Brechin make it tough for St. Mirren in the Scottish Cup (1953)

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Motherwell, 28th January 2023)

Anderson scores in the first tie

Anderson scores in the first tie

The draw for the First Round of the 1952/53 Scottish Cup paired St. Mirren with Brechin City on January 24th 1953 at Love Street in their first post-war encounter. The sides had only ever met on four previous occasions, with Saints winning two Cup ties and two Second Division League matches during the 1930s. As the Angus club were now plying their trade with a number of reserve sides in the North-East Section of Division “C”, it was generally thought that St. Mirren would have little trouble in progressing to the next round.

Due to a clash of colours, St. Mirren turned out in a snappy new “butcher’s apron” strip, but there was no butchering in the play that followed. With the wind behind them in the first half, St. Mirren threatened to overrun their opponents but the spurning of numerous first-half chances meant that the interval arrived with only a ninth minute Walter Anderson goal to show for their efforts. The visitors took encouragement from this situation and Johnny Coyle equalised 17 minutes from time. Brechin could even have taken the spoils with ten minutes remaining but Willie Sampson failed to capitalise in a breakaway move.

As well as gaining a replay, the lower league side also received a sizeable cheque from their share of the gate receipts, the crowd of 10,947 bringing in a total of £730.

Brechin C. v St.Mirren 1953

Brechin C. v St.Mirren 1953

Issue no. 92 of St. Mirren’s standard programme for the season is thought to have been produced for the tie, featuring the illustrated player and match details on the cover. However, this is proving to be one of the most elusive Saints programmes to find, as not even a cover image of the issue has been seen.

Brechin City Supporters’ Club produced an equally-rare single sheet programme for the replay on Wednesday, January 28th 1953. This was slightly smaller than A5-size, printed black on very flimsy dark pink paper, and was available for a threepenny donation. The sheet provided only the match details, team line-ups and a message of encouragement for the home fans. The players listed were those who had played at Paisley but, whereas Brechin fielded the same eleven for the replay, St. Mirren replaced Willie Johnstone with Willie Reid at left half and reserve centre-forward Sammy Wilson took the place of George Stewart. The reverse of the single sheet was blank.

The replay caused a lot of excitement in the area and some local works allowed employees time off to attend the tie, the winners of which would enjoy a money-spinning trip to face Aberdeen in the next round. Fans were encouraged to arrive early for the 2.30pm kick-off and to have the correct two-shilling admission money ready.

The first talking point of the match was Brechin’s choice to play uphill against a gale-force wind and the Paisley men understandably spent most of the first period in the home side’s half of the field. In the fourteenth minute, Duncan McGill sent a high ball over from the left which struck the top of the bar. Home goalkeeper George Tidy failed to deal with it and the ball broke to Sammy Wilson for the simplest of tasks to score.

Sammy Wilson challenges George Tidy for the ball

Sammy Wilson challenges
George Tidy for the ball

Saints continued to pile on the pressure and Tommy Gemmell hit the post with a rocket shot, but generally the home side held fast against the Saints forwards and the weather conditions.

In the 33rd minute, Brechin had a strong claim for a penalty. Outside-left Charlie Stewart drew Saints’ Bob Park out of his goal and centred the ball for Johnny Coyle to shoot at an unguarded target, but Willie Telfer popped up on the goal line to charge down the shot, reputedly with the aid of his hand. Fortunately for St. Mirren, there was no VAR in these days and the referee ignored the home side’s appeals.

Brechin were encouraged by this effort and won two corners in quick succession. From the second of these, Park obligingly dropped the ball at Coyle’s feet but he was dispossessed by the ever-alert Davie Lapsley.

Aided by the wind, the Angus side came more into the match in the second half, but they were repeatedly thwarted by Lapsley and Telfer, who was later adjudged to be the man of the match. The big difference between “A” Division and “C” Division football became apparent in the last twenty minutes as the pace caught up with the home players and Saints progressed to the next round by one goal to nil.

However, Brechin had given a good account of themselves and the attendance of 3,357 and gate receipts of £279 eased the pain of their exit from the Cup.