Hot Goal Time Machine: St Mirren

May 19, 2014

For a description of exactly what this series is about and how the idea was formed then be sure to read the open letter at the top of our opening blog. For the rest we’ll summarise: we’ve asked a blogger from every team in the Scottish top flight to recall their favourite goal from every season since 1998. On this occasion we turn to Paisley’s finest and ask reporter Stuart Gillespie to take a treasured trip through a time period where St Mirren spent two spells in the second tier before clinching Hampden glory once again.

1998/99 – Junior Mendes. St Mirren 5-1 Stranraer 24/04/99

I couldn’t really think of a goal from this season and was swithering between one of Steven McGarry’s winners against Morton or Iain Nicholson’s effort that wrapped up three points against a Hibs side that strolled the division. Then I remembered this goal – or, more accurately, what happened after it.

A few weeks before this game we’d been gubbed 5-1 by Morton – the last time our chums from down the road have beaten us in a competitive game. It was my birthday and I had the ideal present as I was on holiday. In the first half one of the officials had to go off with an injury and there was a lengthy wait while a replacement came out of the crowd. When play resumed Stranraer’s Alan Blaikie – who’d spent a few years at Morton – gleefully reminded us what the score had been against them.

Unfortunately for Blaikie Stranraer were rather gash. Mark Yardley put us in front before McGarry doubled the lead after the break. Stranraer got back into it with a penalty but Yardley’s second and an own goal put things to bed. Late on Junior Mendes came on, rounded the Stranraer keeper and scored.

That took the score to 5-1 and created quite the pickle for the home support. We could either choose to be the bigger men and women, chuckle at what fate had produced and move on. Or we could stand up and signal the score the next time Blaikie came past. Guess which one we chose – and in fairness he took it well.

1999/2000 – Paul McKnight. Ayr United 1-2 St Mirren. 22/04/00

I’ve decided against choosing any of the goals from the afternoon we won the league against Raith Rovers because that whole afternoon, rather than a specific moment, was memorable. To be honest, the whole season was magical as it was the first time I’d seen us put in a title challenge, we gained revenge for huge hammerings at the hands of Raith and Airdrie and scored countless last minute winners. We also scored goals for fun and at one point were the highest scoring side in Europe – although I’m not sure if anyone ever checked that claim!

The goal I’ve gone for is one of only two scored by Paul McKnight during two injury hit spells with us – the other coming two weeks earlier in a vital win over Falkirk. A win against Ayr United and Dunfermline failing to win in Inverness would give us the title. At half-time we were drawing, although United had had Neil Tarrant sent off because the thousands of Buddies roared at the linesman to do something after a slightly dodgy challenge. Gordon Dalziel also got sent to the stands, which was amusing, but it turned out Dunfermline were 2-0 up at the break. Not only would there be no title party but our five point gap was going to be cut to three.

Junior Mendes put us in front early in the second half only for David Craig to equalise. We threw what we could at United but couldn’t get a breakthrough and I had a feeling if we were to get a winner it would be in stoppage time. Incredibly, news filtered through that Caley Thistle had somehow found two goals – again a fact it seems no one bothered to check. However, there’d still be no title party as we couldn’t find a winner. Deep in stoppage time we got another chance with a free-kick. The Ayr goalie failed to hold the ball and as he tried to recover, Barry McLaughlin booted it and then caught the keeper who hit the deck. Incredibly the ref waved play on, the ball ended up at McKnight, he flicked it up before – with several thousand Saints fans screaming at him to hurry the hell up and shoot – he dispatched it into the top corner.

Cue pandemonium with people on the pitch thinking it was all over. After they were cleared chants of championees rang around Somerset Park and the final whistle went to confirm our crowning. Except it emerged Dunfermline had won 2-1. Falkirk’s victory meant they were guaranteed a top three slot and as Brockville didn’t meet the 10,000 seats criteria there’d be no play-offs and we were up into the expanded SPL anyway but only St Mirren could make promotion feel like a disappointing anti-climax!


2000/01 – Ricky Gillies. St Mirren 2-1 Dundee United. 23/04/01

A disappointing season that yielded few highlights as we battled to avoid the drop, however this was definitely one of them. Our first game after the split was against Dundee United and we sat bottom of the table, four points behind the Arabs. The game was live on Sky on a Monday night and we had to win to have any hope of overhauling them in the remaining four games.

