Review of 2003 (2)

Last updated : 30 December 2003 By Firparkcorner

However, injuries and suspensions had left us struggling and our midfield four contained two strikers and a defender. We were predictably out of sorts although it took Doobs letting in a soft one to break the deadlock.

Thistle ran riot as we disintegrated in the second half and in all honesty they could have won by more than three. The one consolation on this dire afternoon was that Dundee United had contrived to throw away a late lead to lose 2-1 at home to Hibs. This kept the battle alive for another week when the Arabs would visit
Fir Park.

A Cuddle before the Celtic game
We took the lead in a scrappy first half but sensational goals from Miller and McIntyre had us staring the drop in the face. Remarkably, Tony Vaughan, whose initial defensive prowess had given way to being a liability, bundled home an equaliser from a corner and we were given another stay of execution. Next up was Celtic in a rearranged game at Fir Park. We gave as good as we got for half an hour until Derek Adams swung a reckless elbow at Alan Thompson. Contact was minimal but that doesn’t matter in these situations and he rightly walked. Celtic only needed minutes to make their numerical advantage count and we ended up on the wrong end of a 4-0 drubbing. This game was also notable for Celtic fans getting half the Cooper Stand and for David Cowan going over his ankle in a sickening manner and breaking it in several places.

With three games to go we were one point adrift. United were being held to a draw at Livingston whilst we were battling out a dire 0-0 at Easter Road. As happened all too often last season, we made a stupid mistake to giveaway a penalty. We had chances to equalise at the death but yet again we had thrown away a certain point to an opponent who was no better than ourselves. The news filtered through that United had scored deep into injury time to win at Livi and reality began to dawn that we would finish bottom of the league.

We had two home games with which to finish the season and we started our resistance well with David Clarkson putting us one up on Aberdeen. We managed to shoot ourselves in the foot perfectly with a disastrous twenty minute spell which saw us lose three goals, including a Delomeaux blast from fully 35 yards. We attempted a comeback in the second half but luck was never with us. One goal was pulled back through a Faddy penalty but another 0-1 victory for United at Thistle had sealed our fate anyway. We were now officially relying on Falkirk to keep us up.

The vote on whether Falkirk were eligible for the SPL took place on the Friday before the last game of the season. The issues seemed quite clear cut but it was still a relief to find out that the vote had gone our way, 7-5.

The last game invasion
Accordingly, Fir Park was in party mode for the Livingston game and the players showed just how they could perform. The visitors were destroyed 6-2, with McFadden running a masterclass in the second half. His second goal was a Panenka like penalty before he capped his hat trick with a sixty yard run and shot. He also finished the game as captain and picked up a booking for abusing the linesman. The traditional pitch invasion at the end of the match was even more joyous than usual.

But if you thought we were safe, there was a twist in the plot. Falkirk appealed the SPL ruling to the SFA and our agony was prolonged for weeks. On the night of the meeting, ‘Well fans anxiously sat at computers whilst some even waited outside Hampden.

Eventually word came out that…a decision couldn’t be reached and the three man panel would reconvene the next night. This was not the outcome anyone had expected but 24 hours later justice was finally done and our place in the SPL was secure for another year.

It was not the way we would have liked to stay up but it was better than nothing. Everyone was delighted to put a bad season behind us and look forward to August. The only question was which, if any, of the golden trio of Hammell, Pearson and McFadden would have moved to pastures new by then.