Fate plays trump card for the Dons......

By Kevin Stirling

It is well documented that Aberdeen became the first side to win the ECWC after negotiating a preliminary tie away back in 1982. Of course qualifying for the old European Cup Winners Cup competition was by virtue of winning the national cup completion of your country or on occasion as finalists. Aberdeen went on to lift the Cup Winners Cup in May 1983 but had fate not played a hand in Aberdeen actually qualifying for Europe then the most memorable time in the club's history may never have materialised. Aberdeen qualified for the 1983 ECWC competition by winning the Scottish Cup in May 1982. The Dons swept aside Rangers 4-1 in the Hampden final. It was getting to Hampden that proved the difficult part for the Dons. Coming up against St Mirren in the semi final seemed to be a great opportunity for the Dons to reach the final. Aberdeen were an experienced side and Premier League champions two years previously. It was in the cup competitions that the Dons had to banish what was fast becoming a bogey. Having lost two League Cup Finals in 1979 and failing to win anything in 1981, it was the first real test of Alex Ferguson's side after winning the league. Aberdeen had eased through to the semi finals of the 1982 Scottish Cup in impressive fashion. After John Hewitt's quickest cup goal in 9.6 seconds against Motherwell in the opening round, Hewitt scored the winning goal again to knock Celtic out in the fourth round. Two Gordon Strachan penalties helped Aberdeen to a 4-2 win over Kilmarnock in a Pittodrie quarter final to set up a Parkhead clash with St Mirren for a place in the final.

Aberdeen were far from happy with the choice of a neutral venue at Celtic Park. Not for the first time Aberdeen and their support had to make the long trek south while their opponents were barely 10 miles from their home ground. Despite that the Dons took their traditional strong support down for the game and the numbers were evenly balanced. The Parkhead surface was threadbare and did not make for good football. St Mirren also targeted Gordon Strachan as the Dons danger man and they sent out the rugged Billy Abercromby to mark the Aberdeen midfielder. The game turned into a battle which suited St Mirren in many ways. However it was referee Hugh Alexander who was in the spotlight as he made crucial decisions in six controversial second half minutes that dictated the outcome of the tie. Aberdeen had most of the first half possession without seriously troubling the St Mirren goal. Jim Leighton was rarely called into action but the game took a controversial turn on the hour mark. Frank McDougall clearly barged Jim Leighton as the keeper grabbed hold of a long punt from Saints keeper Billy Thomson. The referee gave St Mirren a corner kick as a result of the clash. It was from that corner that McCormack flicked the ball on and McDougall scored from close range to put St Mirren ahead in controversial fashion. Aberdeen were clearly aggrieved and made their feelings known to referee Alexander. Six minutes later and Aberdeen were level. Mark McGhee went on one of his trademark runs into the St Mirren area where he was impeded by both Saints keeper Thomson and Jacky Copland. Whether referee Alexander was mindful of his previous decision or not, he awarded Aberdeen a penalty which was soft at best. Gordon Strachan made no mistake from the resultant award to put Aberdeen level.

It was after that when the game reached boiling point as tackles were flying in. Abercromby had been at Strachan the whole game and he was rightly sent off for a dangerous lunge at the Dons talisman in 69 minutes. On reflection a draw was about right but had Aberdeen taken their first half chances it would have been different. St Mirren for their part pushed Aberdeen back for long periods in the second half and could have caused an upset. The SFA had decided that the replay would be at Dens Park in Dundee so it was a happy enough Aberdeen party that returned home still involved in the competition. Manager Ferguson was disgusted at the treatment dished out to Strachan; "It certainly wasn't Strachan's fault that Abercromby was sent off. Even St Mirren manager Ricky McFarlane told me after the game that Strachan did not get enough protection. Strachan is one of the best players to emerge in the last 20 years. He is a genuine entertainer; he gets all sorts of stick and it would be impossible not for him to react to some of the treatment he gets."

Aberdeen full back Stuart Kennedy was ruled out of the replay after injuring his shoulder at Parkhead. Peter Weir was also set to return to the side and was expected to be given a starting role at Dens against his former side.

Aberdeen were taking around 14,000 down for the tie and they would easily outnumber the St Mirren support that was well below in numbers from the first game in Glasgow. The heavy rain in the Dundee area meant conditions were in stark contrast to the game in Glasgow.

