11 September 2004 – Ross County 1 – 0

On this day in 2004 Saints made the long trip to Dingwall to meet  Ross County in a League Division 1 fixture.

New Manager, John Connolly, had brought together a completely new squad of players and understandably early results were somewhat mixed, with 4 defeats in the first 5 matches followed by 2 wins and a draw in the more recent games going into this match.

The team that day was : – Allan McGregor, Steven Anderson, Kevin Fotheringham, David Hannah, Kevin Rutkiewicz, Ian Maxwell, Ryan McCann, Paul Sheerin, Stephen McConalogue, Michael Moore, Lee Hardy.

Subs: – Kevin Cuthbert, Alan Mahood, Chris Hay, Mark Baxter, Stevie McManus.

There were a reported 160 fans in the crowd of 2,486 at Victoria Park and were pleased with the continued improvement in Saints performances.

On a windy day Saints goalscorer was David Hannah from the penalty spot on 31 minutes.

Stephen McConalogue had a chance to put Saints two ahead just before the interval but his shot was well saved by the Staggies keeper.

In what was a bit of a tousy match the home team were reduced to 10 men in the second half when Gary McSwegan saw red following a tangle with Kevin Fotheringham.

After this Saints appear to have toiled against the 10 men but held on for a welcome 3 points.

Noteworthy is that Allan McGregor was on loan from Rangers and is now a full Scottish International.

Steven Anderson is, of course, still at the club and to date has made 239 appearances plus 28 subs and scored 5 goals.

Kevin Rutkiewicz was plagued with injuries but still made 133 starts plus 12 subs and scored 10 goals.

Paul Sheerin went on to make 204 starts plus 27 sub appearances, scoring 37 goals, and is now successfully Managing at Arbroath.


Nigel Hasselbaink’s 50th Appearance for St Johnstone

When Nigel Hasselbaink started St Johnstone’s match against Aberdeen at Pittodrie today, it was his 50th appearance for Saints.

He has started 25 matches, come on as a substitute in 25 matches, and scored 8 goals.

St Johnstone – Oldest Player’s Appearance

Should Steve Banks appear as goalkeeper for St Johnstone tomorrow against Ross County it will make him the second oldest player to appear for the Club in a competitive match.

His date of birth is given as 9 February 1972 making him 41 years plus 188 days old on Saturday.

However, former Scotland International goalkeeper Stewart Kennedy played one match for Saints at Dunfermline Athletic on 1 January 1992 at the age of 42 years plus 123 days.

This was his only appearance and it came about as a result of goalkeeper Lindsay Hamilton being sent off against Hearts at McDiarmid Park the previous Saturday in what turned out to be a 5 – 0 defeat.

Kennedy kept a clean sheet that New Year’s Day as goals from Sergei Baltacha, Vinny Arkins and Harry Curran saw Saints win 3 – 0.

With current ‘keeper Alan Mannus out of action for up to 6 weeks then Banks could have an extended run.

St Johnstone in Europe – Part 2

St Johnstone v VPS Vaasa at home

Two weeks after a late Nathan Lowndes goal had secured a 1 – 1 draw in Finland against VPS Vaasa the second leg of the UEFA Cup Qualifying Round took place at McDiarmid Park on Thursday 26 August 1999.

Since the first leg, going into the match, Saints Premier League form had improved with a 2 – 0 win secured over Kilmarnock followed by a 1 – 1 draw with Hibs, both at Perth, providing confidence. Encouragingly, Lowndes was in a good vein of goalscoring form as he netted in both of the league games. Gary Bollan scored the other goal against Killie.

Ongoing injuries meant that Alan Kernaghan, George O’Boyle and Allan Preston were still missing from the Euro squad.

So when the team lined up that evening it was : – Main, McQuillan, Bollan, Dasovic, Weir, Dods, McAnespie, O’Neil, Lowndes, McMahon, Kane. Subs – Griffin, Grant, Simao, McCluskey, McBride, O’Halloran and Ferguson ( gk ).

Saints first home European tie in 28 years had rekindled much interest in Perth and surrounding areas so when 8,392 fans turned up they were hoping that their new heroes could repeat the form of the likes of Henry Hall, John Connolly and Jim Pearson from the 1971 campaign.

