Scottish Premiership Play-Off Final 2019

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Dundee U. 15th May 2021)

In season 2018/19, St. Mirren won three and drew two of their five Post-Split fixtures, the points from which were enough to easily avoid the automatic relegation place occupied by Dundee, but fell short of overhauling Hamilton to escape the second bottom spot and the two-legged Premiership Play off against Dundee United.

Dundee U. v St. Mirren Play-off First Leg

Dundee U. v St. Mirren
Play-off First Leg

The first leg was played at Tannadice on Thursday, 23rd May to an all-ticket attendance of 11,062 – by far United’s biggest crowd of the season – but one which had allocated only 1,200 places to the visiting support.

Early on in a nervy match, Kyle McAllister’s inswinging free kick was met by the head of home skipper Reynolds but keeper Siegrist prevented an own goal with the first of many important saves on the night. United’s McMullan then used his pace to dart away from Mihai Popescu to get in on goal, but his low shot was well saved by the feet of Saints’ ‘keeper Vaclav Hladky. Another effort from McAllister saw him cut inside from the right before curling a high effort towards the far post that Siegrist did well to beat clear. Saints were denied at the start of the second half when a cross from Ryan Flynn picked out Lee Hodson at the back post. His knock-down was poked towards goal by Magennis but somehow Siegrist again threw up a hand to divert it over. The final real opportunity fell to the home side when Hladky came for and missed the delivery from a corner, but Ryan Flynn hooked the ball off the line before Connolly could take advantage of Pawlett’s knockdown and the tie ended goalless.

Dundee United’s programme, “The Arab” was a 48-page B5-sized issue produced by Curtis Sport, the same publishers as for that season’s St. Mirren publication. Manager Robbie Neilson’s notes briefly reflected on his team’s play-off victory over Inverness and anticipated the evening’s match against Saints, who he admitted had changed much from the previous meeting between the sides three months earlier. Two pages of “Tannadice Topics” were followed by Mark Reynold’s Captain’s Notes, while double pages were devoted to St. Mirren and a report on The Tangerines’ clash with ICT. “A Fan’s Perspective” and a profile of Osman Sow brought the first half of the issue to a close.

The second half of the programme contained a number of Saints-related articles, recalling the history between the Clubs, a review of their recent Scottish Cup tie in Paisley, and archive photos. “Goal Kings” focussed on Paul Sturrock’s 1976/77 season, and was followed by news of a new publication about Dundee United’s travelling support. The remainder of the programme covered Youth and Academy news, Club statistics and player sponsorship.

Danny Mullin's equaliser in the second leg

Danny Mullin's equaliser in the second leg

Greenhill Road welcomed a record crowd of 7,732 for the finely-poised return match on Sunday 26th May. On 23 minutes, referee Beaton made the first of a series of controversial decisions when he awarded a penalty to the visitors, adjudging Jack Baird to have deliberately handled a cross. Clark sent Hladky the wrong way with the spot kick, but it would be United’s only success from 12 yards that afternoon. The equaliser came three minutes later when Danny Mullin pounced on a sliced Reynolds clearance to volley home from 16 yards. From that point on, Saints had the better of the game, but there was no further scoring.

With no away goals rule in force, the match went to extra time. The referee further incensed the home support when he issued a straight red card to substitute Duckens Nazon with five minutes remaining, having failed to punish two United players for earlier incidents. However, the Tangerines couldn’t capitalise on the extra man advantage and the match went to penalties.

St. Mirren ‘keeper Vaclav Hladky then came to the fore, saving United’s first two spot kicks from Pawlett and Safranko, whilst Saints defenders McGinn and Popescu both scored. The next two kicks, from United’s Sow and Saints’ Muzek, both rattled the ‘keeper’s left upright. With the score at 2-0, United’s Booth had to score with the next kick to keep the tie alive, but Hladky kept his nerve, diverting a straight shot away with his leg to win the match and keep St. Mirren in the Premiership.

St. Mirren v Dundee U. Play-off Second Leg

St. Mirren v Dundee U.
Play-off Second Leg

Vaclav Hladky saves the decisive spot kick

Vaclav Hladky saves the decisive spot kick

Issue 25 of “The Saint PA3 1RU” featured Gary MacKenzie on the cover, which was fitting as he had made a huge contribution in the matches leading to the Club’s Premiership survival. Printing deadlines prevented Oran Kearney’s “Gaffer” page from commenting on the first leg, but he did review the recent wins over Hamilton and Dundee and praised the turnout and vocal backing of the fans throughout the season. “Last Time Out” displayed photo action from the previous week’s victory at Dens Park and was followed by three pages on the visitors, highlighting the players to watch and providing fixture and squad details. A short questionnaire on cover star MacKenzie preceded David Cochran’s “St. Mirren Greats” which focussed on 1880s player Andrew Brown.

Mihai Popescu featured on the centre-page spread and the second half of the programme included “Fans Corner”, a Post-Split round-up and a “Flash Back” to an earlier Saints win over Dundee United. Alan Gallacher’s “Football Bloody Hell” discussed Liverpool’s contribution to that season’s English Premiership campaign, while the remainder of the reading matter consisted of Marketing Matters, Fixtures and Results and Kit Sponsorship.