But the collapse was still a couple of weeks away. We won a dreadful game at Tannadice thanks to their goalie spilling a simple shot and an equally poor Livingston were dispatched at Fir Park the next week. We had won six games in a row and we were facing Inverness in the last game before Christmas. Oh dear. We did not perform at all and found ourselves 2-0 down at half time. Clarkson pulled one back and then appeared to win a penalty only to be booked for diving. To compound the error, he contrived to get booked again for complaining and an early bath. Summed up his season really!
We were thrashed at Ibrox although Scott McDonald returned to the side after injury and scored another contender for goal of the season. Chances came and went for both sides in an entertaining draw with Aberdeen before the Scottish Cup started with a trip to Kilmarnock. A massive travelling support was let down badly by another poor effort – Kilmarnock weren’t much better but that was enough to earn a comfortable 2-0 win. When they beat us by the same scoreline a week later, our top six place was looking precarious again.
A pathetic cup loss
Celtic beat us again at Parkhead without breaking sweat and we were looking at our first league cup semi final in several years coming at the end of a horrific run of form. Terry Butcher got everything spot on though and whilst we allowed the Jambos more possession we were rarely threatened. Craigan’s header (his first goal in what turned into a prolific season) and Foran’s penalty had us cruising before Hearts scrambled one with five minutes to go. Our composure shattered, Clarkson missed a sitter to kill it, they levelled early in injury time and we only just held on for a draw. Thankfully the pause before extra time allowed us to calm down and neither side looked to anxious to press forward. We looked to have won it with a late goal but it was (correctly) ruled out for offside. Then came the best moment of the season. Marshall’s kickout was missed by a defender, McDonald danced and released young Marc Fitzpatrick. The youngster had looked reasonably comfortable in the side but had turned into a quivering wreck in sight of goal. Not this time. A good first touch, a brilliant second touch and a rifled shot into the bottom corner sent the ‘Well fans wild. It was virtually the last kick of the game and we were in our first final in fourteen years.
A glorious cup win
Typically we lost the next game, missing a bucketful of chances to allow two opportunistic strikes from Dundee’s Stevie Lovell seal the match. We took a useful point from Hibs but we were comforted in the knowledge that our favourite Gorgie side were visiting Fir Park next. We dispatched them again, Skippy and Fitzpatrick in the goals and we continued to hold on to the final top six place. Kilmarnock were still hot on our tails and there was a long way to go.