Saints Ease Through in the Scottish Cup (1986)
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Hibs, 4th February 2023)
St.Mirren v East Fife 1986
On 4th February 1986, St. Mirren faced East Fife in a Scottish Cup Third Round Replay at Love Street. The first meeting at Methil ten days earlier had ended in a 1-1 draw. Jim Rooney’s 16th-minute opener being cancelled out three minutes later when a mix-up between Peter Godfrey and Campbell Money led to an own goal by the defender. The Fifers then put up a stern resistance to the Premier League opponents, but many thought that they had missed their chance of progressing to the next round at the first time of asking.
The programme for the replay was St. Mirren’s standard 20 page, B5-sized issue, number 16 for the season. It was printed black on white gloss paper, with red spot colour on the covers and on one inside page, and was priced at 50p. The front cover featured photo action from the first tie, above the match and sponsorship details.
Gardner Speirs puts Saints ahead from the penalty spot
Pages 3 and 4 provided the team line-ups and fixtures for both First and Reserve teams, whilst on page five “Alex’s Angle” reviewed the drawn Cup-tie at Methil. He felt that his side had only themselves to blame for the knife-edge situation they had found themselves in and hoped that they could take their opportunities in the replay. “Drew’s News” consisted only of a Reserve team photo from a recent Love Street clash against Rangers. John Byrne reflected on the one previous occasion when St. Mirren and East Fife had been drawn in the Scottish Cup. This was back in season 1970/71 when three matches were required to settle the tie before Saints progressed. Part two of Colin McHarg’s “A Year in the Life of St. Mirren” covered the events at the Club during Summer 1985 and the centre pages featured a photo of East Fife’s squad alongside the Scottish Cup Third Round results and Fourth Round draw.
Steve Clarke scores the goal of the match
On page 13, “Profile” focussed on midfielder Jim Rooney and this was followed by John Byrne’s second contribution, looking at Saints’ matches at this stage of the Cup in previous seasons. The next two pages carried pen pictures of the opposition players and photo action from Methil. The remainder of the 50p issue was filled by photo action from the recent Tennent’s Sixes tournament (in which St. Mirren were runners up), sponsorship and adverts.
A crowd of 3,634 descended on Paisley to see which of the sides would earn the right to face Falkirk at home in the next round. St. Mirren had a lot of the ball in the opening minutes but, owing to the Methil side’s ultra-defensive set up and close marking, the home side found it difficult to break through. They forced four corners in the opening eight minutes but only had headed attempts by Frank McGarvey and Jim Rooney to show for their efforts.
Saints made the breakthrough after 13 minutes when Brian Gallagher’s attempted chip was handled in the penalty box by Steve Kirk and the referee pointed to the spot. Gardner Spiers sent his shot low and just inside the ‘keeper’s left-hand post to put the home side 1-0 ahead.
Brian Gallagher seals the tie
The unfortunate Kirk was later booked for a foul on McGarvey and in 37 minutes there was an amazing turn of events when the Fifers were reduced to ten men. Davie Kirkwood appeared to remonstrate with the stand-side linesman about an offside call and, after some consultation between the officials, Referee Louis Thow showed the Methil man a straight red card.
The visitors’ task took on gigantic proportions in the last minute of the first half when Saints doubled their lead with a memorable goal. Steve Clarke took a pass from Rooney and went on a 40-yard run, ghosting past opponents before unleashing a shot high into the net, giving Gordon Marshall no chance.
St. Mirren dashed the First Division side’s faint hopes of making a comeback in 54 minutes when Gallagher made it 3-0. He headed down a Tony Fitzpatrick through ball, outpaced the defence and shot past Marshall as the ‘keeper advanced from his goal line.
10-man East Fife rallied towards the end and secured a consolation goal four minutes from time when Ken Halley capitalised on complacency in the home defence to make the final score St. Mirren 3 East Fife 1.