St. Mirren’s competitive debut in Dingwall

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Ross County, 22nd August 2020)

St. Mirren and Ross County first met in a competitive fixture on 22nd August 2000 when they were drawn together in the second round of the League Cup, sponsored that season by Co-operative Insurance. The sides had previously met only in pre-season friendlies at Dingwall in July 1993 and August 1994, Saints winning both matches by 1-0 and 2-0 respectively.

Ross County v St. Mirren 2000

Ross County v St. Mirren 2000

Both sides had been recently promoted and were finding it difficult to settle in to their new environments. Saints gained their first Premier Division points at the fourth attempt in the match against Dundee on the previous Saturday. Meanwhile, the Staggies were still looking to get off the mark after two games in the First Division.

Just over 1,000 spectators turned up at Victoria Park on the Tuesday evening to see who would progress into the third round. Saints pounded the County defence without success for most of the match, but the home side broke the deadlock in the 81st minute when ex-Saint George Shaw pounced on a defensive mix-up between Ludovic Roy and Scott Walker to score. The home fans were still cheering when Hugh Murray unleashed a blistering drive past County ‘keeper Nicky Walker to net the equaliser just three minutes later.

The tie went into extra time and, although both teams were tired, St. Mirren looked the hungrier side and took the lead in the 93rd minute when Scott Walker headed home a Gillies corner. With Saints trying to preserve their lead there followed a bit of jocularity. Jose Quitongo could be seen in the middle of the park with his arms raised and the game passing him by. If he was injured, then Saints would be down to 10 men, having used all of their substitutes. No, he was simply trying to attract referee Willie Young’s attention to leave the field and answer the call of nature. Fortunately, his absence didn’t adversely affect Saints for the remainder of the first period and they went on to score a third goal with eight minutes remaining, Gillies again providing the assist for substitute Tom Brown to kill off a plucky County performance. Saints went on to reach the semi final of the CIS League Cup that season, losing out to Kilmarnock at Hampden Park.

Ross County marked the occasion with a 32-page A5 sized programme, priced £1.50. The attractive cover design featured the Club crest, match details, and a small action photo, but this gave a rather false indication of what lay within.

The Chief Executive’s comments and Club directory were followed by Assistant Manager Gordon Chisholm’s “From the Management Desk”. “Vital Statistics” looked at Staggies’ Steven Ferguson and topical content was provided by Brian Irvine’s “Captain’s Column” and “County News”. “In the Frame” displayed two action photos from County’s Challenge Cup victory over Clyde and was followed by reports on this match and County’s CIS Cup first round victory over Albion Rovers.

The centre page spread presented an array of CIS Cup results, County appearances and team line ups.

Into the second half of the programme and, of more interest to the visiting fans, this featured pen pictures of the Saints players, a report of the 1994 pre-season friendly between the sides, and a feature on players who had connections with both Clubs. A reprise of “In the Frame” gave two more action photos from the home side’s clash with Clyde and this was followed by a half page of “League Cup Snippets”.

Much of the programme featured full colour, but on closer inspection this was solely reserved for the 20 pages of advertising. These overwhelmed the features, which were subsequently squeezed into half pages throughout the issue. The level of advertising was understandably necessary in order to offset the costs of such an issue, but one felt that the fans would have preferred more content and less colour.