On this day in 2012 St Johnstone travelled to Turkey to meet Eskisehirspor in the 1st leg of the 2nd Qualifying Round of the Europa League.
It had been 13 years since Saints last appeared in European competition when they lost 6 – 3 on aggregate ( a, 0 – 3 and h, 3 – 3 ) to French giants AS Monaco in the old UEFA Cup.
Around 350 Saints fans made their way by plane, road and train to the attractive University city in the north west region of the country.
Before the match the respective sets of fans enjoyed their opponents company, particularly in Bar Street, which helped forge a quite unique and lasting bond between the clubs.
The home fans in the 18,000 crowd within the Ataturk Stadium were helping to create a fantastic atmosphere singing noisely for at least an hour prior to kick off time on what was a very warm evening.
Manager Steve Lomas selected the following team: – Alan Mannus, Gary Miller, Callum Davidson, David McCracken, Frazer Wright, Paddy Cregg, Murray Davidson, Jamie Adams, Chris Millar, Sean Higgins, Liam Craig.
Substitutes were Jonathon Tuffey, Steven Anderson, Nigel Hasselbaink ( for Higgins ), Kevin Moon ( for Cregg ), Stevie May ( for Adams ) Tom Scobbie, David Robertson.
It was mostly a backs to the wall performance in the first half with Sean Higgins doing well as the lone front man and holding up play until midfield runners could get up to support. Just when it looked like Saints would reach the interval break with their goal intact, a shot from outside the penalty area took a wicked deflection off the unfortunate Liam Craig leaving Alan Mannus helpless and the hosts with a 1 – 0 lead. The second period followed a similar pattern with Es-Es doubling their advantage midway through the half when a fierce cross into the six yard box hit the unlucky Frazer Wright and the ball ricocheted into the defender’s own goal.
Despite the quality in the Eskisehirspor ranks, at 2 – 0 down, there was still a strong belief that Saints could turn the tie around at McDiarmid Park the following week.