Unfortunately that looked pretty unlikely when future Saints hero Steven Thompson put United in front. Ricky Gillies equalised with a penalty but that was still fine for the visitors as they’d still be four points ahead. However, in injury time Jose Quitongo crossed for Stephen McPhee and he headed it on for the completely unmarked Gillies, who controlled it with his chest before smashing it across Paul Gallacher into the far corner. A quick look at the linesman revealed he was sprinting back to the half-way line rather than flagging for offside and suddenly we had our lifeline.

Sadly we won the battle but failed to win the war. We didn’t lose any of our post-split games, winning three and drawing two, but it wasn’t enough and we were all but relegated with a game to go thanks to circumstances beyond our control called Paul Hartley and Alan Main. Not that I’m still bitter 13 years on.


2001/02 – Jose Quitongo. St Mirren 1-0 Partick Thistle. 13/10/01

For some years there was an obvious goal to choose. For other years it was hard because there were plenty of candidates. Then you get years like this when absolutely nothing stands out. Maybe it’s because our joint top scorers managed six goals each – Brian McGinty not getting his first until January and a fair chunk being penalties while Jose Quitongo’s successful goal attempts covered a combined distance of about 10 yards. At the same time Paul Ritchie, who we’d had on trial but decided against, was scoring for fun for Inverness Caley Thistle. Usually against us.

The one plus point is years like this mean I need to write – and you need to read – less. I was almost tempted to give it to a disallowed McGinty goal but instead, after looking at the results, will opt for Quitongo’s header against Partick Thistle. From what I remember Ian Ross was involved in the build-up, Mark Yardley headed the ball back across goal and Quitongo jumped extremely high to nod it in from a yard or so. Considering Thistle won the league this was a good result and re-ignited hope we would mount a promotion challenge and manage an instant return to the SPL after all. The hope didn’t last long.

2002/03 – Mark Yardley. Morton 2-3 St Mirren. 07/09/02

A season of few highlights but some spectacular goals and this one combines both a memorable moment with a magical strike. It had been a traumatic week for the club with manager Tom Hendrie put on gardening leave and his assistant John Coughlin taking over. Going 2-0 down to third division Morton at Cappielow pretty much put the seal on it.

However, not for the last time, our local rivals were about to bottle things spectacularly. Martin Cameron’s header somehow made it into the net and Simon Lappin’s first senior goal sent us into extra time. We then had Brian McGinty sent off but Morton obliged by getting one of the Maisano brothers (both footballers and not a pair of movie crime lords) sent off in extra-time.

By this point Cameron was off and had been replaced with a man who was big enough for any occasion. Mark Yardley had a ridiculously good record against Morton – something he continued when he moved to Albion Rovers – and he fully intended to keep it going. With less than 10 minutes left he skinned – yes, skinned – three or four Morton defenders and drilled the ball home. It was magical, it was spectacular, it was Archie Gemill in 1978 all over again.

It was enough for victory and it also turned out to be Yards’ final goal for us. He was regularly slagged off because of his size but he managed more than 70 goals in his time at Saints so opposition fans would maybe have been better questioning the efforts of their defenders to stop him rather than shouting abuse.

2003/04 – Ricky Gillies. St Mirren 3-2 Ayr United. 06/12/03

There were probably better goals, and arguably more important ones, during this season, but this was one of the first that came to mind when I thought about this season – and as it’s meant to be most memorable then it seemed ideal!

As with the previous goal we had a caretaker manager in charge, Gus MacPherson stepping up after, much to everyone’s relief, John Coughlin was finally put out of his misery and got the boot. MacPherson’s time had started off well with a midweek win over Queen of the South and it was to continue against Ayr United.

We don’t often score from set-pieces but Simon Lappin opened the scoring with a free-kick only for Ayr to equalise. Ricky Gillies then put us back in front with the only time I can recall us making a short corner routine work. Ayr had our former goalie Ludovic Roy playing and when he responded to the “Ludo, gies a wave chants” his new supporters were less than impressed, while his old ones responded with “Ludo’s still a Saint”.

