Saints Give the Gers Something to Think About (1978)

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Livingston, 1st April 2023)

In their first season in the recently-formed Premier League, St. Mirren got off to a flier and hung around the top half of the table for the first part of the season. However, a mid-season dip in form alerted them to what life was really like in the top division and they slipped down the table, but stayed clear of the relegation places. When they visited Ibrox on 1st April 1978, the Buddies were sitting eighth in the League whilst their opponents were battling it out at the top with Aberdeen.

Rangers v St.Mirren 1978

Rangers v St.Mirren 1978

Rangers Official Match Magazine was the first in Scotland to adopt an untraditional landscape format and this paved the way for similarly-styled publications by St. Mirren, Airdrieonians and Hamilton Academical in the next few years. It was a twenty-page issue printed blue and red on white gloss paper and was priced at 12p.

The predominately red coloured cover presented the match details below an action photo from the league clash between the sides at Paisley in September 1977. Page two listed Rangers officials and honours and on the opposite page under the title Match Magazine Slant , home Manager Jock Wallace admitted that his side had gone off the boil in recent matches but that they would meet the challenges ahead and get down to the job in traditional style.

Pages four and five focussed on St. Mirren, reviewing their season thus far and highlighting each and every one of the playing staff. Page six noted that this was the 148th League clash between the sides, whilst the remainder of this and the opposite page anticipated the Ibrox Club s forthcoming Scottish Cup Semi-final against Dundee United.

Flashback on pages eight and nine covered the previous Premier League meetings between the sides and was dominated by a photo of the penalty incident which settled the last encounter at Ibrox in favour of Rangers.

Peter McCloy saves Iain Munro's first half penalty

Peter McCloy saves Iain Munro's first half penalty

The centre page spread featured a photo of Brian Docherty s goal in the 3-3 draw at Love Street earlier in the season. This was flanked by the two player pools, officials and Half-Time Scoreboard. Page 12, headed Dangerman! focussed on Saints striker Frank McGarvey whilst the opposite page carried a Quiz and an analysis of Rangers Scottish Cup goalscorers. Photo action from the last meeting at Ibrox filled page fourteen and the Heads You Win competition on the facing page offered two lucky fans Stand seats for the next match.

The tail end of the programme provided a review of the Reserve side and Facts, Figures and Scorers for the First Team. A quarter of the issue was occupied by adverts.

In the early stages of the match, watched by 22,367, St. Mirren sustained a lot of pressure from Rangers but, after 19 minutes, it was the visitors who were awarded a penalty. A woeful passback from Colin Jackson was intercepted by the unmarked Frank McGarvey and, as he raced in on goal, he was brought to an abrupt halt by an ice hockey style body check from Rangers goalminder Peter McCloy.

While McGarvey was off the field receiving treatment for his knock, Ibrox captain John Greig pulled his keeper aside, apparently to discuss where ex-team mate Iain Munro would send his spot kick. By good homework or by luck, McCloy correctly dived to his right to prevent Saints taking the lead.

Frank McGarvey puts St. Mirren in front

Frank McGarvey puts St. Mirren in front

St. Mirren, through McGarvey, were always dangerous on the break and McCloy had to bring off a save from the striker after 35 minutes, but a minute before half time, McGarvey finally got his reward. He received an Alex Beckett cross with his back to goal in a packed area, killed it on his knee and feinted to his left. While the home defence tried to regroup, he wheeled around on the spot and rifled home a beautiful right foot shot. It was no more that Saints deserved for their first half efforts.

However, within sixty seconds, Rangers struck back. Johnny Hamilton crossed from the left, Derek Parlane flicked the ball on and Derek Johnstone headed home from four yards out to level the scores at the interval.

In the second half, the home side came more into the game and almost took the lead when a move involving Johnstone, Parlane and McLean presented Alex MacDonald with a chance from twelve yards, but he only succeeded in blasting the ball over the bar. Back came St. Mirren, and second half substitute Bobby Torrance saw his close-range effort saved by McCloy s knees.

McGarvey tormented Jackson for the whole match and the Rangers centre-half was eventually booked for holding as the Saint raced clear. Jackson s final act of an exhausting afternoon was to save a point for his side by clearing a Billy Abercromby effort off the line in the closing minutes.