Sunday 22 September 2013

St Johnstone - past times

St Johnstone's  Muirton Park was often used as a venue for semi finals, particularly if Aberdeen or one of the Dundee teams faced a team from the central belt. However possibly its  most famous fixture was the final match of the 1961-62 season when Dundee required a draw to win their first ever League title, and the home side also a draw, but to avoid relegation.The outcome was a 3-0 win for Dundee and demotion for the Saints, including their young forward, Alex Ferguson.  Ferguson, a horrible opponent even then, would crop up against us from time to time ( - he played against us, and scored, on his wedding day!).

Not so St Johnstone as, following their immediate promotion in 1963, they met us only twice until November 1976, when Jamie Fairlie's early goal gave us a 1-0 away win. The day will perhaps be better remembered as the day of the League Cup final when Ally McLeod's Aberdeen beat Celtic 2-1, and our supporters' bus north met upwards of 100 buses going the other way, part of a mammoth Dons support, not usually associated with a provincial club at Hampden.

The return fixture against the Saints resulted in an improbable 6-0 victory for us. It was a dreadful match in the middle of an otherwise uninspiring set of results. Last day drama in this fixture still lay many years ahead.

St Johnstone were also our opponents when Jose Quitongo played one of his most memorable matches for us. His arrival had transformed our performances during  what still proved to be a relegation season. Our fixture in January 1996 on a rain sodden  day saw him perform a sliding tackle, nick the ball from Allan Preston in mid slide, then slalom up the park. Preston understandably lost his composure completely at this piece of audacity, and lashed out at wee Jose. Jose was able to ride the "tackle" but still managed to fall theatrically in exaggerated fashion ( Jose never dived), and Preston was duly sent off. Paul Hartley then lashed a punt/Hoddlesque exquisite pass  into the roof of the net, and Accies went on to  win 2-1.

Two of the matches in our promotion season of 2007-08 stick out. In the first, and immediately after the famous Cup win against Kilmarnock, our progress towards the title came to a juddering halt with a 4-1 defeat. The second, on 22 December,  was of huge significance - having been caught by Dundee, anything less than a win against a very good Saints side would have allowed them to pass us. As it was, a James McArthur goal was enough to secure a home victory in a difficult match, and we never  looked  back.

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