The best result for him would probably have been a draw and that looked likely when Ayr equalised with five minutes. However, in stoppage time we won a free-kick just outside the box and Gillies curled an unstoppable effort into the postage stamp corner. A goal fit to win any game and that, combined with the following week’s draw with Falkirk, was enough for MacPherson to get the job on a permanent basis. A good thing as it turned out.


2004/05 – Mixu Paatelainen. St Mirren 2-1 Partick Thistle. 11/09/04

At first thought none really stood out from this campaign. I was half tempted to go for Charlie Adam’s goal against us when he scored from the halfway line for Ross County, while my personal restriction of choosing goals I saw live – either in person or on TV – ruled out a few others. So big Mixu’s it is.

This weekend was notable for a few other things as this was the game that provided the setting for the Irn-Bru advert involving a policeman and some streakers. I am in that advert, although I should stress as an extra, rather than a streaker. It was also the first time I’d covered one of our games from the press box and had to learn to try to behave.

That was easy enough in the first half when Thistle took the lead but we levelled when John O’Neill, looking ridiculously offside, got onto the end of Mixu Paatelainen’s flick-on and shot home. The Jags should have been back in front when they got a penalty but, to the despair of their fans behind the goal, put it wide.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Thistle then thought it would be a good move to leave Paatelainen unmarked inside the box. I also thought that was a tremendous idea, especially when big Mixu sent a diving header into the net for what turned out to be the winner – Armand One having a late goal chalked out for offside.

It was a goal that sent us to the top of the league for the first time since we’d won it and it looked as if a title challenge was on. That would have to wait another year but it was cracking game and the few months we had watching Mixu was certainly enjoyable.


2005/06 – Charlie Adam. St Mirren 1-0 Queen of the South. 11/03/06

This is really two goals, rather than one, both scored at roughly the same time but more than 100 miles apart.

Queen of the South were fighting to stay in the first division when they came to Love Street in March while we were leading the first division and looking to return to the SPL. Unsurprisingly, Queens were rather stuffy and they also did a fair bit of time wasting, their keeper taking an age over free-kicks. It looked like it would work too and cost us vital points. However, in stoppage time sub Stewart Kean got to the edge of the box and instead of going himself he crossed to Charlie Adam who shot low into the net. As he ran off to celebrate at the corner flag I lost all decorum and ran out of the press box and down the stairs after being caught up in the emotion.

At the same time our title rivals Ross County and St Johnstone were playing in Dingwall. County had been 2-1 up but in stoppage time Saintees goalie Matt Glennon scored at a corner – County boss Gardner Speirs later moaning that his shirt was the same colour as the Staggies goalie’s. The fact that he took a touch and then volleyed the ball than catch it should maybe have been an indicator that all wasn’t quite as it seemed. Whatever, the sides drew 2-2 and there had been a remarkable four point swing in what I refer to as “The Magic Minute”.

You could argue I should have picked Billy Mehmet’s goal against Dundee that won us the title, however Adam’s strike was crucial in the run-in and got us back on track after the Scottish Cup defeat to Gretna a fortnight earlier. We won six of the next eight games – one of the defeats being a shocking display against Hamilton and the other being the last game of the season against St Johnstone when the title was already won. Who knows if that would have happened without the goals from Adam and Glennon.

2006/07 – John Sutton. Motherwell 2-3 St Mirren

Unsurprisingly, our first season back in the top flight saw us in a relegation battle. This time it was Dunfermline rather than Dundee United we were up against and this time we were the team being chased. Our form between the turn of the year and the split had been poor but we were still one point ahead with two games left, despite losing the post-split match against the Pars.

However, at half-time in the penultimate game against Motherwell things were grim. Dunfermline were winning in Inverness while we were trailing to the Steelmen, who could still be relegated. Ross McCormack had scored that goal then managed a penalty early in the second half, however Gus MacPherson was about to make the most effective double substitution since Solskjaer and Sheringham at the Nou Camp. If they’d both came on at the same time. Which they didn’t. Anyway…

On came John Sutton, who arguably should have started, and Billy Mehmet. Sutton produced a weak header that bounced before it got to the ‘Well keeper and I was about to unleash a torrent of abuse before it stuck in the mud of the dodgy Fir Park pitch and trickled through Colin Meldrum’s legs. Bizarrely, we’d reached May and because I’d started a new job this was the first goal I’d seen us score in 2007. I didn’t have to wait long for number two though, Kirk Broadfoot teeing up Mehmet to curl a beautiful equaliser into the bottom corner.

