Kilmarnock are the first visitors to New St. Mirren Park

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Kilmarnock, 29th December 2019)

Kilmarnock were the first visitors to New St. Mirren Park on 31st January 2009. In a day of “firsts”, the new ground saw an attendance record of 7,542 (which stood firm until recently broken in last season’s Play-Off final against Dundee United), the first goals and the first (missed) penalty.

St. Mirren almost took the lead in bizarre circumstances early on when Pascali's attempted clearance from Jack Ross' cross went high into the air and bounced near the goal-line before Wright ushered the ball to safety. Andy Dorman then missed an excellent chance to break the deadlock when he ran on to Dargo's defence-splitting pass and dragged a left-foot shot wide.

However, very much against the run of play, Kilmarnock took the honour of scoring the new ground’s first goal when Kevin Kyle rose to nod Garry Hay's excellent cross past Howard in the 29th minute. Saints were soon given the chance to level from the penalty spot when Dargo was felled in the box by Combe, but the keeper redeemed himself by palming away Hamilton's tame spot-kick.

In the second half, Saints kept pressing for the equaliser but it was late in coming. Dennis Wyness, who had come on as a 79th minute substitute for Stephen McGinn, took only four minutes to get on the score sheet when he capitalised on an error by Combe. The goalkeeper's attempted clearance from Robb's free-kick rebounded off Mehmet's head and Wyness lashed the ball into the net.

St. Mirren v Kilmarnock 2009

St. Mirren v Kilmarnock 2009

In the end, Saints were more content with the 1-1 draw than their disappointed visitors.

The match programme was Saints’ third variation on the season’s output. Following on from the early season “Saints” programme and the special “End of an Era” issue for the last match at Love Street, the issue for the Kilmarnock match was simply headed “The First Ever Game at the New St. Mirren Park”. The 60 B5-sized page production was an increase on previous issues, and included a one-off thick glossy cover (programmes for the remainder of the 2008/09 season reverted to 56 pages and used semi-gloss paper throughout).

After the usual introductions from the Chairman and Manager, there were two pages on previous matches played on this day. Alan Gallagher’s “Football Bloody Hell” was followed by three pages on Kilmarnock’s season 2008/09 so far. The Wright Angle gave Brian’s take on current Scottish football matters and David Grier’s “Thoughts of a West Stand Buddie” gave a unique view on the Love Street exit. Another contribution from Brian Wright focussed on St. Mirren’s winning run in the 1987 Scottish Cup in “The Love Street Years”.

The centre 8-page souvenir section featured images from the final match at the old ground. As this had ended as a 0-0 draw, the centre page spread showed a glorious image of Craig Dargo scoring the last ever league goal at the Love Street, against Hamilton Accies on 27th December 2008.

In the second half of the programme, Jim Crawford’s “Attic Attack” provided an interesting view on various “firsts” through the years, including a very interesting description of the saga involving the first floodlit game at Love Street. Wullie Bell and Stuart Gillespie then had a say on the move to Greenhill Road in “Home Sweet Home” and “And Another Thing”.

The remainder of the issue was devoted to fixtures, statistics, academy news, kit sponsorship. commercial news. sponsor’s logos and, unfortunately, no fewer than 26 pages of adverts.

As with the “End of an Era” programme, this one is not a difficult one to find, but it still attracts enough attention from collectors that it can regularly be found on dealer’s lists at more than double the original £4 price tag.