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.