the weather took its toll on last week’s Fife & Lothians Cup tie against Bo’ness United, but St Andrews United can look back on a year which saw silverware return to Recreation Park - even if it wasn’t to be in the Scottish Junior Cup.
United were one of the few sides to start 2012 with a game, all be it a 2 - 0 defeat to Fife neighbours, Hill Of Beath at Recreation Park.
Their next match was a Scottish Cup clash at home to Ayrshire side Cumnock and, in a battling display, Jim Hardie’s men secured a 1-1 draw and a replay thanks to a freak Kevin McMullan goal from the half way line.
What an afternoon that was! Saints were magnificent, a hat-trick from new signing Paul Watson - on loan from Peterhead - and a late goal from Sam Buchan seeing United run out 4-2 winners against a tough Cumnock side.
The reward for defeating one of Ayrshire’s best was to be thrown in with another one in Kilbirnie Ladeside. Once again, United drew 1-1 at Recreation Park - this time thanks to a Gary Sutherland goal - and the side made their second trip in a month to the west. On a wet and stormy afternoon, Saints once again rose to the challenge and ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Ryan Dignan and skipper Ricky Patrick.
On March 3, United returned to league action and an important fixture away at Carnoustie Panmure, one of the teams in the lower reaches battling with Saints to avoid the drop. Jim Hardie’s men returned over the Tay Bridge with a valuable point thanks to another Dignan goal.
Next up were Linlithgow Rose at The Rec, and the Lothian side were very lucky to depart St Andrews with the points after a 3-2 win in a game in which United should at least have got a point.
The reward for Saints’ Scottish Cup escapades was a quarter-final clash at home to West Region side, Shotts Bon Accord, once again at Recreation Park. Unfortunately the game was a massive let down for the sizeable St Andrews support as, for whatever reason, United just failed to turn up and lost 1-0 in a massive anti climax.
The next game saw a return to the Super League and back across the Tay, this time to Thomson Park and Lochee United, where Saints shrugged off the disappointment of defeat in the cup with a 2-1 victory thanks to two goals from McMullan and Suttie.
Back in December, United had defeated Downfield 1 - 0 in the East Of Scotland Cup and it wasn’t until the end of March that Saints beat Stoneyburn 4-1 at home in the next round with goals from Paul Watson, Ryan Dignan and Ricky Patrick.
April began with a 2-0 defeat at Central Park against Kelty, but it was the next two games that would ensure Super league survival for Jim Hardie’s troops.
April 14 saw Paul Farquharson score a 10th minute winner away to Camelon before a vintage effort from veteran Allan Ramsay secured the points and Super League status at home to Bo’ness United.
The following week saw Bonnyrigg Rose all but secure the Super League title with a 2-0 victory at Recreation Park before Saints completed thelLeague campaign with a 2-2 draw against Kelty once more at Recreation Park.
The season was far from over for Jim Hardie as, on May 19, Bonnyrigg were back in town in the Quarter Final of the East Of Scotland Cup and a combination of injuries and absentees owing to the Hibs versus Hearts Cup Final left them somewhat understrength. However, United were in no mood for sympathy and the Super League champions were thrashed 4-0, thanks to a double from Ryan McInnes, and goals from Ryan Suttie and Johnny MacRae.
Four days later, United travelled to Moorside Park for a semi-final against Dundonald and once again hit four goals as Bluebell were beaten 4-1. It was a far from convincing performance but, assisted by the home side’s lack of discipline that saw two players sent off, goals for Saints came from Sutherland, Patrick, MacRae and McInnes. United were in the final.
On that sunny June afternoon, United travelled to Keirs Park Hill Of Beath to take on Kinnoull in the final of the East of Scotland Cup and, thanks to goals from Gary Sutherland and Kevin Fotheringham in his last game for the club, Saints survived a late onslaught from the Perth side to take the win by two goals to one and lift the trophy for the first time in their history.
If somebody had said United would reach the quarter final of the Scottish Cup, survive relegation AND win the East Of Scotland Cup, most people at the club would have laughed but that is just what Saints did and season 2011/12 will take its place as one of the best in its history.
n PART TWO NEXT WEEK