With news filtering through Caley Thistle had equalised against Dunfermline (hmm, that seems familiar) we were no worse off than when we started. A goalmouth scramble that reminded me of Leeds’ attempts to equalise against Sunderland in the ’73 FA Cup final meant it was still all square with less than 10 minutes left but that was about to change. Motherwell twice failed to clear their lines at a free-kick, the ball dropped perfectly for Sutton he and sent a scorching volley flying into the roof of the net. There was a clip of a fan shouting “Hit it John” just before he obliged but sadly I think it it’s on Bebo somewhere rather than YouTube!

A ridiculous turnaround that left us needing a point to secure safety – except in the final minute in Inverness Dorus De Vries let a shot slip through it’s grasp, Caley Thistle won and Tam McManus was in tears. Job done – six years to the day after St Johnstone suspiciously blew a two goal lead against Dundee United to send us down.


2007/08 – Ian Maxwell. St Mirren 2-1 Hibs 05/01/08

Memorable purely for how bizarre it was, although the fact Yves Ma Kalambay was the opposition goalie should perhaps go a bit to explaining things.

Understandably, there was a rather subdued atmosphere at Love Street after we had a minute’s silence due to the tragic loss of Phil O’Donnell a few days earlier. That was about to change in fairly comical circumstances. Ian Maxwell pretty much sliced his cross from the left touchline and it was nowhere near anyone. However, the more I watched it the more I realised Ma Kalambay might not be too wise to assume it was flying behind. Sure enough, the cross hit the frame of the goal with a rather satisfying clunk and bounced into the net. Before this Maxwell had only ever scored one goal for us but a few weeks later the defender bagged a brace against Motherwell.

This effort was Ronaldinho-esque, although Maxwell admitted later it hadn’t been meant. It wasn’t the last of Ma Kalmity’s madness that day either as later he and Rob Jones got themselves into a ridiculous mess that led to our second goal. Hibs pulled one back late on but the damage was done.


2008/09 – Stephen McGinn. St Mirren 1-0 Rangers 05/10/08

Our last half season at Love Street, but there was still time for one last glorious memory to add to a lengthy collection.

For some reason our best displays against the Old Firm often came when we were in poor form or coming off the back of a poor result. Leading up to this game we’d suffered our traditional cup exit to a lower league side and wasted a lead against Motherwell. With only one league win by this stage the natives were getting restless as we’d slipped to the bottom of the SPL. A game against Rangers didn’t seem the ideal opportunity to put things right.

Often when we played the Old Firm Gus MacPherson played a lone striker, even when we were at home. Usually this plan had to be ripped up as we normally conceded in the first few minutes. This time he went with a 3-5-2, a formation that seemed perfect for us as it got round the squad’s lack of both a natural left back and right winger. Curiously, this was the only time it was deployed all season even though it worked. We held Rangers at bay in the first half and were repelling them in the second. It was the sort of game where the longer it went on, the more you thought the team under the cosh was going to sneak one on the break.

And sure enough, that’s what happened. Billy Mehmet flicked Jack Ross’ pass infield for sub Stephen McGinn who ignored my scream to pass to Craig Dargo and instead curled a shot towards the far post. With Allan McGregor standing watching I waited on the ball going wide, only for it to sail into the net. It proved to be enough for our first home league win of the season, at one point four Saints players jumping as one to head a certain Rangers goal off the line at the other end. It was the first time I’d ever seen us take a point off one of the Old Firm, let alone beat them.

The only downside was the following day the guy on BBC Breakfast spoiled our big moment by claiming the goal had been scored by a Stephen McJinn. At least he didn’t mention his granddad who, apparently, used to be Celtic chairman. Not that the media mention that much.


2009/10 – Steven Thomson. St Mirren 4-0 Celtic. 24/03/10

Sunday March 21, 2010. Probably the worst day I’ve had supporting St Mirren as we somehow contrived to lose a cup final to a Rangers side with just nine men. I probably didn’t truly get over it until we won the League Cup last season but this game repaired some of the initial damage and gave the rest of Scottish football someone else to laugh at.

