance by Main the custodian redeemed himself by turning a fierce McKinnon drive around the post. Next it was McQuillan who got his body in front of a goal bound header to keep the lead intact.

Lowndes had replaced Simao and set off on a great solo run but after beating defender after defender he was unable to find a finish.

The icing on the proverbial cake came three minutes from time when a superb Dasovic pass found Lowndes in the box and when the striker pulled the ball back for O’Boyle to shoot home to make it 3 – 0 it was game over.

The Manager brought on McMahon for Preston and Grant for O’Boyle to run down the clock. So Saints had made it to the League Cup Final for the second time in their history and 29 years since the legendry Willie Ormond team.

In the final Saints narrowly lost 2 – 1 to Rangers at Celtic Park but at the end of the season secured 3rd place in the Premier League to qualify for the following season’s UEFA Cup.

It was a great time to be a Saints fan.

St Johnstone v Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership

When St Johnstone meet Dundee United at Tannadice Park tomorrow in the Scottish Premiership fixture it will be the 61st time that the teams will have met in the various formats of the competition dating back to the first meeting in season 1975/76.

The following is a summary of these previous meetings: –

P            W           D            L             F            A

4            1             1             2             4             5          Muirton

27          5           10            12          28           41          McDiarmid

29          8            9            12           25           42         Tannadice

60        14          20            26          57           88         Totals

As can be seen our record against the Terrors is not great with an overall win percentage of just 23%.

When Liam Craig scored the winning goal in the 1 – 0 win at Tannadice at the end last season, it was Saints first success there in 10 previous visits dating back to 2000.

Saints fans will not wish to be reminded that the meeting in August resulted in a 4 – 0 defeat.

Although this was partly redressed with Stevie May’s hat trick in the 3 – 0 victory at McDiarmid Park at the end of December, a win is needed to leapfrog our near neighbours in the League Table.

1992 Scottish League Cup Semi-Final – St Johnstone 1 Rangers 3

Part five of this eight part series looking back on St Johnstone’s previous League Cup semi-final matches.

After experiencing four semi-finals during the 1960’s, culminating with reaching  the 1969 Final, it was a long 23 years of failure by successive Managers before Alex Totten finally managed to get his 1992 team to the penultimate stage of the League Cup.

In the intervening period the old sectional group stage had been replaced with a straight knock out competition which was now sponsored by Skol Brewers. As a Premier League team this meant that St Johnstone received a bye in the first round of the 1992/93 campaign.

The second round draw saw Saints travelling to Alloa to meet the Athletic at the Recreation Ground. The “Wasps” opened the scoring in the first half but Harry Curran equalised not long afterwards. Two second half goals by Paul Wright gave Saints a relatively comfortable passage into the next stage.

A crowd of 4,716 turned up at McDiarmid Park to see a thrilling encounter with Partick Thistle. Paul Wright put Saints ahead from the penalty spot and Sean McAuley got the second in 33 minutes. However, Thistle scored either side of the half time interval to make it 2 – 2. Extra time could not produce a winner but Saints progressed 4 – 3 on penalties.

Round 4 took Saints to Rugby Park for a meeting with Kilmarnock. Three second half goals from Gunni Torfason, Steve Maskrey and Paul Wright gave Saints a 3 – 1 win to set up a meeting with Rangers in the semi-final at Hampden.

Saints had visited Ibrox in the opening day of the season and had lost to a late All McCoist goal. Going into the big game the league form had been patchy with only 2 wins registered in 9 matches.

For the match played on Tuesday 22 September 1992, Manager Alex Totten sprung a bit of a surprise with his team selection by leaving out Sean McAuley. The youngster had cost £100,000 when signed from Manchester United in the summer but despite starting in all of the previous 12 matches, the manager opted for the experience of Ian Redford in the left full back position with Tommy Turner being restored to midfield.

The team that evening was: – Andy Rhodes, Kevin McGowne, Ian Redford, Gary McGinnis, John Inglis, John McClelland, Allan Moore, Tommy Turner, Paul Wright, Vinny Arkins, Harry Curran. Subs: – Mark Treanor and Steve Maskrey.

Saints record against the Glasgow giants in Cup competitions was not particularly impressive, but the team started with confidence and Vinny Arkins had the first chance of the match to put Saints ahead. However, with only Goram to beat he failed to make a good connection and sent the ball straight into the keeper’s arms. The big Irishman was giving the ‘Gers defenders a difficult time, particularly with high balls, and under pressure Gough almost put through his own goal.

