Saints Sink Gallant Forfar in the League Cup (1981)
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Forfar Athletic, 29th July 2023)
St. Mirren v Forfar Athletic 1981
The League Cup kicked off season 1981/82 with a number of sectional matches and St. Mirren were drawn in Section One alongside Celtic, Hibernian and St. Johnstone. Despite what might have been seen as a tricky set of fixtures, Saints opened the campaign with a tremendous 3-1 victory at Parkhead and went on to top the Section with four wins and a draw ahead of second-placed Celtic.
Their reward was a home and away quarter-final tie against Second Division Forfar Athletic. Saints made heavy weather of the first leg at Station Park, as Rab Morris put the home side into the lead in the 51st minute. Frank McAvennie’s equaliser eleven minutes later was just enough to save the visitors’ blushes.
The “Saints” programme for the return leg at Love Street on 23rd September 1981, was a 20-page issue of similar page size to the previous season’s issue. Having dispensed with the English-biased inserts used earlier in the year, the programme was now much more focussed on home matters. The full colour cover of the 1981/82 season issues alternated between four different match images, the one for the Forfar match featuring an encounter between Davie Provan of Celtic and Saints' skipper Jackie Copland.
Inside, the issue was printed black on white with spot colour in the light blue colours of the opponents. Manager Ricky McFarlane, in his page two “Team Talk”, reckoned that the prospect of a two-legged semi-final against Rangers should be sufficient incentive for his players to see off the Angus side. despite two less than satisfactory performances in the previous week’s first leg tie and in their League defeat against Dundee on the Saturday.
Page four displayed the player pools and match officials above a photo of the Forfar squad for the season and on the following page, “Love Street Welcomes…” featured pen pictures of the Second Division side. “What The Papers Say” presented national and local reviews of Saints’ last three fixtures and sat opposite a football-related crossword on “Puzzle Page”.
“Saints Alive” featured a centre-page spread of photo action from St. Mirren’s 1-1 draw against Rangers at Paisley on the previous Saturday.
The second half of the programme started with a variety of news snippets in “Love Street Scene” and Ian Archer’s World Cup Memories of Munich ’74, which had reached part six of a 26-part serialisation. On the opposite page, goalkeeper Billy Thomson recalled his most memorable match (thus far) – a substitute appearance for Scotland against Northern Ireland, whilst ”Buddies Business” apologised for the late arrival of the new replica Adidas strips.
The featured player in the Cowan’s Manshops “Spotlight a Saint” series was certainly a unique choice. Paul McGrath had signed from Celtic at the end of the previous season and had yet to make his debut. He was ultimately unable to break through to the St. Mirren First Team and departed for Albion Rovers at the end of season 1981/82.
Ian Scanlon gets in a shot
ahead of Forfar's John Clark
After the Fixtures and League Table standings, Reserve Coach Eddie McDonald reviewed his side’s recent matches against the Old Firm. Despite a good performance, they had lost a late goal to Rangers in a five-goal thriller at Ibrox and followed that up with a 2-2 draw against Celtic in Paisley.
This 30p programme, which contained six pages of adverts, is one of the most difficult issues of that season to obtain nowadays.
A crowd of 3,101 endured wind and torrential rain in Paisley, conditions which didn’t suit the neat style of play of the visitors. St. Mirren allowed Forfar to have a go in the early part of the match, knowing that eventually Premier Division pace and craft would prevail. The Angus side held out until the fifteenth minute, when Jackie Copland headed down an Ian Scanlon cross and Frank McDougall fired in from close range. Two minutes before the break, McDougall got his own and Saints’ second with a blistering drive from 20 yards.
Alan Logan, an interval replacement for Scanlon, put the tie beyond reach on the hour mark with a side-footed effort from a Doug Somner cross. Somner himself got on the scoresheet eleven minutes later with an opportunist header from six yards.
Forfar were visibly crumbling under the pressure by this time and, within a minute, Billy Stark ended a 20-yard run with a low shot under the body of visiting ‘keeper Ian Boardley. Substitute Logan completed the rout sixty seconds later with another opportunist effort to make the final score 6-0 and set up a semi-final encounter with Rangers.