This is the only goal on this list I didn’t witness in person. I don’t make many midweek games, even when they’re at home. I was so annoyed after the events of Hampden I wasn’t even going to bother watching it on TV but decided, at the last minute, to join another Saints fan from work in the pub. Thank God I did.

We rode our luck in the first half, Celtic hitting the post at one point, but we had the lead thanks to Andy Dorman’s goal. However, no one could have seen what was coming in the second half. Steven Thomson (the one without a P) doubled our lead and then, incredibly, Dorman and Thomson both scored again the last 10 minutes. Celtic by this point had long since chucked it and we could probably have had a few more goals had there been another 10 minutes.

So, which of the four to chose? The third and fourth were fantastic moments – sparking songs like “We want five” that you never usually have the chance to sign against the Old Firm. However, I’m going for the second. Craig Dargo didn’t score but was fantastic that night and Josh Thompson still turns into a nervous wreck when you mention the striker’s name. When we broke from a Celtic attack he exchanged passes with Billy Mehmet before playing the ball out to Thomson, who was completely unmarked despite having stuck his arm in the air to indicate how open he was. He took a touch and then drove it under Lukasz Zaluska.

That pretty much broke Celtic’s spirit and we rubbed their faces on it late on, the fans lapping it up with chants like “Easy, easy” and “You’re getting sacked in the morning”. And Tony Mowbray duly was.

The goal apparently bears a slight resemblance to the one Spain scored to win the World Cup a few months later ( Probably not, even if you squint, but any similarity is not down to us copying tiki taka and everything to do with the left-back who’d gone wandering both times being one Edson “Bawheid” Braafheid.


2010/11 – Michael Higdon. St Mirren 3-1 Hamilton. 02/05/11

A world class goal that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Champions League and made Billy Reid’s moans afterwards that we just hoofed the ball up the park look rather petty.

Ourselves and Hamilton were both rather poor and were in a two horse race to avoid the drop in Danny Lennon’s first season in charge. Accies looked as if they’d make great strides in that race when David Buchanan put them in front with a screamer before half-time.

Just before the hour mark Craig Dargo arrived. Michael Higdon headed us level and minutes later Dargo got in behind the Hamilton defence and was first to a ball over the top only to be fouled by Martin Canning. A clear red card and Higdon rammed home the penalty.

The best was yet to come though, great work from Paul McGowan allowing Dargo to play a wonderful cross field pass to Higdon that the big striker smashed first time with his left foot. At first I thought he’d blazed it wide as I didn’t think there was any hope Saints – and Higdon in particular – could score such a wonderful goal at that time. It was only when I saw Higdon raise his arms in the air while he was sitting on the ground I realised he’d completed a perfect 10 minute hat-trick (header, left foot, right foot), the first for a Saints player in the top flight since cult hero Guni Torfason.


2011/12 – Paul McGowan. St Mirren 2-1 Rangers. 24/12/12

Beating the Old Firm is special at the best of times but doing it on Christmas Eve made this one extra special. Once again our form wasn’t particularly great and, if I’m being honest, I just wanted to get this out of the way so I could enjoy Christmas. Go to the football, get stuffed and then go home so I could stuff my face while plonked in front of the TV. No different to any normal Saturday really!

Sure enough Lee Wallace opened the scoring and it looked as if it would be same old, same old. However, in a completely out of character moment, Lee McCulloch then decided to elbow someone. This time it was Graham Carey. The pair had clashed earlier so it was perhaps no surprise the referee was keeping a close eye on them at a free-kick. McCulloch was duly sent off so he could get on with some last minute Christmas shopping – a decision Ally McCoist even had the cheek to appeal.

We took control but it looked as if we wouldn’t get an equaliser before Rangers could regroup at half-time. However, Aaron Mooy cracked in his only goal for the club before, just before the break, Marc McAusland won possession and David van Zanten slid the ball through for Paul McGowan. He comfortably got there before Allan McGregor and prodded it past him to put us in front. Incredible stuff.

Unfortunately, we still had another half to go! We managed to see it out despite Rangers getting Dorin Goian sent off. Most clubs would be delighted to have a goal advantage against nine men, however the memories of the last time we’d faced Rangers after they’d had two men sent off were still rather raw. It wouldn’t have been a surprise if McCoist had deliberately got one of his players sent off as a last roll of the dice but this time it didn’t work, McGowan almost adding a third in injury time.

