The Great Escape – Motherwell v St. Mirren 2007
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Motherwell, 1st February 2022)
Motherwell v St. Mirren 2007
On Saturday, 12th May 2007, St. Mirren headed to Fir Park to face Motherwell in a match that was crucial to Saints retaining their Premier League status, attained only twelve months earlier.
With only two matches remaining, Motherwell, St. Mirren and Dunfermline Athletic occupied the bottom three places. The Steelmen were all but mathematically safe on 37 points, while Saints were on 33 points, one point above The Pars in the sole relegation spot and with a slightly better goal difference. Despite their position, Dunfermline were the form team in the league with five wins out of the previous six games, including victories over both Motherwell and St. Mirren.
Motherwell’s matchday magazine, entitled “Steelmen” was a smart, full colour publication consisting of forty-eight A5 pages. The nervousness in the home camp was evident in the first few pages where the Editorial referred to “probably the biggest game for many years”, and Maurice Malpas’ notes talked about “frustration” and requiring a "positive attitude”.
There were two pages on the visitors, who were mistakenly listed as - Falkirk! Despite that little slip-up, all the facts about the club, players and manager were firmly based in Paisley.
Spread throughout the issue were three double page match reports in text, statistics and photos of Motherwell’s recent matches. The first of these reports preceded a comprehensive listing of the home side’s results for the season and comparison statistics for both ‘Well and St. Mirren. The player appearance grid in particular displayed the most colourful set of symbols and abbreviations ever to have graced a programme and required some concentration to decipher!
Sutton (not in picture) scores Saints' first
A four-page feature on Hungarian midfielder Krisztian Vadocz talked about his recent transfer from France and his attempts to acclimatise to life in Scotland, and this led into the centre-page spread displaying an action shot of defender Paul Quinn.
Reviews of the home side's recent U-19 matches opened the second half of the programme and this was followed by “Season in brief”, looking at Motherwell's 1999/00 season, and a feature entitled “Hat-tricks" which chronicled goal-scoring feats from the previous few seasons. A full page of detailed Scottish Premier League stats and the back-page display of team line-ups completed the reading matter, whilst sponsorship and adverts occupied twenty pages.
The crowd of 9,277, Fir Park’s highest League attendance of the season outside the Old Firm matches, was probably due to the importance of the fixture, coupled with a cut-price ticket offer, and featured a large contingent from Paisley seated in the South Stand.
Mehmet takes the congratulations for the second goal
Both sides started nervously with many passes going astray. A Vadocz shot, which was headed clear by John Potter and Stewart Kean’s effort from a difficult angle were the only talking points in a dismal first half hour. However, Motherwell then took a valuable lead in 38 minutes when McBride nodded the ball across for McCormack to head home from six-yards.
The half-time interval brought more bad news for Saints when it was reported that Dunfermline were 1-0 up at Inverness and, as the scores stood, Saints were now in bottom spot.
It got worse four minutes into the second half when Motherwell went 2-0 up. Andy Millen was adjudged to have used his arm while clearing a Motherwell attack and McCormack grabbed his second goal from the resultant penalty.
The St. Mirren players celebrate Sutton's winning goal
Buddies’ Manager Gus MacPherson responded by throwing on strikers John Sutton and Billy Mehmet and both had an immediate impact. In 56 minutes, Alan Reid’s cross found Sutton and the striker’s weak header squirmed through Meldrum's legs to nestle in the back of the net.
Three minutes later, a long throw from Ian Maxwell found its way to Kirk Broadfoot, who laid it back for Mehmet to curl a delightful shot from 15 yards into the net to put Saints on level terms.
McCormack then almost put the home side ahead but his chip from 18 yards was not enough to beat Chris Smith, who scrambled back to tip the ball over the bar.
A Sutton header was later turned on to the bar by Meldrum, but the striker was not to be denied and in 83 minutes he hammered the ball high into the net from 15 yards to complete the comeback.
The final whistle brought celebrations for winning the match, but these turned to scenes of joy when the full-time report came through from the Highlands that a goalkeeping error and a last-minute deflection had given Inverness a 2-1 victory, relegating Dunfermline and preserving Saints' place in the Premier League.