They were not to be disappointed but it was the visitors playing three up front who made the first impression winning a corner straight from the kick off. This came to nothing and it was Saints who took control with Paul Kane, John O’Neil and Canadian internationalist Nick Dasovic taking a firm grip in midfield.

Kane had a long-range effort saved by the keeper before a strong Saints penalty appeal was waved away by the Spanish referee. John McQuillan made a great run into the box only to be tackled by Pohja who had scored the Vaasa goal in the first leg and had proved something of a handful to the Saints defence in that match. However, the ref was not convinced. In today’s game the challenge would probably be described as “a forward’s tackle”.

On 15 minutes a Kane free kick so nearly found the head of a diving Jim Weir and minutes later good interplay between Gerry McMahon and Lowndes sent the striker clear on goal. Unfortunately his parting shot flew over the bar.

Saints were definitely the better team but unable to turn their outfield superiority into clear-cut chances. Vaasa were playing a typical away game with a resolute well-organised defence and hoping to hit on the break through two fast wingers.

Consequently there were 40 minutes on the clock before the next bit of real action came along … and it came at the Saints end!

Alan Main had been something of a spectator throughout the first half only being asked to make a routine save from a tame shot from Pohja. However, he managed to miskick a Darren Dods pass back straight to Kaijasitta. Thankfully the Vaasa forward failed to control the ball with the goal gaping and Weir was able to boot the ball clear. A real let off.

The early stages of the second half followed a similar pattern to the first period with mainly midfield play and little goalmouth action.

With Saints holding the advantage of an away goal the visitors began to realise that they had to score in order to have any hope of advancing in the competition.

Saints had adopted a patient strategy that was effective but not exactly exciting.

In 52 minutes Main showed his true ability when he made a tremendous save from former Motherwell striker Roy Essandoh who saw the keeper tip his 20 yarder around the post for a corner.

The biggest cheer of the night came on 68 minutes when Sandy Clark decided that Roddy Grant should be introduced for Kieran McAnespie to add punch to the attack.

This seemed to galvanise the home team and a minute later a Kane effort from inside the box brought out a fine save from goalkeeper Stringheim who managed to turn the shot around the post. Gary Bollan’s corner kick was met at the back post by Darren Dods and his downward header was saved by the keeper’s feet. Dods then saw his shot from the rebound hit the keeper point blank on the head. The ball was then cleared upfield and as play raged on Stringheim lay prone in the box apparently unseen by any of the match officials.

30 seconds or so elapsed and despite the Finns frantic protests the referee only stopped the game after a Bollan lob into the goalmouth had caused a further melee before being cleared out of play.

The Finnish coach, Kimmo Lipponen, was furious and raced on to the pitch behind the team’s physio. Words appear to have been exchanged with the referee who promptly ordered Lipponen to the stand. This certainly livened things up.

The unfortunate goalie could not recover from his injury and was subsequently replaced by substitute keeper Sillanpaa.

Saints were now going all out for the winner and Lowndes had another good chance to score but shot straight at the keeper. With less than 10 minutes left of play he was replaced by Miguel Simao.

The Portugese forward had only been on the pitch for 6 minutes when he scored.

Gerry McMahon crossed and when “Roddy” nodded the ball down Simao drilled the ball into the net from 12 yards much to the relief of the home support.

The Finns realised that now they really had to score to level the match and pushed hard for an equaliser which would have seen the game go into extra time.

However, much to the delight of the Saints fans, two minutes into injury time  super sub Simao scored his second goal. This time he collected the ball from a McMahon pass and ran into the box before rounding the keeper and sliding the ball into the empty net. The noise in the stadium was deafening as the jubilant supporters celebrated.

This would prove to be the final action and the match ended 2 – 0 Saints on the night and 3 – 1 on aggregate.

The scoreline also maintained Saints proud record of not conceding a home goal in the 4 European matches.

In his post match interview Manager Sandy Clark said, “ It was always going to be a bit nervy. Give VPS credit, they played three up, had a go and made it very hard for us.”

The draw for the next round would see Saints given a glamour tie with AS Monaco.

St Johnstone – Opening Day Premier League Fixtures

As can be seen from the following list, yesterday’s win over Hearts at McDiarmid Park was the first time Saints had won their opening day Scottish Premiership match since 1975, when a late John Muir goal secured a victory over local rivals Dundee United.

