Lucky Saints Survive at Ayr (1990)

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Queen of the South, 20th January 2024)

Ayr U. v St. Mirren 1990

Ayr U. v St. Mirren 1990

St. Mirren made their entrance to the 1990 Scottish Cup competition with a Third-Round visit to Somerset Part, Ayr on 20th January. Remarkably, they were still seeking their first victory in the principal Cup tournament since lifting the trophy with an extra-time victory over Dundee United in 1987. In the two seasons since then, they had fallen at the first hurdle to lower division sides Clydebank and Partick Thistle respectively, the latter after a replay. St. Mirren manager Tony Fitzpatrick desperately wanted to avoid yet another giant-killing act at the hands of Ayr United, who were currently sitting mid-table in the First Division.

The 28-page match programme, priced 50p, was Ayr's standard issue for the season, printed black on white gloss paper throughout with touches of red on the outer and centre pages. The front cover carried a "Welcome to Somerset Park" message above an action photo from Ayr's last home game together with the full Cup-tie details.

Throughout the issue, the selection of a very small typeface gave the initial impression of a very busy programme crammed with readable content. However, on closer inspection, more than half of the programme was occupied by adverts.

On page three, below the list of Club Officials, was an item entitled "Chit Chat" by Ayr's Programme Consultant Duncan Carmichael. This began with reaction to the previous Saturday's goalless draw with Meadowbank Thistle and emphasised the Edinburgh side's use of the offside trap. The discussion then recollected the last Scottish Cup tie between Saints and the Honest Men in 1985 but, as this game was to be revisited later in the programme, the focus quickly shifted to the other ties which had taken place on that Cup day five years previously. This was interesting but hardly relevant to the current readership! "Talking Person Ally..." on page seven by home manager MacLeod, covered similar topics in a more succinct manner.

"This Week's Guest Writer" was John Byrne, a very familiar name to the visiting Saints fans, as he was a regular contributor to the Saints programme. With the recent introduction of penalty shoot-outs to the Scottish Cup, Mr Byrne was prompted to recall a number of famous "tie-breakers" in Scottish Cup history.

This was followed by a two-page spotlight on St. Mirren, displaying a team photo and pen pictures of the Paisley playing staff. The centre pages then provided the names of the two squads and match officials.

Peter Godfrey challenges for the ball

Peter Godfrey challenges for the ball

Sadly, the second half of the programme was more advert-laden than the first. An article of note was an informative two-page piece on "Past Scottish Cup Meetings with St. Mirren" including all of their ties from 1901, when both teams wore black armbands as a mark of respect for the recent passing of Queen Victoria, until their most recent meeting in 1985 when St. Mirren substitute Fraser Campbell netted the only goal in Ayrshire. A crossword and a Reserve Report provided the only other reading matter in this half of the issue.

A healthy crowd of 7,869 witnessed a real blood-and-thunder Cup tie in which there were two red cards, five cautions and a hotly-disputed disallowed goal - and that was just in the first 45 minutes! Referee Jim Renton had already booked Saints' Fraser Wishart when he sent off Ayr's Tommy Walker for a two-footed challenge on Paul Lambert in the 26th minute. After Ayr's Steve Evans and St. Mirren's Paul Kinnard had also been yellow-carded, the Cowdenbeath-based official then outraged the vociferous home support by disallowing an effort which had flashed into the Saints net after 35 minutes.

As Ayr gradually took command of the game, Saints' captain David Winnie vented his frustration after a foul by Henry Templeton. Winnie earned a caution for hurling the ball at the Ayr man, but worse was to follow. Just before half time, the same two players clashed again and Winnie was given his marching orders.

St. Mirren only really threatened in the final fifteen minutes of the tie, but could not break down an Ayr defence which was already defending a five-game run of clean sheets and the game finished goalless. Manager Tony Fitzpatrick later admitted that it had been the worst of a number of bad performances that season and that Saints were lucky to be still in the tournament.

St. Mirren made amends in the replay on the following Wednesday, winning 2-1 by virtue of two first half goals scored by Billy Davies and Kenny McDowall. As in the first match, Saints were again reduced to 10 men just before the interval with Gunni Torfason being the culprit on this occasion. They then endured a frantic second-half fightback from the visitors, during which Doug McCracken reduced the deficit, but held on to progress to the next round. A simple four-page programme was produced for the replay.