Merry Christmas 2-1 and all.


2012/13 – Conor Newton. St Mirren 3-2 Hearts. 17/03/13

The goal that wins you a national trophy and sparks a few days of partying in Paisley. No contest. Right?

And yet I thought seriously about picking Steven Thompson’s goal against Celtic in the semi-final, a day when we were total underdogs against Celtic yet completely outplayed them, got the necessary breaks and took a fully deserved victory. An afternoon when there was no pressure on us, when I went to Hampden fearing the worst and hoping we’d at least get a moment to remember like all the lower league teams who have faced Rangers in the last couple of years – and ended up getting so much more. Thompson’s goal turned out to be the winner but it was a glorious moment – not least because it was a Saints fan crossing for another one to score – and you almost had to rub your eyes in disbelief at what you were seeing.

However, it’s impossible to overlook Conor Newton’s strike which proved to be just enough against Hearts. By rights we should have been dead and buried whenever he scored. For the first half hour we were dreadful and were lucky only to be a goal down. I found myself hoping that we didn’t concede any more before half-time yet, incredibly, we equalised through Esmael Goncalves and finished on the front foot.

That continued after the break when Thompson put us in front with the goal he had dreamed about. However, that wasn’t to be the winner. Instead it was Newton who wrote his name into folklore. After passing to Goncalves he continued his run and and got in behind the defence for the return ball. I was pretty much in line with it and knew he wasn’t offside – and was pleasantly surprised to look across at the linesman and see he agreed. NEEWWTOON, to quote commentator Liam McLeod, hit it first time and at first I thought he’d hit the side netting, then realised he was running off with his arms in the air and the Saints fans behind the goal were on their feet. It wasn’t until watching the highlights later that I noticed Sam Parkin and Lee Mair, who’d been warming up behind the goal, staged a two man pitch invasion.

If you’d asked me beforehand who would get our winner my first choice would have been Thompson, Goncalves or Paul McGowan. If anyone was going to get his first senior goal it was McGowan. Instead it was Newton, whose fellow Newcastle loanee Paul Dummet admitted he couldn’t recall ever getting that far forward before, let alone scoring.

Two goals clear was too easy for Saints and so it proved. In the last 10 minutes Hearts threw what they could at us, Ryan Stevenson got one back and then hit the post. God knows how much of those final seconds I watched as I had my head in my hands fearing another Hampden heartbreak. The three minutes of injury time were the longest of my life but thankfully this time we didn’t mess it up and, at long last, the cup was heading back to Paisley.


2013/14 – Steven Thompson. St Mirren 3-2 Motherwell. 05/04/14

There are a lot of things that I despise about the youth of today – spot the guy who has just turned 30 – and what they use on forums and in memes. I find phrases such as “seething”, “raging” and “glorious” tedious and I hate the use of “scenes”. However, this game changed all that.

Gregg Wylde’s screamer against Ross County may have been what as good as got us over the line to safety but the comeback against against Motherwell provided the impetus for the post-split form that helped us to avoid the play-offs.

Our problems last season are pretty well documented and there’s a fair chance no one has bothered to read this far so I won’t go over them again. Needless to say we hadn’t been in good form going into this game. Things got worse when we quickly fell 2-0 down to Motherwell – John Sutton having the good grace to celebrate against his old club rather than acting as if his dog had just died. What we needed now was a second miracle against Motherwell – and it began with Steven Thompson getting one back just before the interval.

That looked as if it would be as close as we’d get but late on we got a penalty when the ball blatantly hit Stephen McManus’ arm. Honest – don’t dare try to tell me otherwise. Kenny McLean thundered it home and, with Motherwell still reeling, we attacked again. John McGinn tried to find Sean Kelly but instead his pass bounced off a Motherwell player straight to Thompson who turned and tucked it under Gunnar Nielsen’s body for the winner. “Scenes” indeed, Gregg Wylde even falling over as he ran to join in the celebrations. Surprisingly Thompson didn’t score after the split but he didn’t need to as we managed to get over the line to safety despite a shocking start to the campaign.

Stuart Gillespie is a reporter with the Galloway News and can followed on twitter.