A Goal Glut at Broomfield (1956)
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Ross County, 18th February 2023)
On 18th February 1956, the Scottish Cup Sixth Round ties took place, including St. Mirren’s pairing with Airdrieonians at Broomfield. Saints had already beaten the Diamonds three times that season, with 3-2 and 4-2 wins in the League Cup Sectional ties and a 7-2 trouncing in the League at Love Street on Hogmanay.
Goals were a plenty in the weeks leading up to the match. The Diamonds achieved back-to-back seven goal victories against Hamilton and Dunfermline, but St. Mirren suffered a 4-1 defeat at Pittodrie. Despite the setback, Saints decided to persist with the same line-up for the Cup tie.
Airdrie v St.Mirren 1956
Airdrie’s programme for the 1955/56 season was an eight-page issue, measuring 8 inches by 5 inches and printed black on white matt paper. The only colour could be found on the front page heading and threepenny price tag. The cover listed the names of the Airdrie Directors above the match details and photos of home forwards George Rankin and Willie McCulloch.
Page three listed the players and officials, the only departure from the printed line-ups being the replacement of Airdrie outside-right John Reid by Tommy Duncan. Airdrie number 10 Ian McMillan had been a doubt with influenza in the days leading up to the match, but he took the field as listed.
The top of pages four and five was given over to a piece entitled “Talk of the Town” by “Waysider”. This began with the sad news of the passing of David Gray, who had formerly been Provost of Airdrie, President of the SFA and a director of Airdrieonians. Both sides wore black armbands as a mark of respect.
The editorial continued with a review of the previous matches between the sides and of the recent upturn in Airdrie’s form, a consequence of which was that forward Hugh Baird had reached the front of the Scottish goalscoring race. However, it was emphasised that St. Mirren would not be underestimated and they were considered to be the most capable side to test the mettle of the home side in the upcoming tie.
Following a report on how some of the Diamonds' reserve team players had been knocking on the door of the first team, the focus returned to the match in hand and the hope that, by the end of the day’s proceedings, all would leave with a better appreciation of Airdrie’s abilities.
Page seven presented Airdrie’s fixtures and results for the season and this showed that Saints would also be the visitors to Broomfield on the final day of the League season in April. The back page displayed the Half-Time Score Board, featuring the seven Cup-ties and seven League matches being played that day. As with many other programmes of the time, the issue was dominated by adverts from local traders.
This programme can be a tricky one to find nowadays and, when it does appear, it would be expected to cost around £20 - £25.
Broomfield had a light covering of snow when the two teams took the field in front of a crowd of 20,620, which included around 5,000 from Paisley. The home side attacked from the kick-off and had a couple of early attempts on goal, but these came to nothing. St. Mirren took the lead after five minutes when the ball emerged from a scramble in front of goal for Tommy Gemmell to give ‘keeper Dave Walker no chance of saving. After ten more minutes of end-to-end action, Airdrie equalised when Hugh Baird took a pass from Tommy Duncan to shoot decisively past Jim Lornie in the Saints goal.
In 23 minutes, the home side took the lead when John McNeil set up Ian McMillan for the inside-forward to put the ball beyond the reach of the visiting custodian. However, five minutes later, there was a somewhat unexpected equaliser from Saints as Duncan McGill’s speculative shot, seemingly heading past the post, struck Gemmell and ended up in the net. Three minutes from half time, the Diamonds took the lead again when a well-worked move involving McMillan was finished off by Willie McCulloch.
Despite some dangerous attacks by the visitors at the start of the second half, it was the home side who extended their lead in 64 minutes when a breakaway move presented George Rankin with the simplest of tasks to score. Four minutes later, the Buddies pulled a goal back through Gordon Henry and with little more than a quarter of an hour remaining, Bobby Holmes tied the match at 4-4 when he netted from a right-wing cross.
The replay took place at Love Street three days later and, despite Saints taking a fourth-minute lead with a goal by Gordon Henry, Airdrie fought back to win 3-1 and set up a quarter final tie against Celtic. No programme exists for the replayed tie.