Rangers responded and Rhodes made a wonderful save from Ferguson when he turned his fierce shot over the bar. The Saints number one followed this up by firstly saving from Huistra from a tight angle and then from a Hateley header.

At the other end it was Arkins again who looked the most likely to score for Saints when in the 23rd minute he came close with a snap shot that Goram did well to save.

However, as often happens in these games, if you don’t take your chances you are punished, and this is exactly what happened. Two minutes after the Arkins chance Ally McCoist put Rangers ahead with a neat shot from inside the area following a corner.

Saints survived a loud penalty claim when Ian Redford appeared to pull back Durrant, but thankfully, the referee waved play on.

Rangers had now managed to achieve the upper hand in midfield and five minutes before the break, McCoist made it 2 – 0 when he outmuscled Kevin McGowne before toe poking the ball past Andy Rhodes.

At half time Saints brought on Steve Maskrey to replace Allan Moore who had received a number of knocks and midway through the half Mark Treanor came on for Kevin McGowne. Minutes later, Durrant released McCoist with a lovely pass and Ally raced through to beat Rhodes and make it 3 – 0 to complete his hat trick and game over.

Paul Wright got something of a consolation goal from the penalty spot after  Maskrey had been fouled inside the penalty area. Wright did his usual competent job from the 12 yard mark. 1 – 3.

The attendance was 30,062.

So, unfortunately, once again Saints were beaten but on this occasion by the much superior team and could have no real complaints about the result. Rangers would go on to lift the trophy when they defeated Aberdeen 1 – 0 in the final.

Three months later Alex Totten would be replaced as St Johnstone Manager by John McClelland.

1969 Scottish League Cup semi final – St Johnstone 2 Motherwell 0

Carrying on this series of looking back at St Johnstone’s previous League Cup semi final appearances.

After the disappointment of losing their three previous semi final appearances in the League cup the form displayed by Willie Ormond’s fantastic team of 1969 provided much more optimism that this could be the year that St Johnstone would make it to the Final.

The 1969/70 League Cup sectional draw had placed Saints in a group with Dundee, Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle and Saints started with the proverbial bang.

Dundee were literally swept aside at Muirton by a fast moving Saints team. Goals from Henry Hall, Kenny Aird and John Connolly saw Saints comfortably win 3 – 1.

Next, it was on to Rugby Park Kilmarnock, which in the past had proved a difficult venue for Saints. However, two first half goals from Connolly and a 76 minute strike from Hall gave Saints a 3 – 2 victory. Reports at the time indicate that Saints were much the better team and that the narrow margin of victory was not a true reflection of their superiority.

Saturday 16 August 1969 is the date of one of the finest days in the history of St Johnstone Football Club. Firhill Park was the venue for the match with Partick Thistle where Saints recorded an 8 – 1 win. It could have been more. Ian McPhee opened the scoring in the first minute and, although Arthur Duncan equalised for the Jags, goals from Hall, Connolly and Aitken had Saints 4 – 1 ahead at the break. In the second half “Henry” would score twice, to complete his hat trick with Aird and Connolly completing the demolition job. Gordon Whitelaw had come on as a sub for Hall and had two fierce shots saved by the home keeper otherwise it might have been ten. This remains the record score for an away win.

The following Wednesday it was Killie again, this time at home, and again Saints would win by a single goal. This time by 2 – 1 thanks to goals from Aird and Hall. Again Saints were totally dominant and like the Thistle game could have scored more.

A 2 – 1 win at Dens Park would complete the double over Dundee. Aird and a Stewart own goal being the scorers. However, Jimmy Donaldson in goal had an excellent game to ensure that the 100% record remained intact.

The final sectional game saw Saints again defeat Partick Thistle. This time, Hall ( 2 ), Bill McCarry and Aitken were the scorers as Saints cruised to a 4 – 0 victory.

The section completed with 6 straight wins. 22 Goals scored and only 6 conceded.

In recognition of his team’s achievement Willie Ormond was honoured with the first ever Scottish Manager of the Month Award for August 1969.

The Quarter final draw was kind and paired Saints with Second Division Falkirk. Willie Ormond had, of course, been trainer at Brockville prior to his appointment as Saints Manager and John Lambie and Bill McCarry had also played for the Bairns. This always adds an extra edge to such games.

The first leg match was at Muirton Park and after a good start when Hall and McPhee put Saints two ahead before the half hour mark, a goal just before the interval gave the visitors new hope. Three goals in the final 15 minutes from Hall, Aird and Benny Rooney finally gave Saints a 5 – 1 win to effectively seal their passage into the semi finals.

