Jags Blunted by Saints' Defence (1951)

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v St. Johnstone, 24th February 2024)

On Saturday, 24th February 1951, St. Mirren made the journey to Firhill to play Partick Thistle for the only game to be staged in Glasgow that day.

Partick Thistle v St. Mirren 1951

Partick Thistle v St. Mirren 1951

Saints had flirted with relegation for some time but had gone on an unbeaten run with a win and three successive 1-1 draws in their League matches since the turn of the year. Despite that, they were still in third bottom spot and embroiled in a five-way battle to avoid the relegation places. Meanwhile, Partick Thistle were three points ahead of Saints in mid table and were playing their first home match since the middle of December due to a combination of away League and Cup fixtures and a growing list of postponements which now totalled eight for the season.

The Partick Thistle programme consisted of eight pages measuring 24cm by 14cm and was priced at threepence. It was printed black on white matt paper, with orange spot colour used sparingly on the cover illustration and adverts. The omission of the match details from the front page made it difficult to easily identify Thistle issues from that period, however these could be found on the inside.

"Firhill Chatter", which began on page two and continued on page seven, discussed the home side's recent inconsistent form which had seen them register good results against Rangers and Hibs only to fall to Raith Rovers in a Cup replay and to Aberdeen at Pittodrie in the previous week's League match.

The piece went on to welcome St. Mirren and discussed the visitors' desperate search for points. The forthcoming match was anticipated to be a difficult one given Saints recent draw at Ibrox and they were considered to be a stronger side than their League position suggested. There was also a hint at revenge as Saints had fought back from 1-0 down to win with two goals in the closing minutes of the last meeting between the teams at Love Street.

Page three contained an interesting crossword puzzle and half-time quiz, both of which were based upon contemporary sporting subjects. Fortunately, the solutions to both were provided later in the issue.

The centre pages provided the full match details above the team line-ups in the 2-3-5 formation. St. Mirren took the field as listed, but the home side made changes from the published line up with McGowan and Howitt replacing Davidson and Crawford, while Gibb moved from right-back to right-half. As usual, the line-ups were surrounded by adverts from various local traders.

The Half-Time Scoreboard appeared on page six, listing the fourteen other Scottish fixtures being played that day. Page seven was completed by a list of Thistle's goal scorers, the top two of which, Willie O'Donnell and Archie McCallum, were currently unavailable for selection.

The back page, entitled "Today's Opponents", provided pen pictures of the St. Mirren players who would play, with the exception of Gilbert Rennie and Willie Reid, who were omitted and replaced with profiles of George Stewart and Alex Crowe.

Saints' scorer Jimmy Duncanson

Saints' scorer Jimmy Duncanson

On an ideal day for football, the stand and terracing were filled by a crowd of 20,000, including around 900 who had travelled on special trains from Paisley St. James and Gilmour Street stations to Maryhill.

The game set off at a cracking pace, the play swinging rapidly from end to end. Willie Telfer blocked an early chance from James Walker while Alfie Lesz, with a 30-yard free kick, and Tommy Kiernan both tested Tommy Ledgerwood in the Thistle goal.

The home side opened the scoring after 16 minutes when a cross-come-shot from Norman McCreadie was met by Walker and the centre's diving header left Jimmy Kirk helpless. St. Mirren responded immediately and a Lesz shot beat the home 'keeper but was cleared by Adam Forsyth on the goal-line. The rebound fell to Jimmy Duncanson, but the Saints man lobbed it over the bar.

Jimmy wasn't to be deflated by his miss and he levelled the scores on the half hour mark. Lesz sent a low cross into the goal area and Duncanson met it first time, the ball appearing to take a touch off Robert Gibb on its way into the top corner.

Play continued to flow from end to end. Five minutes from the interval, Kirk was knocked out as he got in the way of a thumping shot from McCreadie. Immediately after, Lesz yet again unleashed a drive which Ledgerwood gathered at the second attempt.

Despite receiving treatment for a cut above his left eye after the restart, Telfer encouraged his defence as Thistle piled on the pressure. The Thistle forwards continued to squander chances and Lesz continued to be the target man when the defence was relieved.

It was nerve-racking for the Paisley contingent, but the visitors held on for yet another 1-1 draw which took them a further place away from relegation.