The magic of the cup: St Mirren’s best tournament finishes in the 21st century

The magic of the cup: St Mirren’s best tournament finishes in the 21st century

St Mirren are a club steeped in history, representing one of the 11 founding clubs of the Scottish Football League – six of which have since died out.

This season, however, there have been some standout cup campaigns in recent times – here is a look at our club’s top five best tournament finishes in the 21st century.

2020-21 Scottish League Cup: semi-finals

The Buddies are on course for one of their most successful league seasons with 36 points from 26 matches in the 2022-23 SPL campaign, games which users can bet on week-in-week-out on a selection of sportsbooks featuring on the UK’s top 20 betting sites.

In the cup, though, St Mirren were less fortuitous this term, having been brushed aside by league leaders Celtic 5-1 in the Scottish Cup fifth round and having not made it out of the League Cup group stage.

Our most recent successful cup exploits came two seasons ago in what was one of two final-four tournament finishes. Our Scottish League Cup campaign began with a first-place finish from Group G thanks to an unbeaten run consisting of two wins and two draws, placing Saints three points clear of second-placed Queen of the South. That set up a second-round meeting at home with Aberdeen, which we won 2-1.

Drawn against SPL giants Rangers in the quarters, many in the Scottish media wrote the Buddies off. However, a 92nd minute Conor McCarthy strike sealed a memorable 3-2 victory in front of the St Mirren Park faithful, leaving the club with a final-four date against Livingston at Hampden Park. Unfortunately for St Mirren, a ninth minute Scott Robinson goal was enough to secure the Livi the all-important three points, and it would be similar cup heartbreak a few months later for the Buddies.

2020-2021 Scottish Cup: semi-finals

Following heartbreak in Glasgow in January 2021, St Mirren bounced back with a 3-0 third round victory away to Hamilton Academical thanks to a goal from Kristian Dennis and brace from Jamie McGrath. That set up a fourth-round meeting at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, in which Saints were forced to come from a goal down to celebrate a vital 2-1 victory, with defender Marcus Fraser snatching an 89th minute winner.

More late drama meant another quarter-final to dispute, which saw the Buddies travel to Kilmarnock in what was an incredibly tight affair. Three goals apiece after extra time – which included a 119th minute McGrath penalty – set up a penalty shootout. St Mirren dispatched all five with Killie faltering once, as Saints went on to a second successive semi-final in the space of a few months. Unfortunately for us, it was similar heartbreak in Glasgow, as another late McCarthy strike was unable to overturn a two-goal deficit against St. Johnstone, the game eventually finishing 2-1.

2008-09 Scottish Cup: semi-finals

Entering the tournament at the fourth-round stage at the turn of 2009, St Mirren secured a comfortable 3-1 victory away at Brechin City thanks to a double from Jim Hamilton and a Dennis Wyness second-half strike. It was to be no plain sailing in the next round, however, as Saints needed a fifth-round replay to get past Motherwell after a 1-1 draw at Fir Park. Back on home soil at St Mirren Park, a Billy Mehmet goal was enough to secure a 1-0 victory.

Mehmet was on target again in the quarter-finals, this time from the spot against SPL giants Celtic, who Saints battled past in another 1-0 win. Unlike in 2008-09, the Hoops are favourites for the 2022-23 SPL title with odds of 1/50 on 888 Sport, a sportsbook which places among the UK’s best in-play betting sites. Winners of the ‘08-‘09 league campaign, Rangers, proved to be the downfall of St Mirren in that season’s Scottish Cup, however, as we once again fell at the last-four stage following a bruising 3-0 defeat.

2009-10 Scottish League Cup: runners-up

Aside from several final-four places in both cup competitions, the 2009-10 campaign brought our second-highest finish in the 21st century with defeat in the final in February 2010. Before that, St Mirren were able to progress all the way from the first round, having been entered at that stage as the 11th placed SPL team. The Buddies responded resolutely, thrashing East Stirlingshire 3-6 before beating Ayr United 0-2.

St Mirren faced our third successive away fixture in the third round, which also concluded with a win, this time a narrow 1-2 victory at Kilmarnock. Naturally, Saints’ first home draw in the League Cup prompted our most convincing performance, a 3-0 drubbing of Motherwell in the quarter-finals. Neutral ground didn’t appear to be an issue either, with Mehmet’s goal enough to down Heart of Midlothian 1-0 at Fir Park. The short trip West to Hampden Park didn’t garner the same result, with Saints agonisingly beaten in the final by nine-man Rangers thanks to an 84th minute Kenny Miller strike.

2012-13 Scottish League Cup: winners

There may have been heartbreak in 2010, but three years later the League Cup would provide unbridled joy to the Saints. That year we entered the tournament at the second-round stage where Ayr United were dispatched 5-1 at St Mirren Park. Less than a month later and Hamilton Academical were beaten at the same ground by a much narrower 1-0 scoreline. It was even narrower at the Pittodri Stadium in the quarters, with penalties needed to get past Aberdeen following a 2-2 draw after extra-time.

Once again, Saints scored 100% of our spot-kicks, and Paul McGowan was also on target from twelve yards in the semi-finals, as St Mirren were on the right side of a five-goal thriller against Celtic at Hampden Park, having survived a nervy closing stage. In the end, the semis were the perfect dry run for a final which finished by the same scoreline. Goals from Esmael Goncalves, Steven Thompson and Conor Newton contributed to a memorable 3-2 victory, as the Saints faithful making up the 44,000 in attendance at Hampden Park were sent into jubilant celebration. 

17 March 2013 will be a date us St Mirren fans will never forget, putting an end to the club’s 26-year wait for a trophy following victory in the 1986-87 Scottish Cup.

Despite our poor tournament performance this campaign, the lightning start made by Stephen Robinson’s men in the SPL bodes well for future endeavours in cup competitions.

For a side as rich in history as St Mirren, it only seems right that we should get our fair share of the ‘magic of the cup’.