St Mirren may call themselves the buddies but I can assure you that this was
no friendly encounter at Love Street. The Paisley side were fighting for their
SPL future and knew that victory over Aberdeen was essential if they were to
have any chance of remaining in the top flight of Scottish Football. However,
their future was not entirely in their own hands because a win by relegation
rivals Dundee United over St Johnstone would reduce the Paisley
Saints chances of survival to a mere mathematical possibility. This combination
of factors made for what was to be a fraught and emotional afternoon where
even those fans with nerves of steel would feel on edge. The dons with three
win out of three so far since the league split, knew that they would have to
at their best to prevent a saints side with it all to
play for from taking those valuable three premier league points.
Aberdeen manager Ebbe Skovdahl elected to make one change from the side that
saw of Motherwell the previous Saturday. Moroccan midfielder Rachid Belabed
made way for Scotland Under 21 Star Derek Young who slotted in to the vacant
midfield berth. St Mirren manager Tom Hendrie was without former Don Ricky
Gillies who sat out due to suspension. The buddies boss opted to field an attacking
side with the unmistakable Mark Yardley leading the line.
It was not to be an afternoon for the faint hearted, the gravity of the situation
not lost on either side who were determined to give their all. The dons started
brightly, showing the form that had seen them undefeated in the previous three
matches. This play was rewarded in the 14th minute when Aberdeen deservedly
took the lead. Derek YOUNG collected a perfectly weighted pass from Darren
Mackie on the edge of the Saints box. The Cheeky striker proceeded to lift
the ball over the stranded Ludovic Roy to give the Dons an early advantage.
While the goal came as a welcome boost to the Dons, it also seemed to galvanise
the Saints into action. The Dons continued to dominate the opening exchanges
however, and thought they had doubled their advantage in the 23rd minute of
the match when Darren Young's goalbound effort was bundled in by Robbie Winters.
Unfortunately, Robbie was in an offside position and the 'goal' was chalked
The incident spurred the Buddies into life and then proceeded to throw everything
including the kitchen sink at Ryan Esson's goal. The towering figure of Mark
Yardley was wreaking havoc in the Dons goalmouth and was central to the home
side pulling level. In the 42nd minute Scott WALKER got on the end of a Yardley
knock down to drill the ball passed Esson from 6 yards. It is perhaps a cliché,
but the goal had been coming and it sent the home fans wild with joy.
The long suffering Paisley faithful have not seen their side score too many
goals this season so they must have been astonished to see their heroes take
the lead three minutes later hen that man Yardley again in the thick of the
action. The striker fed McPhee who drove a shot goalward which Esson did well
to block. Unfortunately for the keeper, the ball broke to MCGARRY who blasted
the ball high into the back of the net.
St Mirren took to the field in the cecond half determined notto relinquish
their lead which they had fought so valiantly to attain. It was now a matter
of listening to the action taking place at McDiarmid Park to determine their
fate. The wild howls of joy pouring from the stands revealed that Dundee United
were losing to St Johnstone and that St Mirren just had to hold ont their lead.
However, therer was still forty-five minutes of football to be played and everything
could, and would, change.
The match continued to be played at a high tempo however it was clear that
action elsewhere was dominating everyone's mind. In what was on the whole a
highly sporting match, Thomas Solberg was needlessly sent off at the death
for a Professional Foul on Renfurm as the Dutch substitute bore down on goal.
St Mirren had won but could only wait to discover the outcome of Dundee United's
match and ultimately their fate. The news was to break the hearts of so many
in Love Street who, for long periods of the afternoon, had thought that lady
luck was smiling on them. United had grabbed a late winner in Perth through
former Morton Striker Derek Lilley, only adding to the Buddies agony.