The second leg two weeks later at Brockville saw Saints turn in another fantastic performance winning 6 – 2. Hall, Connolly and Aitken each scored two goals to give an aggregate score of 11 – 3 over the two matches.

The semi final was at Hampden Park on Monday 6th October 1969 and 19,970 fans turned up hoping that their favourites would triumph.

Saints had lost a league match to Rangers at Muirton two days earlier in a match in which Willie Coburn had taken a knock and failed to recover from in time for the big game. Jim Argue stepping up to the left back position.

( Can you believe it, playing a cup semi final two days after a league match? Wouldn’t happen today! )

Accordingly, Manager Willie Ormond selected the following team: – Jimmy Donaldson, John Lambie, Jim Argue, Alex Gordon, Benny Rooney, Ian McPhee, Kenny Aird, Henry Hall, Bill McCarry, John Connolly, Fred Aitken. Sub: Gordon Whitelaw.

Despite losing to Motherwell at Fir Park a few weeks earlier Saints players showed no signs of apprehension or nerves and immediately from the kick off took the game to their opponents goal. Fred Aitken had seen a shot fly narrowly past the post before Bill McCarry opened the scoring in 12 minutes. The goal came after Aird, McCarry and Hall combined on the right wing and when Henry’s beautiful cross arrived at the back post in came big “Buck” to head past Peter McCloy for 1 – 0.

McCarry almost got his name on the scoresheet again shortly after when Fred Aitken provided the cross, but the big man saw his effort slip just wide of the post.

It really was all Saints at this stage with Aird and Hall ( twice ) coming close. The only risk to the Saints goal had been when Donaldson had to race from his goal to prevent Dixie Deans getting on the end of a big punt upfield by McCloy.

Then it was back to the other end with the “Steelmen” keeper made a fantastic save tipping a fierce Hall drive over the bar after Connolly had skilfully created the opening.

Donaldson then showed his ability in making a fine save from Wilson.

Just before the half time break, firstly, McCarry and then Aitken had chances to make it two, but on both occasions they shot narrowly past the post.

The second period started in similar fashion and it was no surprise when Saints went 2 – 0 ahead in 56 minutes. This time Fred Aitken made no mistake when he drilled a low shot into the bottom corner of the net from a lovely Connolly pass.

Motherwell tried to respond but Saints defence were in fine form and stood firm.

Aitken should have made it three midway through the half when he rounded the keeper and watched in anguish as McCallum desperately cleared his shot from the goal line.

Next it was Rooney who saw McCloy make a finger tip save to turn the skipper’s shot round the post after a one-on-one contest.

Jim Argue then had to make a clearance similar to that of McCallum’s when Jim Donaldson had saved but couldn’t hold a McInally effort.

Two minutes from time McCloy again came to his team’s rescue when he palmed an Aird shot over the bar after Lambie had created the opening.

Saints had undoubtedly been the better team and when the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the match both players and fans were elated.

St Johnstone had made it to the final of a major national cup competition for the first time in their history. Brilliant.

Sadly, the final would see this fabulous team lose 1 – 0 to Celtic at Hampden.

Looking back to that time it is incredible to think that, what was regarded as a “small provincial club,” should reach the last four of this prestigious competition on 4 occasions in 9 seasons. Add to that a Scottish Cup semi final in 1968 and it really was a proud time to be a St Johnstone supporter.

1967 Scottish League Cup semi final – St Johnstone 1 Dundee 3

Continuing the series of looking back on St Johnstone’s previous League Cup semi final appearances.

For the third time in their history St Johnstone qualified for the semi-finals of the League Cup in season 1967/68. On this occasion their opponents were local rivals Dundee at a neutral Tannadice Park.

In the group stages Saints had been drawn in a section containing Hearts, Falkirk and Stirling Albion. Outside of Perth The “Jam Tarts” were the clear favourites to progress to the next stages but Willie Ormond’s team had some surprises in store for them.

The opening match was played at Tynecastle and the home team fielded former Saints Jim Townsend and Bobby Kemp in their starting eleven. When Hearts took a 7th minute lead it seemed that everything was going according to script. Indeed for the next hour it was all Hearts. Then in 70 minutes all this changed when Kenny Aird, making his Saints debut, scored from close range after the Hearts ‘keeper dropped an in-swinging Fred Aitken corner kick. Suddenly the team had a spring in their step and it was no surprise when Gordon Whitelaw headed Saints into the lead 5 minutes from time for a 2 – 1 win.