Right from the start the St Mirren approach was as robust as it was in the first game as Richardson was lectured by the referee for a wild lunge at Peter Weir in the opening minute. Pools of water covered the centre of the pitch and the goal areas were muddy. Conditions played a part in the Dons opener after six minutes. A Cooper-Strachan move opened the way for Mark McGhee to cut in from the right to fire in a low angled shot. Thomson seemed to have it covered but the ball slipped through his fingers as it rolled over the line. Richardson was then booked two minutes later after taking a swipe at Willie Miller. St Mirren equalised in 17 minutes and once again conditions were crucial. A mix up between Jim Leighton and Miller allowed Frank McAvennie to slide the ball into an empty net. Peter Weir was inspired against his old club and one mazy run down the left as he slipped past two defenders before he brought out a fine save from Thomson. Four minutes later Aberdeen regained the lead. Miller and McGhee were involved in the build up as they set up Hewitt who squared the ball to Neil Simpson who lashed the ball low past Thomson from 25 yards. Aberdeen continued to dominate and Doug Rougvie came close before the break. That trend continued after the break and the Dons really should have added to their tally. Strachan was again at the sharp end of the St Mirren defenders as McCormack was booked for fouling the Aberdeen midfielder. Then Aberdeen had a penalty appeal turned down when Hewitt was brought down in the box. The Dons were in complete control and had one eye on Hampden when they were hit with a blow in 56 minutes when Doug Somner scored a shock equaliser. Aberdeen retaliated immediately and piled on the pressure, backed by their huge support. In 74 minutes minutes Aberdeen settled the tie and booked their place at Hampden when a weak peter weir effort slipped under Billy Thomson to put Aberdeen ahead for the third time in the game. That advantage proved too much for the Paisley side as Aberdeen closed the game down as the celebrations began when the full time whistle was blown to end an exhausting tie.

Manager Ferguson was proud of his players; "Everyone at the club wants to play against Rangers in the final, but we must improve our league form before then. We showed a real desire to reach the final and that bodes well for this squad. The younger players will also benefit from the experience and the pressure involved in getting to a major final. That is something we can't teach them. We have guaranteed an ideal finish for the season so it is all before them now."

Fate played its part in Aberdeen reaching Hampden as mistakes made in the semi final ultimately helped the Dons through to a final that was won in style. The European campaign of 1982.83 was waiting for them; like Ferguson declared after the semi final; "It was all in front of them".

When looking back at his Scottish Cup career, Jim Leighton recently told RedMatchday "The first game was not really a great game. I thought I was fouled for the equaliser. Both teams sort of cancelled each other out. St Mirren had a really good side in you look at the players they had including Frank McDougall. They were as an attractive a team as there was at the time. 1-1 was probably a fair result. The reply at Dens was a really good game. I lost a bad goal that night and I think Billy Thomson lost a bad goal as well.I tried telling Willie Miller it was his fault for the goal but I would always carry the can when Willie was involved! It was a horrible wet night but it was a really really good game of football. It is always easier to say that when you win but it was a good cup tie and it was one we were glad to get through and get into the final. RedTV Logo

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Saturday 3rd April 1982

Aberdeen 1:1 St Mirren

Scottish Cup semi final at Parkhead

Aberdeen; Leighton, Kennedy, Rougvie, McMaster, McLeish, Miller, Strachan, Cooper, McGhee, Simpson, Hewitt. Subs used; Bell, Jarvie.

Attendance; 16,780

Wednesday 7th April 1982

Aberdeen 3:2 St Mirren

Scottish Cup semi final replay at Dens Park

Aberdeen; Leighton, Rougvie, McMaster, Cooper, McLeish, Miller, Strachan, Simpson, McGhee, Hewitt, Weir. Sub used; Watson

Attendance; 15,663

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1982 Semi final at Celtic Park

1982 Semi final

1982 Semi final

1982 Semi final

1982 McDougall scores for St Mirren

1982 Semi final

1982 Semi final

1982 Semi final

The 1982 semi final

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St. Mirren 1982 replay Mark McGhee scores

1982 replay Peter Weir scores the winner