This is the second in a series of eight articles recalling the eight previous occasions that St Johnstone have reached the semi-finals of the Scottish League Cup.
Following the double disappointment in 1961/62 season of losing in the semi final of the League Cup to Rangers which was made worse at the end of the season by being relegated from the First Division, St Johnstone had to show tremendous character to reach the semi-final stage of the cup competition in 1962.
This they did with some aplomb even although the match at Easter Road would eventually see them lose by 4 goals to nil.
The 1962/63 Season’s League Cup section didn’t start particularly well but got better as the weeks went on. Stranraer were the visitors to Muirton Park for the opening game and although Saints had the majority of play and chances, the old failing of not being able to convert these chances into goals looked likely to haunt them once again. A rare Ron McKinven goal in the final seconds was enough to win the match.
Next up, in midweek, it was Clyde at Shawfield where our favourites were hammered 5 – 1. Whilst poor defending was a factor a dislocated elbow suffered by debutant Davie Querns in the first half did not help matters.
However, the outlook changed significantly when Saints thrashed Cowdenbeath 7 – 0 at Central Park the following Saturday with Alastair McIntyre (2), Bobby Young, Bobby Kemp, Jim Townsend (2), and George Rankin all getting their names on the scoresheet.
The return fixture with Stranraer at Stair Park saw Saints win 4 – 1 with Young (2), Rankin and Townsend all scoring.
As frequently happens with Saints the next match fell into the “must win” category. Clyde at Muirton Park in the proverbial section decider. The table showed the “Bully Wee” on top on 8 points with 13 goals scored and 5 conceded. Saints were two points behind with exactly the same number of goals for and against. So a win of any score would put Saints on top of the pile. A crowd of 7,600 turned up and the vast majority were delighted when Alastair McIntyre scored the only goal of the match in the ninth minute to give Saints both points.
So now everything was down to the final matches of the section. Cowdenbeath were visitors to the Perth stadium with Clyde at home to Stranraer. Both games ended in a 4 – 1 win so the teams were tied on 10 points each. However, Saints went through to the quarter final stage by virtue of the McIntyre goal against Clyde in the midweek. It should also be noted that Saints fourth goal by Bobby Kemp ( to complete his hat trick ) against Cowdenbeath was timed at 89 ½ minutes, otherwise the goals for and against would have been identical and Clyde would have progressed. Phew!
The quarter final draw paired Saints with Queen of the South who had been promoted to the First Division at the end of the 1961/62 season as Saints were going in the opposite direction. The first leg at Palmerston Park was something of a tousy affair. Bobby Young saw a first half penalty saved by keeper George Farm and when the Saints conceded a goal six minutes from time this really set up the second leg the following Wednesday as a great opportunity to progress to the semi’s.
A crowd of 9,700 turned up and were treated to a thrilling match. This was partly due to Saints creating and missing numerous chances and when Garrett scored in somewhat controversial circumstances ( Lachlan appeared to have headed his shot off the line, but after consulting his linesman the referee gave the goal ) to put Queen’s 2 – 0 ahead on aggregate meaning that Saints had it all to do.
After a bombardment of the visitors goal Bobby Young finally managed to get one back just before half time, and when Jim Townsend scored on the hour mark the aggregate score was now level at 2 – 2. Despite Saints continuing to press and Bobby Kemp hitting the crossbar, there was no more scoring during the regulation 90 minutes.
Accordingly, the game went into 30 minutes of extra time and Billy Taylor was called into action to make a fingertip save from Garrett to keep the scores level.
Three minutes later and Saints were ahead for the first time when Young was on hand to slide the ball home after Farm had saved but could not hold a McKinven header from a corner. It was that man Young again, completeing his hat trick, just before the half time change over. Similar to his earlier strike he was again in the right place at the right time to turn in the rebound after Farm had initially stopped a rasping 20 yarder from Townsend.
And so another fabulous match at Muirton with Saints coming from behind to deservedly win.
As mentioned earlier Hearts were Saints opponents on 10 October 1962 at a neutral Easter Road venue.
Three weeks earlier goalkeeper Billy Taylor had been injured in a 5 – 5 draw against Stenhousemuir in a League match at Ochilview and had failed to recover from a head knock in time for the semi final. Accordingly, young Ian Ower would start between between the posts.
Manager Bobby Brown selected the following team: – Ian Ower, Charlie McFadyen, Jim Lachlan, Jim Little, John Young, Ron McKinven, Alastair McIntyre, Jim Townsend, Bobby Young, John Bell, Bobby Kemp.
After just 3 minutes there was a scare for Saints when Paton went down in the penalty area, but thankfully, the ref waived play on. The opening 10 minutes saw both teams attacking in turn without either keeper really being tested until McIntyre saw a good header saved by Marshall. Hearts immediately responded and Ower had to make a good save with his legs to keep an 18 yard shot out from Wallace. Six minutes later Hearts scored when Hamilton crashed an unstoppable shot against the underside of the crossbar and into the net. 0 – 1. A minute later and the young Saints keeper kept his team in the match with a fine save from the same Hearts player.
Saints were not out of it by any means and probably the best chance of the match came midway through the half when Bobby Young attempted to lob Marshall from 25 yards out. Just when it seemed that the ball would go into the net the keeper managed to get his fingertips to it and the ball went just over the bar. Minutes later the Saints centre met a McIntyre cross with his head and the Hearts goalie was again scrambling to make a save.
As so often happens when chances don’t go in, the other team go up to their opponents end and score, and this is exactly what happened when Wallace put Hearts two goals ahead.
Just five minutes before the break it was 3 – 0 to the “Jam Tarts”. Saints defence had been under severe pressure and whilst Ower and his team mates tried manfully to quell the Hearts attacks when Charlie McFadyen was forced to punch a netbound effort off the line the referee had no alternative but point to the penalty spot. Wallace made no mistake from 12 yards. 0 – 3.
The Saints keeper then made a fantastic save when he dived full length to turn a Cumming free kick from 30 yards round the post.
Shooting down the slope for the first 15 minutes of the second half it was all Saints as they tried to put some respectability back into the scoreline. Chances fell to Kemp, Townsend, Bell and Kemp again but none could be converted into a goal.
With four minutes remaining on the clock Wallace completed his hat trick with a simple side foot from inside the 6 yards box to make it 0 – 4.
In summary, although every Saints player gave his all they were beaten by the better team on the night. That old well worn phrase of, beaten but not disgraced, probably does reflect their performance. Pride can also be taken from the fact that this was the second successive season that St Johnstone had reached the last 4 of the competition.
Hearts would go on to win the cup, defeating Kilmarnock at Hampden 1 – 0.
Saints would end the season as Second Division champions and return to the top League.