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25th March 1968:  St Johnstone v Celtic  – League

24th March

We had been told to come in on the Sunday morning. In the football thinking of the time at managerial level, this was supposed to make the players think twice about having a drink on the Saturday night, as there was another match on the Monday evening. Frankly, after a tough game on one very muddy and wet pitch at Parkhead in the Saturday afternoon, I did no more on the evening than go to the cinema with my girl-friend, where, much to her annoyance, I fell asleep halfway through the film.

 

There was a definite ‘atmosphere’ in the dressing-room at that time. It was nothing serious, it was more a drop in the normal noise level and I found it difficult to work out what the problem was. Footballers, at least in those days, were never very good at expressing their inner thoughts and I suppose that I was as guilty as everyone else. But, in spite of some good wins like the one against Raith Rovers, there was a definite lack of the usual repartee.

 

Of course, when I look back today, after all these years, the reason jumps out. With 8 matches left in the league campaign, we were still two points behind Rangers, having played the same number of games. We had scored more goals and lost fewer than the Light Blues but they had the points that mattered and as long as they kept winning, we could nothing to prevent them picking up the title. No wonder the atmosphere was a bit low.

 

Anyway, the session that Sunday morning was a very light one, designed merely to get the stiffness out of the legs. And the Boss announced the side before we left; the same eleven that had hit five past Raith Rovers. Then, it was back home for a rest, a read of the papers and the Sunday roast!


 

Day of the Match

There was an interesting piece in one of the morning’s papers about our opponents that night –

Saints Plan To Make It ‘Hot’ for Celtic

‘Manager Willie Ormand and his St Johnstone players are angry men today – angry at the bald statement that Celtic will automatically move to the top of the table after tonight’s encounter at Muirton Park.

Says Willie – “No forecasts from me but Celtic will know they have been in a game tonight. We usually play well against the best opposition – and we are definitely capable of pulling off a surprise”’.

 

As for us, we made our way to Celtic Park mid-afternoon and then boarded the Cotter’s coach for the trip to Perth. We had a bite to eat in the Station Hotel then made the final short trip to the ground, where a good crowd of our fans had already turned up and gave us a great welcome.

This was always one of the better pitches in Scotland and also one of the long ones, so there was not going to be any excuse for slip-ups.

 

Teams

St Johnstone

Robertson
McGillivray, Coburn
Ryden, Rooney, McPhee
McDonald, McCarry, Wilson, Gordon, Aitken.
Sub: Whitelaw

Celtic

Simpson
Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Lennox, Wallace, Gallagher, Hughes.
Sub: McBride

 

The Play

This was always a difficult encounter for our physiotherapist BobRooney. The ‘Rooney’ at the heart of the Saints defence was his son Benny so he must have had conflicting thoughts about the outcome of the game, obviously wanting the club that employed him to win but also hoping that his son played well.

Unfortunately, on that particular night, we performed very well, right from the start giving the Saints no chance to get involved, our goals coming at regular intervals –

4 minutes
pass from Jinky and Lemon slotted it home.  1-0 Celtic

35 minutes and  44 minutes
on both occasions good moves involving a few players and then Lemon on the spot to do the necessary.  3-0 Celtic

 

As you might imagine, it was a very happy dressing room – except for poor Bob – and the Boss said little apart from encouraging us to keep going. And we did….and the goals kept coming, Lemon getting his 4th in 73 minutes, then Jinky in 78 and Wispy right on the whistle. In between, McPhee got one for St Johnstone.

 

Final Score  St Johnstone  1  Celtic  6

 

The result put Celtic at the top of the table on goal average but Rangers still had that one match in hand, so, to be honest, what we worried about before was still the case. We were relying on them to slip up!