Hearts Take a Hammering (1978)

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Ross County, 9th December 2023)

Hearts visited Love Street for the first time in eight years on 9th December 1978 with Saints' fans still digesting the news that striker Frank McGarvey had tabled a transfer request, citing unhappiness with his current position and stating that a move would suit both him and the Club. It was reported that both Aberdeen and Arsenal were interested in securing his services.

Despite the off-field situation, St. Mirren were sitting in the middle of a tight Premier League table with fifteen games played, fifteen goals scored and conceded and having amassed fifteen points. Their opponents were only one point behind, but an inferior goal difference meant that they were in second bottom place.

St. Mirren v Hearts 1978

St. Mirren v Hearts 1978

St. Mirren's programme for the 1978/79 season was a sixteen-page issue printed black on white gloss paper with an occasional use of red spot colour and titles and priced at 15 pence. The front cover featured the full match details above an illustration of a player in a St. Mirren strip.

Page three listed the Club Officials and honours together with a short piece from Manager Jim Clunie in which he highlighted the tightness of the League table.

"Premier League Focus" looked at the newly-promoted visitors' season thus far. Having made a disastrous start, they had then developed into a consistent side, beating Aberdeen, Celtic and Hibs in successive weeks. There followed a review of the players likely to face St. Mirren.

"Flashback" then reviewed the last two encounters between the sides; the 1-1 draw at Tynecastle three months earlier and the one before that at the same venue in 1971, which had resulted in a 1-0 home win. The opposite page was dominated by a photo from St. Mirren v Aberdeen earlier in the season, showing Frank McGarvey taking on Dons' Kennedy and Miller.

As usual, the centre pages provided the team line-ups for the game. The only change for Saints was the introduction of Alex Beckett at left-back for his first match in two months. For Hearts, the only change was also in the number three shirt, where Jim Brown took the place of the listed Jim Jefferies. Alongside the teams, a panel was reserved for the input of Half-Time scores for ten other Scottish matches to be played that day.

"With the Reserves" noted the success of the side since the previous programme issue during which time they had progressed in both the League Cup and Scottish Cup and had improved their League position. On the following page, a list of player appearances for the season sat alongside the current League table and above a short announcement about the passing of Bobby Bell, who had been St. Mirren's longest serving member of the backroom staff with 23 years' service.

A full-page photo of Hearts' Rab Prentice, and a list of Saints' fixtures and results for the season completed the reading matter of the issue, which included five pages of adverts.

Before a crowd of 6,628 braving torrential rain, St. Mirren kicked off against Hearts minus McGarvey who, despite being available again after suspension, had been consigned to the reserves.

The visitors exerted pressure in the opening minutes during which Billy Thomson heroically saved from Hearts' Denis McQuade, while a close-range shot from Drew Busby cleared the bar just a minute later. St. Mirren responded with an effort from Beckett and Robert Torrance had an overhead kick cleared off the line.

After some even play, it was the home side who took the lead after 36 minutes when a Beckett cross was headed on by Jimmy Bone for Billy Stark to just pip team-mate Torrance for the honour of jabbing the ball over the line.

Hearts began the second half in determined fashion and missed an early chance to equalise, however Saints quickly reasserted their dominance of the game. A Beckett cross allowed Torrance to net, however the striker was adjudged to be offside. The pair were not to be denied though, and in the 58th minute, Beckett's through ball again found Torrance and the striker made no mistake from 15 yards to make the score 2-0.

Seven minutes later, Billy Stark increased Saints' lead following a pass from Jimmy Bone and the scoring was completed in 76 minutes when substitute Derek Hyslop stepped on to a short pass back from Cammy Fraser to slip the ball past helpless goalkeeper Ray Dunlop.

The 4-0 victory took St. Mirren a point above Rangers into fifth place with a vastly-improved goal difference.