St Johnstone’s 600th Match at McDiarmid Park – Part 2

Continuing on from the recent Partick Thistle match I look back over the highlights of 27 years at McDiarmid Park and recall what I believe are some of the best games ever seen at the stadium.

The first of these, the 3 – 1 Airdrie match from 1989/90 was covered in Part 1.

The second memorable match took place on 29 September 1990 when Aberdeen were visitors to Perth. Alex Totten’s newly promoted team had started the season reasonably well but Saints more recent record against the Dons had been nothing short of abysmal. In the period from 1978 to 1990 Saints had faced Aberdeen 10 times in all competitions and our record read: – Won – None, Lost – 10, Goals for – None, Goals against – 24. How bad was that?

So when Roddy Grant put Saints into a 17th minute lead, well, maybe, just maybe, at long last this might be our day. Allan Moore was causing havoc in the Dons defence and when defender David Robertson took a wild kick at the winger, the referee had little option but to send him off. Two minutes later Mark Treanor hit a screamer for the second and followed this up, just before half-time, with a typically cool penalty conversion. 3 – 0 at the interval and Saints fans in the 8,711 crowd were pinching themselves. Was this really happening?

In the words of the song “things can only get better” … and so they did. “Roddy” netted his second goal on 55 minutes and Steve Maskrey completed the rout with 11 minutes remaining. A final score of 5 – 0 and a truly great day to be a Saints fan.

Saints team was: – Hamilton; Treanor, Baltacha; Cherry, Inglis, McGinnis; Moore, Turner, Maskrey, Grant, Curran. Subs: Lee (for Curran), Deas (for Turner).

Number 3 on this list was a League Division 1 fixture with local rivals Dundee. Matches against the Dark Blues always have that element of extra spice and when they visited McDiarmid Park on New Year’s Day 1997 Saints were sitting on top of the table. Our near neighbours were in second place some 10 points behind but with one more game played.

A few days earlier, in a match against Falkirk, Saints goalkeeper Alan Main and his defenders had just seen a club record, of 8 successive league matches without conceding a goal, come to an end when the Bairns’ Paul McGrillen scored the opening goal before Saints recovered to win 3 – 1.

The first half of the Dundee contest was fairly even with Roddy Grant scoring the opening goal and Chic Charnley levelling for the visitors. At the interval no-one in the 7,087 attendance could foresee the fireworks that would light up a second half in which winger Leigh Jenkinson was “unplayable”. The winger had supplied the cross for Grant’s first goal and the same combination worked again for the second. Philip Scott then lobbed ‘keeper Thomson and five minutes later Steve Tosh extended the lead still further. 4 – 1 up and only an hour played.

Following his role as provider Jenkinson then turned his role to that of scorer. Firstly, he stepped forward to fire home a sublime free kick from 20 yards and then added his second after Attila Sekerlioglu had tapped a free kick to him. Still the excitement was not over. George O’Boyle came off the bench to net number seven from close range. Then to compound the visitors misery, 9 minutes from full time Charnley was sent off for an off the ball incident involving one of his own players! O’Driscoll converted a late penalty to make the final score a magnificent 7 – 2.

Saints team was: – Main; McQuillan, Preston; O’Neil, Weir, Griffin; Dasovic, Tosh, Grant, Scott, Jenkinson. Subs: Donaldson (for Preston), O’Boyle (for Tosh), Sekerlioglu (for Scott).

The end of that 1996/97 season would see Paul Sturrock’s team promoted to the Premier Division as First Division Champions securing 80 points – a massive 20 points ahead of Airdrie in second place.

Season 1998/99 would see many fine games but in my view the matches against Motherwell on 17 October 1998, when Saints won 5 – 0, then Rangers on 4 April 1999, when Jim Weir was immense in a 3 – 1 win, and the final match of that season, when Saints defeated Dundee 1 – 0 on the final day of the season, are all up there in the list of Saints top games at the stadium.

In the first of these ( match 4 on my list ) 4,062 fans turned up to see Sandy Clark’s team sweep the Steelmen aside. Miguel Simao ran riot that day and the only surprise was that Saints held just a single goal advantage at half time, this courtesy of a George O’Boyle goal. In the second half Alan Kernaghan, Simao, O’Boyle and Darren Dods all scored, but it was George O’Boyle’s 85th minute strike that is particularly memorable. Picking the ball up some 40 yards out, he saw Stevie Woods in the Motherwell goal was off his line, and drilled a wonderful shot over the ‘keepers head and into the net. Simply a fabulous strike.

Saints team was: – Main; McQuillan, Bollan; Dasovic, Dods, Kernaghan; Kane, O’Neil, Preston, O’Boyle, Simao. Subs: Ferguson, Grant, McMahon (for Simao), Griffin, Lowndes (for O’Neil).

I stated (above) that prior to the Aberdeen game our record against the Dons had been abysmal. If that was bad, then I do not know the words to describe our record against Rangers, which was far, far, far, worse. In 56 matches at home and away, dating back to 1971, when goals from Henry Hall and John Connolly had given Saints a 2 – 0 win at Ibrox, Saints had managed just ONE win. That came on 31 January 1998, at McDiarmid Park when John O’Neil and George O’Boyle scored to secure a great 2 – 0 win. Indeed, due to its rarity, that game came very close to being included in this list.

Earlier in that 1998/99 season the encounter at McDiarmid had ended 7 – 0 to the Gers, greatly aided by Paul Kane’s dismissal at 0 – 2, when he brought down Van Bronkhorst in the penalty area, resulting in the inevitable red card and penalty.

Against this backdrop the fifth match on the list was played on 4 April 1999 and was truly one to savour. A very healthy crowd numbering 9,740 turned up for a Sunday evening televised match and they were thoroughly entertained.

Jim Weir returning from injury ( how many times did we say that during his Saints career? ) played at right back that night and what an inspirational performance he gave. When Kieran McAnespie sent over an inviting cross from a free kick Jim rose above the Rangers defence to head Saints into a 14th minute lead.

Main, Dods and Bollan were playing as if their lives depended on the result and had succeeded in thwarting all Rangers attempts to draw level until finally Craig Moore equalised with 58 minutes on the clock. However, Saints were by no means finished and regained the lead when Miguel Simao chested the ball into the net to make it 2 – 1 with 17 minutes remaining. Saints then withstood intense pressure to maintain their slim advantage and deep into added on time scored a third. It came about following a Rangers corner when the Portugese winger raced almost the full length of the pitch before passing the ball across the 18 yard line for Kieran McAnespie ( who had burst a gut to get alongside Miguel ) to score with a delightful shot. 3 – 1 at full time, an extremely rare win over the Glasgow giants, and another step closer to the coveted third place in the league table.

Saints team was: – Main; Weir, Bollan; Dasovic, Dods, Kernaghan; O’Halloran, McBride, Kane, Grant, McAnespie. Subs: Ferguson, Griffin (for O’Halloran), Preston, Lowndes (for Grant), Simao (for McBride).

I covered in more detail game six in the sequence in the previous article. Briefly, a record crowd of 10,575 rolled up to McDiarmid Park on the 23 May 1999 to watch Saints defeat Dundee 1 – 0 thanks to a Paul Kane header. This meant third place in the league table with the reward being entry into the following season’s UEFA Cup.

The final instalment in this review will appear later.

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