30 Aug 1975   H   PL   Dundee United   1 – 0

20 Aug 1983   H   PL   Hearts                  0 – 1

25 Aug 1990   H   PL   Dundee United   1 – 3

10 Aug 1991   A   PL   Rangers                0 – 6

1 Aug 1992   A   PL   Rangers                  0 – 1

7 Aug 1993   A   PL   Raith Rovers          1 – 1

2 Aug 1997   H   PL   Dundee United    1 – 1

1 Aug 1998   A   PL   Motherwell           0 – 1

31 Jul 1999    H   PL   Hearts                  1 – 4

29 Jul 2000    A    PL   Rangers               1 – 2

28 Jul 2001    A    PL   Celtic                    0 – 3

15 Aug 2009   H   PL   Motherwell        2 – 2

14 Aug 2010   A   PL   Hearts                 1 – 1

23 Jul 2011   A   PL   Aberdeen              0 – 0

4 Aug 2012   A   PL   Hearts                   0 – 2

4 Aug 2013   H   PL   Hearts                   1 – 0

St Johnstone in Europe

VPS Vaasa in Finland

Saturday 23 May 1999 was the final day of the 1998/99 season and it saw both Saints and Kilmarnock vying for the coveted 3rd place spot in the Scottish Premier League. This position would provide a passport to European qualification for the following season.

At the start of play Killie were 1 point ahead of Saints and visiting Glasgow to take on Rangers who had already been crowned Champions. Saints were playing hosts to local rivals Dundee at McDiarmid Park and a record crowd of 10,575 turned out to cheer on their favourites.

At half time it was 1 – 1 at Ibrox and 0 – 0 in Perth. So no change in League positions.

However, in the second half, Alan Main produced a brilliant fingertip save from a James Grady header to keep the scoreline blank. Then in the 72nd minute at the Ormond Stand end came the moment that mattered. A wonderful Paul Kane header from a John O’Neil cross gave Saints a 1 – 0 lead. This coupled with the full time news that Killmarnock had drawn at Ibrox meant that Saints had managed to leapfrog their Rugby Park rivals into third place. Saints finished the Season with 57 points, one ahead of the Ayrshire club.

Now Europe beckoned for the first time since 1971.

The draw for the 1st Qualifying Round of the UEFA Cup saw Saints paired with the Finnish side VPS Vaasa who had finished second in the their League. The first leg was set for Thursday 12 August 1999 at the 6,000 capacity Hietalahti Stadium.

Going into the match neither team was in the best of form. Reports from Finland indicated that our hosts had won only 1 of their previous 10 games, in a season which had started in May, and were close to the bottom of their league. That said, Sandy Clark’s team had got off to the worst possible start in the League, losing heavily to both Hearts ( 1 – 4 ) and to Celtic ( 0 – 3 ) in the opening matches of the domestic campaign.

However, none of this could dampen the enthusiasm of Saints supporters with some 300 fans making the long trip to the University town on the picturesque West Coast of Finland. A piper led the colourfully boisterous, but well behaved, band of fans as they set off on their march from the centre of town to the stadium. The local people had obviously never seen anything like it before and came out in their numbers to applaud and cheer the Saints fans. It was a truly memorable experience which has become a feature of subsequent European trips.

Prior to the match there had been injury concerns over Alan Kernaghan, Allan Preston and George O’Boyle, none of whom had featured in either the Hearts or Celtic matches. Roddy Grant had sustained a recurrence of an ankle injury against Hearts but was deemed fit enough for the subs bench. Accordingly the team which took the field on a sunny autumn evening was :-

Main, McQuillan, Bollan, Dasovic, Weir, Dods, Simao, O’Neil, McAnespie, McMahon, Kane. Subs – Griffin, Grant, O’Halloran, McCluskey, Lauchlan, Lowndes, Ferguson (gk).

Saints started the better of two very tentative sides and the first real chance of the match came along in the 7th minute when winger Miguel Simao created an opportunity for Gerry McMahon. However, the home goalkeeper was quickly out to dive at the Saints player’s feet to avert the danger. 

Minutes later Simao received a Paul Kane pass and cut across two defenders before sending in a fierce shot from just outside the penalty area which beat the keeper but missed the junction of the post and crossbar by a whisker.

Midway through the half, Saints nearly scored when the home keeper could only punch out a Gary Bollan cross as far as John McQuillan. The full back lobbed the ball over the stranded keeper but his effort was headed off the line by defender Kokko.