Next up it was Falkirk at Muirton and a dour match ended goal less.

On the following Saturday Stirling Albion were the visitors to Perth. George Ryden put Saints ahead after 17 minutes but despite having total supremacy the team could not add to their goals total. When Jim Kerray equalised for the visitors on the hour mark the home fans in the 3,400 crowd feared the worst. However, the Manager brought on substitute Alex Macdonald and within minutes the little buzz bomb had put Saints ahead 2 – 1.

Saints were top of the section on 5 points when Hearts came to the Dunkeld Road stadium in what was something of a group decider. 6,000 spectators turned up to see a goal from Traynor and an own goal from the unfortunate George Miller put the visitors 2 – 0 ahead at the interval. In almost a repeat of the first match between the sides Saints sparked into life on the hour mark. Centre forward Tom Wilson scored two goals in 3 minutes and when big Fred Aitken scored a third in the final minute it was Saints who were very much in the group driving seat.

A midweek visit to Falkirk saw Saints confirm their supremacy, sweeping the Bairns aside in a convincing 3 – 0 win. Fred Aitken, Gordon Whitelaw and Aitken again being the scorers as Saints clinched the section.

The final match was something of an anti climax. Ex Saint Jim Kerray scoring the only goal at Annfield as Stirling Albion gained an unexpected victory. Henry Hall was on the Albion left wing that day.

The Quarter Final draw paired Saints with Second Division Queen’s Park with the first leg at Hampden. Although Saints won 5 – 0 that night they were assisted by an injury to the amateurs goalkeeper just before the interval with the score standing at 1 – 0. Alex Macdonald had earlier opened the scoring and when the keeper could not take his place after the interval, being replaced by an outfield player, it meant Saints could press home their advantage. A Gordon Whitelaw hat trick and a “Buck” McCarry goal saw Saints effectively secure their passage to the semis.

Saints won the second leg at Muirton 3 – 1 with Kenny Aird, Tom Wilson and Ian McPhee netting in the second half after the visitors had taken a surprise lead early in the second period.

And so it was on to Tannadice for the semi final on 11 October 1967.

Saints league form had been good, being undefeated in their first five matches with one win and 4 draws. This included a highly creditable 1 – 1 draw against the European Cup winners, Celtic, at Parkhead.

Manager Willie Ormond selected the following team: – Jimmy Donaldson, Findlay McGillivray, Willie Coburn, George Miller, Benny Rooney, Ian McPhee, Kenny Aird, Gordon Whitelaw, Tom Wilson, Bill McCarry, Alex Macdonald. Sub George Ryden.

Saints were wearing their change shirts of red with Dundee in white and for many of the players ( on both sides ) this was their first semi final. Accordingly, early nerves were a factor, and whilst Saints started the better it was midway through the half before the first real threat on goal was created. The Dundee keeper, Donaldson, dropped a Houston pass back in front of Gordon Whitelaw but the goalie just managed to retrieve the situation before the Saints man could get his foot to it.

The keeper was not quite so fortunate when Gordon Whitelaw deservedly put Saints ahead in 41 minutes. The keeper had lost the ball to Tom Wilson and was relieved when his defender, George Stewart, managed to partially clear the danger. However, he only succeeded in hitting the ball against Alex Stuart and the rebound spun up into the air to Gordon who was perfectly placed on the six yard line to nod the ball into the unguarded net. 1 – 0.

Just before half time Saints keeper Jimmy Donaldson had to make a superb diving save to keep the slender lead intact.

After changing ends there were only five minutes on the clock when the scores were level. The unfortunate George Miller when under severe pressure managed to hit an unstoppable shot into his own net as he tried to put the ball out for a corner.

This clearly gave Dundee new confidence and matters would get worse for the unlucky George when 15 minutes later he scored his second own goal of the night. This time, whilst trying to clear a cross he completely mishit the ball and could only watch in disbelief as the ball flew past the despairing dive of Jimmy Donaldson. 1 – 2.

Saints players and fans alike were shattered by these setbacks and when the referee later awarded a penalty to the Dens Parkers for a Rooney foul on Campbell which Jim McLean converted, then it really was game over.

So the hopes of a Hampden final were dashed thanks to two own goals and a penalty. Not the best of memories.

In another of the ironies of the fixture list, Saints met Dundee in a League match at Dens Park on the Saturday following the semi final, and trounced the Dee 4 – 1. Oh what might have been!

Dundee lost the final to Celtic by 5 goals to 3.