Saints Stun Rangers in the League Cup (2020)

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Motherwell, 16th December 2023)

St. Mirren v Rangers 2020

St. Mirren v Rangers 2020

St. Mirren faced Rangers at the SMiSA Stadium on 16th December 2020 in the Quarter Final of the Betfred Cup, the furthest that the Buddies had progressed in this tournament since lifting the trophy at Hampden against Hearts seven years earlier.

At this stage in the COVID pandemic season, during which no fans were permitted to attend, Saints were on an unbeaten run of nine matches, whilst their opponents had avoided defeat in all of their 27 domestic and European games since the start of the season. So, with a tie that had to be settled on the night in front of a sizeable live TV audience, something had to give.

Issue thirteen of Saints' 32-page full-colour programme, designed and printed by Curtis Sport, featured captain Joe Shaughnessy on the front cover together with full match and sponsors' details.

Manager Jim Goodwin welcomed the Rangers players and staff to Paisley for the midweek tie. Commenting on the 1-1 draw with Aberdeen in the League ten days previously, he remarked that it was a measure of how far the team had progressed that they had viewed this as a disappointing result. However, he had taken many positives from the continued unbeaten run and recognised a number of very good individual performances as well as their work as a unit.

He recognised that his side were facing a very tough opponent in Rangers but hoped that, with home advantage in a cup-tie, they would advance to the latter stages of the tournament.

A double-page spread entitled "Ones to Watch" detailed opposition players Conor Goldson, Scott Arfield and Jermain Defoe. A list of Rangers' fixtures, results and goalscorers for the season sat alongside the results of the last six meetings between the sides (in which Saints had failed to score a single goal) and a list of the Ibrox squad members.

The "St Mirren Programme Archive" reviewed issues from two successful League Cup ties against Rangers in 1962 and 1972, while Lee Erwin was the subject of the centre page spread.

Jamie McGrath equalises from the spot

Jamie McGrath equalises from the spot

The second half of the programme began with home player sponsorship details and was followed up by Campbell Kennedy's "Marketing Matters".

The subject of David Cochran's "Yesterday's Saints" was left-back Andrew Reid, who made 260 appearances for the Club between 1908 and 1917. Meanwhile, Alan Gallacher's "Football Bloody Hell" presented the first of a two-part quiz of four rounds of questions, to be concluded in the next issue.

The programme was drawn to a close with a two-page spread of statistics for the season and the two playing squad lists on the back page. Fourteen pages were devoted to adverts.

McGrath nets his second goal

McGrath nets his second goal

On a rainy evening, the kick off was briefly delayed as referee Andrew Dallas sustained an injury in the warm-up and fourth official David Dickinson stepped in to take charge of the tie.

It took only seven minutes for the visitors to open the scoring. Connor Goldson picked up a loose ball thirty yards out and drove forward, skipping past a St. Mirren challenge before firing the ball beyond Jak Alnwick.

Despite having plenty of possession in the first half, the Light Blues created only one other clear-cut opportunity when Goldson's effort was cleared off the line by Jamie McGrath.

The lack of a second goal from Rangers continued to give St. Mirren hope of getting something on the counter and, five minutes before the interval, they got the chance to draw level. Calvin Bassey's clumsy challenge on Dylan Connolly handed the Buddies a penalty kick and McGrath stepped up to send Allan McGregor the wrong way.

The visitors lived dangerously after the resumption and a Connolly cross drifted over McGregor's head before coming back off the top of the crossbar.

St. Mirren went 2-1 up after 53 minutes when they pounced on Leon Balogun's loose pass, releasing Connolly down the right. His cross was touched back by Jon Obika to McGrath, who shifted the ball onto his left foot before beating McGregor again.

Conor McCarthy turns to celebrate the winning goal

Conor McCarthy turns to celebrate the winning goal

James Tavernier thought he had levelled after 65 minutes but Kemar Roofe had let the ball run out of play before crossing.

With two minutes remaining, the visitors gained a free kick on the edge of the box for a foul on Ryan Kent. Tavernier's effort crashed off the frame of the goal, but the ball rebounded to Steven Davis and the veteran midfielder volleyed it home for the equaliser.

To St Mirren's credit, they did not give up hope and immediately raced upfield to force a string of corners. McGregor did brilliantly to keep out a Richard Tait header but was helpless as Conor McCarthy rammed home the winner from close range two minutes into added time.

Jim Goodwin lost his cool in the celebrations and was sent off for an alleged inflammatory gesture but he was back on the field at full-time to celebrate with his jubilant players