St. Mirren Hit Five at Dens (1983)

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Celtic, 5th March 2023)

Dundee v St.Mirren 1983

Dundee v St.Mirren 1983

St. Mirren faced Dundee at Dens Park on 5th March 1983 in a Premier League match with both sides walking the tightrope between possible European qualification and domestic relegation. The Buddies were lying sixth in the ten-team Premier League, two points and one position behind their hosts. Both were aiming to catch Rangers for the fourth-place finish which would guarantee a European place for the following season and, indeed, they had both gained ground on the Ibrox Club with 1-0 successes against them in the previous seven days.

The Dundee F.C. Match Magazine was voted the best programme in the League by “Programme Monthly” magazine that season. Although it lacked the full colour cover adopted by many other publications, it made up for it with a variety of interesting historical articles, Club news and photos.

The issue consisted of 24 B5-sized pages printed black on white gloss paper. Colour was only evident on the outer pages, where a striking navy blue and red cover design incorporated the match details and photo action from the midweek win over Rangers. The inside cover listed the Club Officials and Honours and the opposite page was devoted to the Manager’s notes in “Donald Mackay Talking”.

The Statistics on page 4 detailed all of the scores and team line-ups for the season so far, but the current league table was omitted due to lack of space. A feature on a Dens Park Superfan preceded two more pages of photos from Dundee’s midweek victory.

“Oh, What A Night” recalled one of the most famous matches ever to grace Dens Park, when the Dark Blues defeated St. Mirren in the penultimate match of their only Championship success in 1962. This was followed by an in-depth look at St. Mirren in “Spotlight on Today’s Visitors”.

A guest article entitled “Highland Clearance” focussed on the rise of Northern youngsters in senior football and preceded a piece on Dundee goalkeeper Bobby Geddes. A local fan recalled a glory night in Dundee’s European adventures and this sat alongside Cammy Fraser’s “Captain’s Corner”.

The second half of the programme opened with “Reserve Report” and flashbacks to matches from 10 and 20 years ago. Jim Hendry’s “Dens Diary” recalled more Dundee memories and was followed by another double page spread of photo action, this time from an earlier match against Hibernian.

Mark Fulton clears the St. Mirren lines

Mark Fulton clears the St. Mirren lines

Sponsorship and marketing occupied the remaining inside pages and “Today’s Teams” on the back page merely listed player pools from which the starting XI’s would be chosen.

Billy Thomson bravely beats<br>Brian Scrimgeour to the ball

Billy Thomson bravely beats
Brian Scrimgeour to the ball

Before a crowd of 4,161, St. Mirren kicked off with a troublesome wind at their backs and within 30 seconds had a strong penalty claim, Ian Scanlon’s cross appearing to be handled by Ian MacDonald, but the referee waved away the protests from the visitors.

Saints went 1-0 up in eight minutes when a Scanlon cut back from the goal-line bounced off home ‘keeper Kelly’s leg and ended up in the net. That lead was doubled in the 32nd minute when Tony Fitzpatrick picked up a poor clearance from Jim Smith and chipped the ball in just under the bar.

Dundee pulled a goal back straight from the restart with a move involving Cammy Fraser, David Bell and Iain Ferguson, setting up Brian Scrimgeour to give Billy Thomson no chance. However, two minutes from the interval, Saints restored their two-goal lead. Dundee’s Stewart McKimmie was robbed of the ball in the St. Mirren box, allowing Tommy Wilson to advance 60 yards upfield before squaring for Barry Wardrop to net from twelve yards. It was the Sunderland loanee’s only goal for the Club during his short spell at Paisley.

Dundee made an immediate impact in the second half when Albert Kidd, the smallest player on the pitch, nodded the ball past Thomson from a Mackie free kick. Three minutes later, Ferguson squandered two chances to equalise.

However, St. Mirren did not allow the home side any more chances and goals from substitute Alan Logan on the hour mark and Scanlon’s second two minutes from time made the final score 5-2 in favour of Saints.

It was the Paisley side’s biggest League win of the season and indeed their highest away victory for well over two years. They moved level on points with Dundee and the two sides matched results until Saints edged ahead at the beginning pf April. In the second last fixture of the season, St. Mirren overcame the Dark Blues 2-1 in a rearranged game at Paisley to secure a fifth-place finish. Aberdeen’s success in the European Cup Winners Cup granted Scotland an extra European place, which was then occupied by St. Mirren in the following season’s UEFA Cup.