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.
This is the second part of my look back at the previous three encounters.
Following the first meeting in 1933 it would be Season 1990/91 before the teams faced each other again. This time at the semi final stage.
To a large extent the status of the two clubs was a bit of a role reversal of the 1930’s and although regarded by some as underdogs Saints were clearly on the way up.
During the 1980’s Dundee United had won the Premier League, reached the semi finals of the European Cup, and been losing finalists in the Scottish Cup on four separate occasions.
On the other hand Saints Manager Alex Totten had transformed Saints playing fortunes by lifting the team from the depths of the Second Division to the Premier League in just 4 Seasons.
Saints had advanced to the semi-final stage by defeating Berwick Rangers 4 – 3 in a replay after a 0 – 0 draw, Hibernian, 2 – 1, and Ayr United 5 – 2 in the quarter final. Allan Moore scored a hat trick in this match at McDiarmid Park.
United had reached the penultimate stage by overcoming East Fife 2 – 1 in a replay after a ( fortuitous ) 1 – 1 draw, Airdrie 2 – 0 and Dundee 3 – 1.
East End Park, Dunfermline, was the venue for the semi final on 6 April 1991 and Manager Totten selected the following team: – Lindsay Hamilton, Mark Treanor, Sergei Baltacha, Don McVicar, John Inglis, Gary McGinnis, Allan Moore, Tommy Turner, Steve Maskrey, Roddy Grant, Harry Curran. Subs John Davies, Paul Sweeney.
Interestingly, the United team included Alan Main, John O’Neil and Darren Jackson who would all later play for Saints.
The near capacity 16,560 crowd generated an electric atmosphere as the teams came onto the pitch.
Saints kicked off and almost immediately “Roddy” fouled John O’Neil which would prove to be the first of some 35 fouls in what would turn out to be a highly competitive match.
Saints had a great chance in just 5 minutes. Grant sent in a high cross and when Main, under pressure from Maskrey, punched the ball weakly it fell to Moore who shot wide of the goal from just 10 yards out and a great chance was gone. A few minutes later Moore was unmarked when a McVicar corner arrived in the penalty area but this time the winger headed wide.
Play raged from end to end with both keepers making saves to keep the scoreline blank. On the half hour mark Saints fans thought their favourites had taken the lead when “Roddy” headed the ball home. Unfortunately the linesman had his flag up for off-side and the “goal” didn’t count.
Saints were having most of the attacking play and Don McVicar’s long throws and corners were causing problems to the United defence.
However, very much against the run of play, United took the lead five minutes from the interval. Duncan Ferguson touched on a Bowman throw in and although Roddy Grant appeared to handle the ball in the box, instead of awarding a penalty, the referee allowed play to continue, and John Clark drilled the ball into the bottom corner of the net giving Lindsay Hamilton no chance from 20 yards. 0 – 1.
Despite this setback Saints players showed great character and were back on level terms on 44 minutes. Another Don McVicar corner caused problems in the United defence and, although this time Moore’s header was blocked on the line, Harry Curran was on hand to head the loose ball into the net from close range. 1 – 1.
Saints almost took the lead at the start of the second half. A Mark Treanor free kick was met by Curran but Alan Main produced a brilliant save to keep out the midfield man’s header.
United restored their lead in 60 minutes when a corner into the Saints box found Malpas but he mishit his shot. Just when you need a slice of luck you don’t get it and the ball fell nicely for Duncan Ferguson to prod home from 6 yards. 1 – 2.
McGinnis, Curran, and Turner all had chances but were unable to take just one of them. Then the referee turned away Saints penalty appeals when it appeared that Bowman handled the ball in the area.
Saints went all out for the equaliser and brought on John Davies for Tommy Turner. However, it was United who nearly scored in a fast break away. Fortunately Davies slid in to get the ball back to the keeper.
Back to the other end and it looked as if “Roddy” would score only to see his looping header go just over the bar with Main scrambling.
The final action came at the Saints end when Lindsay Hamilton made a fantastic one-handed save to deny Darren Jackson.
So, in summary, Saints were most unfortunate to lose a fiercely contested tie. A draw would probably have been a fairer result but you need a bit of luck to win the Cup and Saints didn’t have it that day.