The summer was fairly uneventful for once. There was no major tournament to distract us and the vast majority of our players were safely under contract. David Partridge was the only notable departure, going south for £150,000. Gordon Marshall signed an extension to his contract to keep some continuity in the backline whilst Graeme Smith was signed as his competition. Some trialists and loan signings also arrived but in general we had a quiet off season.
Fir Park by floodlight
Things got off to a hot start with Celtic – complete with their fans in the Cooper – arrived at
He'll score in 2006!
The League Cup gave us an interesting derby with Hamilton and that rarest of things for us, a home draw. Yet another goal from Jim Hamilton gave us a late victory and we were rewarded with a trip to Paisley in the next round.
A narrow loss at Tynecastle was followed by a spectacular second half in Inverness to give us a 2-1 win. We sometimes have days when everything goes right and Falkirk’s remarkable decision to sit in for a draw against us saw them being torn apart 5-0. All of a sudden we were back in the top half and an extra time win at St Mirren ensured our place in the cup quarter finals. Okay, we had made a shaky start but now we were settling into our rhythm and things would move along nicely.
Or perhaps not. Hibs gave us a footballing lesson before yet more points were thrown away – this time we sacrificed a two goal lead to ten men Aberdeen. We squeeked a win over Livi but we got destroyed by the old firm in consecutive games. However, since then things have been fairly good. We recovered with a great if slightly flattering 3-0 win at Dunfermline and a last minute goal from Kilmarnock earned them a fair share of the points.
Aberdeen were beaten in the cup more comfortably than the 1-0 score suggests although Graeme Smith did save his first penalty for the club. We took a decent point from Tannadice before a late penalty allowed Hearts to escape from
We made enough chances to win two games against Inverness – the team emerging as our closest competition for the top six – but missed them all and they punished us on the break for an undeserved win. The next match saw a reversal in our fortune - Falkirk had marginally the better of our next game but this time we were more deadly in front of goal to sneak it 1-0. Smith produced another string of superb saves to further enhance his position as number one goalie. He had already seen off the challenge of Gordon Marshall who had recently left to join Hibs as a coach.
Hibs should have beaten us by more than 2-1 but Smith put up the shutters before yet again we lost a late, late goal. This time we could have few complaints but this was the fifth late goal to cost us points – had we avoided those, we would be around third place challenging for Europe with the top six guaranteed. As it is we’re still in it. A superb performance after a slow start gave us a Boxing Day win over Aberdeen and that takes us to our present position. A win over
Whatever happens, we’re not going to go down, the top six is well within reach and another semi final is approaching in the distance. We’re in a good position but this year it is easy to look back and say ‘what if?’ but then it always is. The first half of the year brought us a cup final and sixth position – the end of the year has left us in a position to improve even further. You can’t ask for more than that surely?
The Year in Review: 2004