The New Striker is Quick Off the Mark (1995)
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Hearts, 23rd September 2023)
After making a promising start to the highly-competitive First Division campaign of 1995/96, Saints soon found themselves struggling in second-bottom place after just five matches. In an effort to rectify matters ahead of their match against bottom club Hamilton Academical on 23rd September 1995, the Club brought in a new striker from Third Division Cowdenbeath to partner Barry Lavety up front, a player who would soon endear himself to the Love Street support - Mark Yardley.
Hamilton A. v St. Mirren 1995
The home side’s programme, simply entitled “Accies”, was a 32-page, A5-sized publication, numbered Volume 50, Issue 3, costing £1. It was printed black and red on white gloss paper; the red print mainly being used for the pre-printed adverts which occupied half of the programme. The cover featured an action photo from Hamilton’s recent game against St. Johnstone above a panel containing the full match details. The Lanarkshire club were entering their second season of ground sharing at Partick Thistle’s Firhill Stadium, having left their previous home at Douglas Park in April 1994. As a result, they had to travel further for their home match than their visitors from Paisley!
The Editorial on page three gave a brief welcome and reflected on Accies winning their first point of the season at Dundee on the previous Saturday. The remainder of the text concentrated on sponsorship, quite understandably given the current plight of the Club. “Manager Speaks” on page five was a short message from current Hamilton manager and former Saint Iain Munro, set above more photo action.
“A Match to Remember” featured a League Cup third round, second leg tie between the sides at Love Street in 1979, when the visitors came back from a 3-1 reverse in the first leg to progress after extra time and penalty kicks.
The centre pages were set aside for statistical information and the current league table, which didn’t make pleasant reading for either set of supporters so early in the season, whilst “Newsdesk” and a separate statement from the Chairman kept the home fans abreast of matters involving the playing staff and current administrative status of the Club.
A page of Reserve news reported that, in contrast to the position of both sides in the First Division, their respective second strings were performing well in the Reserve League West. Saints were three points behind leaders Clyde with a game in hand and Accies were in third place, one point further adrift.
The final article was Part Two of a series on “Collecting Football Programmes” by John Litster, Editor of “Programme Monthly” magazine and focussed on “How to Start your Collection”.
While Mark Yardley arrived too late to receive a mention in the line ups on the back page of the programme, he wasted no time in making an impact on the field where it mattered. 74 seconds after he himself had taken the kick-off, he got his head to a John Boyd cross to give Saints the lead. The same two players combined after eight minutes, with Yardley side-footing a pass for Boyd to run on and slot the ball home to put Saints 2-0 up.
St. Mirren continued to dominate until the 27th minute, when Paul McIntyre was sent off for a retaliatory kick at Accies’ Paul Hartley and the game turned in the home side’s favour.
The visitors were still in the process of regrouping when Sean McEntegart latched on to a poor clearance to fire home past Alan Combe from 25 yards and reduce the deficit in the 36th minute. Six minutes later, a Steven Renicks free kick was headed down by Crawford Baptie to a seemingly-offside Hartley for the Accies man to beat Combe from close range.
Ten-man Saints were on the attack for most of the second period and had multiple attempts from Jim Dick and half-time substitute Garry McGrotty, while Boyd and new boy Yardley both nearly added to their score. However, none were successful and the game ended 2-2 in front of a crowd of 1,451 – Hamilton’s biggest attendance of the season thus far.
Despite the disappointment of the result, Yardley had once again scored on his debut for a new club, having previously netted four goals in his first match for Cowdenbeath in a 6-2 win against Arbroath. He quickly became a favourite with the Saints fans and would go on to score 69 goals in competitive matches during eight years at the Club. While his first goal was his earliest strike at 74 seconds, his last goal for Saints was his latest, when he netted a 115th minute extra time winner in a League Cup First Round tie against Morton in September 2002.