When St Johnstone and Dundee United take to the field on Saturday at Celtic Park in the Final of the Scottish Cup it will be the fourth time that the teams will have come together in this famous competition.
The previous encounters have seen Saints win once with the “Terrors” successful in the more recent two.
The first meeting took place in season 1932/33 at Tannadice where a record attendance of 19,513 turned up to watch the second round tie. Gate receipts were reported as £900 – how times have changed!
In the first round Saints had needed a replay and extra time to overcome Second Division East Fife. The first match at Muirton Park had ended 2 – 2 before Saints squeezed through 2 – 1 at Methil whilst Dundee United had seen off non league side Armadale 2 – 0 away.
Going into the match Manager Tommy Muirhead’s team were sitting in 6th position in the First Division and widely regarded as one of the top sides in Scotland. Dundee United were languishing in mid table in the Second Division. However, this was a cup tie and, as we all know, teams often raise their game when meeting higher level opponents.
This proved to be the case in what would prove to be a pulsating match. Newspaper reports of the game indicate that the early stages were fairly even and largely uneventful until United took the lead in 14 minutes. Saints keeper Sandy McLaren allowed a low Kay shot to squeeze in at the post. 0 – 1.
Both teams had near things but the game really burst into life 6 minutes before half time. Saints winger Harry Ritchie set off on a mazy run and as he drove into the penalty area he was brought down by two defenders. The referee immediately blew for a penalty but then appeared to have second thoughts. However, after consulting with both of his linesmen he stuck to his original decision. One can only imagine the noise from the home fans as John Priestley stepped forward to take the kick. The wing half kept his composure to tuck it away and level the scores. 1 – 1.
Clearly this was a major talking point and also proved to be a turning point in the match. Two minutes later Harry Ritchie made it 2 – 1 with a drive from the edge of the penalty box which crashed against the underside of the crossbar before going in.
A further two minutes elapsed and Saints had increased their lead. This time it was George Fulton who gave the keeper no chance with a fierce shot from a tight angle. 3 – 1 at half time.
The second half saw Saints continue to dominate and it was little surprise when Harry Ferguson scored to increase the advantage on 52 minutes.
4 – 1 and you might think – Game Over. I suspect some of the Saints players thought that, as they eased off, seemingly happy to rest on their three goal advantage.
Dundee United had other ideas and when ex Saint Peter Gavigan crossed for Dyet to score the visitors got a bit twitchy. 4 – 2.
Then when the same combination struck again to make it 4 – 3 it was now all very nervy for Saints players and fans alike.
United continued to pile on the pressure in an attempt to secure the equaliser but Saints wakened up and defended stoutly. In the final few minutes Jimmy Benson and George Fulton each had chances to increase Saints advantage but failed to do so and the game ended 4 – 3 in Saints favour.
The St Johnstone team that day was: – Sandy McLaren, Johnny Welsh, Willie Clark, George Mason, Bob Ireland, John Priestley, Harry Ritchie, Percy Dickie, George Fulton, Harry Ferguson, Jimmy Benson.
In the third round Saints lost 2 – 0 to Hearts at Tynecastle.
The second meeting between the teams in 1990/91 will be recalled tomorrow.