Bairns and Saints Share the Spoils in the Season Opener (1950)

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Dundee, 12th August 2023)

The fifth running of the Scottish League Cup tournament in season 1950/51 saw it establish itself as the season’s curtain-raiser with three weeks of Sectional matches as a prelude to the League campaign. St. Mirren were drawn in Division A, Section B (as it was then called) alongside Falkirk, Dundee and the previous season’s League runners-up, Hibernian.

Falkirk v St. Mirren 1950

Falkirk v St. Mirren 1950

The opening matches were scheduled for 12th August with Saints travelling through to Brockville Park to meet Falkirk. Both sides gave debuts to a player called Anderson at inside-right; David for the home side and Walter for St. Mirren. The latter had played in the Renfrewshire Cup Final and in Saints’ Irish tour at the end of the previous season, but this was his first truly competitive match.

The earliest known Falkirk programme was issued in season 1929/30 and thereafter produced on an intermittent basis throughout the 1930s. These issues were of the same generic format as those produced by other Clubs such as Hibs, Hearts and Celtic. Regular production began in 1946 like the majority of other Clubs, and their 8-page issue and individual style was well established by the time of St. Mirren’s visit.

The cover was a minor variation on the previous season’s effort, but retained the flag bearing the Club’s name, the full match details and the advert for Aitken’s Beer, one of the town’s longest lasting and most successful companies.

The inside front cover carried the team line-ups in the usual 2-3-5 formation. There was only one change between the published sides and those who took the field, as Falkirk’s Jimmy McColl, recently signed from Queen of the South, took the place of Jim Fiddes at right-back, the latter still recovering from a close-season injury. Below the teams, there was an advert for Rangers’ winger Willie Waddell’s contributions to the Daily Mail newspaper.

“Brockville News” began on page three and continued on to pages six and seven. It noted the departure of one manager, “Tully” Craig, and welcomed new boss Bob Shankley, highlighting his previous career as player and trainer at the club.

Attention then turned to international affairs and the apparent decline of the Home Countries’ status in the game following the Brazil World Cup and recent unsuccessful forays into the Continent by British Clubs.

Returning to domestic matters, the League Cup draw was seen as an attractive prospect and some lively encounters were anticipated, especially in the section involving these two participating Clubs. On the home front, the Brockville men could look to some promising material in their reserve side, who were looking to capitalise on their winning of the Second Eleven Cup in the previous season.

The centre pages displayed the usual Half-Time Score Board of the other League matches being played that day, and this was surrounded by adverts from local traders.

The back page was entitled “Our Opponents” and presented informative pen pictures of the St. Mirren players, not just of those who were lined up to play, but also of some of the fringe players.

Overall, the programme contained more reading than many of its contemporaries and could be considered well worth its threepenny price tag. A good condition copy nowadays will set you back considerably more!

The crowd of 12,000 indeed saw the anticipated lively encounter between the sides. Falkirk’s Archie Wright had an early chance which struck the woodwork and another which was brilliantly saved by Saints’ goalkeeper Jimmy Kirk. Maurice McLafferty, making his debut for the visitors from Glenavon, certainly had a torrid time attempting to counter the runs from the Falkirk inside-left.

St. Mirren took the lead after 33 minutes when left winger Alfie Lesz took possession of an upfield pass, rounded full back McColl and unleashed a rocket drive from 20 yards which home custodian George Nicol had no chance of saving.

Falkirk equalised six minutes after the break when Jimmy Brown’s corner kick to the near post was met by Wright and, although sandwiched between goalkeeper Kirk and defender Joe Martin, he managed to back-heel the ball into the net.

Saints were indeed lucky to escape with a point against a rather makeshift Falkirk side and they had their goalkeeper to thank for it when, as well as his first-half exploits, he brought off two further saves from Wright in the second period.