East Fife and St. Mirren Battle Out a Six-Goal Thriller (1949)
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Dundee United, 22nd October 2022)
East Fife v St. Mirren 1949
On 22nd October 1949, St. Mirren travelled to Methil to face East Fife on League business. After a disappointing League Cup campaign and a Renfrewshire Cup loss, Saints had made a bright start to the League season, winning three and drawing two of their first six matches. As a result, they sat in second place just one point behind Celtic in the League table.
The Fifers were in the midst of their “Golden Period”. They were promoted to the top flight in 1947/48 as "B" Division Champions and in that same season they won the League Cup. Following their success in the 1938 Scottish Cup, they were the first club outside of the top division to win the two major Cup competitions. Another League Cup triumph beckoned for the Methil men, but their final against Dunfermline Athletic would have to wait until the week after the Saints match.
The home side’s programme was largely unchanged from the immediate post-war years until the early 1960s. For threepence, it was a twelve-page issue slightly larger than A5 size and was printed black on flimsy gold-coloured paper. The front cover was dominated by an advert for the famous Falkirk brewers James Aitken and Co. until their demise in 1960.
The match details occupied page three above the list of Club officials and “Notes”, which bemoaned the ups and downs of the season. Having defeated Rangers in the League Cup semi-final two weeks previously, East Fife then lost 0-2 at home to Stirling Albion in their next match. The visit of St. Mirren, given their current League position, was expected to be a “worth-while spectacle”. Page five then featured “Pete’s Lament”, a quirky poetic reflection on the previous week’s defeat at the hands of Stirling.
The team line ups on the centre pages accurately listed the players who took the field and page seven gave the half-time score board for the other fourteen Scottish matches to be played that day. The 1949/50 Official Fixtures for East Fife’s matches in “A” Division and “C” Division (the reserve league) occupied page nine and brought an end to the sparse reading matter in the issue.
Regrettably, more than half of the programme was consumed by adverts for local traders, but, more than seventy years on, they give an interesting insight to the era. Almost two pages detailed what could be seen in the various theatres and cinemas of Leven and Methil (who knew it was such a hive of activity!). R. E. Greig’s was the quality store in Methil to buy dungarees, boiler suits and painter’s wear whilst Anderson’s was the place to go for a wholesale potato merchant – changed days indeed!
The team line-ups for East Fife v St. Mirren
A good condition copy of this programme will be hard to find nowadays due to the fragile nature of the paper used, and so one could be expected to fetch upwards of £75.
The 14,000 who attended Bayview Park certainly got their money’s worth with a full-throttled display from both sides. The Fifers immediately went on the attack, but the Saints’ defence coped well to repel headed efforts by the home forwards. At the other end, Alex Crowe was thwarted by the Methil rearguard and a Willie Davie effort from the edge of the box sailed over the bar.
St. Mirren opened the scoring against the run of play in 16 minutes when Gerry Burrell sent in a cross-cum-shot which looked to be going wide until it cannoned off home pivot Finlay and into the net away from ‘keeper McGarrity.
East Fife redoubled their efforts to get the equaliser and produced a number of fine efforts but the Paisley defence, in particular Willie Miller and Willie Telfer, held firm until half-time was reached with the score still 1-0 to Saints.
The second half began in blistering fashion with three goals in the first ten minutes. In the 50th minute, a Black corner for the home side was handled in the box by Willie Reid and Duncan stepped up to equalise from the resultant spot kick. Two minutes later, East Fife took the lead. St. Mirren ‘keeper Miller, under pressure from the onrushing Fleming, misjudged the flight of a Brown lob from the touchline and the ball rolled into the net. After 55 minutes, it was all-square again when Crowe cleverly dummied the ill-positioned home defence and set up an unmarked Eddie Blyth to walk the ball past ‘keeper McGarrity.
The St. Mirren goal survived an onslaught from the home side until the 71st minute when East Fife regained the lead. Brown gathered the ball well inside his own half and went on a mazey run past a number of Saints players before smashing the ball past the advancing Miller. However, all was not lost for the visitors and with seven minutes to go, Burrell took advantage of another home defensive error to net again and make the final score 3-3.
After the match, news filtered through that Celtic had lost 3-0 to Dundee at Dens Park, meaning that St. Mirren had moved to the top of the league on goal average above the Parkhead men.