Two minutes later Saints should have taken the lead when John O’Neil’s cross eluded the home defenders and when the ball bounced up to Kieran McAnespie the striker could only head the ball into the goalkeeper’s arms from 8 yards out. A great chance missed.

Alan Main had been experiencing an extremely nervy period when, firstly, he tried to chip the ball to Gary Bollan but only succeeded in placing the ball at the feet of Vaasa striker Pohja. Fortunately his shot went inches over the crossbar with the Saints custodian anxiously scampering back. Minutes later he sliced a kick intended for McQuillan straight across his own goal.

Then in 33 minutes the ‘keeper produced an International class save when he tipped a Pohja net bound drive over the bar. Somewhat bizarrely he then  managed to drop the resultant corner and was relieved to see Suoste’s overhead kick float over the bar.

This seemed to buoy up the home team and 5 minutes before half time they took the lead. Sandy Clark was clearly unhappy with the play of his defenders when a left wing cross glanced off Darren Dods head straight to that man Pohja, who, despite Bollan’s efforts to block, dispatched the ball past a helpless Main into the net.

Just before the interval it was nearly 2 – 0 to Vaasa when Priha shaved the outside of the post with a shot from the edge of the box.

The start of the second half saw Saints attack with new vigour. Vaasa keeper Toivonen spilled a Jim Weir header only to see Simao blaze the ball over the bar from inside the six yard box. Minutes later the Portugese player was replaced by Roddy Grant and the big striker was soon into the action causing confusion in the home defence. A Nick Dasovic surge forward in 66 minutes saw his shot turned past the post. This was followed by a Weir shot that stung the keeper’s hands.

Minutes later a timely intervention by McQuillan stopped danger man Pohja from scoring a second.

Sandy Clark, had seen enough and on 70 minutes replaced McMahon with Nathan Lowndes. This proved to be an inspired substitution as it took the striker only 6 minutes to grab the equalizer. Roddy Grant’s physical threat was worrying the home defence and creating space in the danger area. John McQuillan drove into the box and his low driven cross was prodded home from 6 yards by Lowndes. 1 – 1 and game on.

Saints then went all out for the winner and after one or two near things in the last minute a Roddy Grant shot was headed clear again by Kokko on the goal line.

This was the final action and the game ended one goal each with all to play for in the second leg to be played in Perth two weeks later.

St Johnstone – European Goalscorers by Team

Further to my earlier postings the following is a list of Saints goalscorers in UEFA Cup and Europa League matches.

1.    15 Sep 1971  A    UEFA   1/1     Jim Pearson    v   SV Hamburg   1 – 2

2.    29 Sep 1971  H    UEFA   1/2     Henry Hall       v   SV Hamburg   3 – 0

3.    29 Sep 1971  H    UEFA   1/2     Jim Pearson    v   SV Hamburg   3 – 0

4.    29 Sep 1971  H    UEFA   1/2     Gordon Whitelaw v  SV Hamburg    3 – 0

5.    20 Oct 1971   H    UEFA   2/1     John Connolly(pen) v Vasas Budapest  2 – 0

6.    20 Oct 1971   H    UEFA   2/1     Jim Pearson    v  Vasas Budapest   2 – 0

7.    24 Nov 1971  H    UEFA   3/1     John Connolly  v   Zel Sarajevo    1 – 0  

8.      8 Dec 1971  A    UEFA   3/2      Benny Rooney   v   Zel Sarajevo    1 – 5

9.    12 Aug 1999  A    UEFA   P/1     Nathan Lowndes  v  VPS Vaasa     1 – 1

10.  26 Aug 1999  H    UEFA   P/2     Miguel Simao    v  VPS Vaasa        2 – 0

11.   26 Aug 1999  H   UEFA   P/2      Miguel Simao    v  VPS Vaasa        2 – 0

12.   30 Sep 1999  H   UEFA   1/2      OG ( Leonard )  v  AS Monaco       3 – 3

13.   30 Sep 1999  H   UEFA   1/2      Nick Dasovic     v  AS Monaco        3 – 3

14.   30 Sep 1999  H   UEFA   1/2      John O’Neil        v  AS Monaco       3 – 3

15.   26 Jul  2012   H   Europa Q2/2   Gregory Tade     v  Eskisehirspor      1 – 1