The 1970s - Thistle Come Of Age And Top The Junior Ranks
Season 1970-71 proved to be disappointing following the previous seasonâ€™s promotion success. Although occupying top league position in mid-December, the team slumped to seventh place, four points adrift of a promotion place. Dougie Sumner signed for Falkirk following some excellent displays.
One item of note was that on the Saturday following the Ibrox disaster, Rangers were allowed to cancel their league match with Cowdenbeath, and East Kilbride took up the fixture at Central Park as a friendly.
The 12th of December 1971 saw the clubs first Sunday match when they defeated Craigmark Burtonians 5-1 at the Showpark. The first three weeks of 1972 saw three epic cup ties against Kilbirnie Ladeside. In the Scottish Junior Cup, after trailing at home 2-0, Thistle gained a replay, where once again they found themselves 2-0 down at half time. In a great second half display, Thistle came back to win 3-2 with goals from Meechan, MacColl and Christie. The following Saturday, Thistle returned to Kilbirnie in the West Of Scotland Cup, and this time led 2-0 at half time before losing 3-2. Thistle reached the quarter finals of the Junior Cup, before losing 2-1 at home to Johnstone Burghin a replay, where a record attendance of 5058 were present at the Showpark. The same season saw promotion to Division â€œAâ€, as runners-up to to Cambuslang Rangers, and the first cup final where Pollok ran out 4-1 winners in the Erskine Hospital Cup.
1972-73 saw a promising season end without a trophy. Thistle led Cambuslang Rangers in the league but Rangersâ€™ games in hand saw them through. The club reached the final of the Central Drybrough Cup, losing 4-2 to Shettleston, but the saddest defeat was in the semi-final of the Scottish Junior Cup at Firhill, where they went down 4-1 to eventual winners Irvine Meadow. Willie Pettigrew put Thistle ahead only for Meadow to equalise before the interval. In the second half Meadow scored twice before Pettigrew crashed a shot off the underside of the bar and over the line. Referee Keggie however waved play on and Meadow scored again before the finish. Our team that day was: Oâ€™Neill, Reynolds, Gay, Ferguson, Gordon, Ross, MacColl, Pettigrew, Stuart, Ditchburn, McLellan; Sub: Japp (for Stuart), Crawley (for MacColl. Pettigrew only played 34 games before signing for Motherwell, but scored an incredible 41 goals. He scored six goals in the clubâ€™s record victory, 9-1 against Kirkcaldy YM. Strange as it may seem, the following week saw the clubâ€™s then record defeat, 7-0, at the hand of localÂ rivals Cambuslang Rangers. Even stranger was the fact that the game was played on the 13th January and the half-time score was 0-0.
The following season, 1973-74, saw Thistle as runners-up in Division â€œAâ€ to Cambuslang Rangers once again. The clubs also met in an epic series of Junior Cup encounters in the third round. Both the first match and the replay finished 2-2, with Thistle coming back from 2-0 down in the replay at Showpark. The second replay at Pollok saw Kenny MacKinder equalise in the last minute of extra time to tie the game 1-1. So the match went to penalty kicks, with Cambuslang edging home 5-4. For the third season in a row, Thistle reached a cup final, the West Of Scotland Cup, and their opponents wereâ€¦.Cambuslang Rangers. The clubs had met seven times that season, and Thistle had still to record a victory. Thistle trailed 1-0 in the second half before two goals by captain Martin Ferguson, the brother of Manchester United manager Alex, helped Thistle to a 3-1 win and our first major trophy.
1974-75 saw the club emerge as a power in Junior football. The Red Hackle Trophy was won with a 2-1 win over Lanark United at Fir Park, and the Division â€œAâ€ Championship was secured for the first time. The run into the championship saw Thistle play seventeen games in forty four days for figures of Won 11, Drawn 4 and Lost 2. As Division â€œAâ€ winners, Thistle qualified for the Whitbread Trophy played between the top teams from the East, Ayrshire and Central leagues. Thistle beat Kello Rovers 4-3 on penalties after the teams drew 1-1 in the final. The club also won the Evening Times Trophy (Central League Championship), played for by the three divisional winners, beating Larkhall Thistle 4-3, after extra time. Strangely, with all this success, Thistle went out of the Junior Cup at Kilbirnie, losing 3-2 after leading 2-0 at half time.
The Division â€œAâ€ title was again won in 1975-76, with 37 points from the 26 games, compared with 39 points in the previous . In the Red Hackle Trophy, Thistle trailed Petershill 0-3 in the quarter final, but tied the match 3-3. Extra time produced a further goal apiece before Thistle won the penalty decider 5-4. In the semi final, Thistle once again met up with Cambuslang Rangers, though this time they losy 2-0 in a replay. The final of the West Of Scotland Cup was again reached, though Arthrulie came out on top 1-0 after a replay. However, the Central League Championship Trophy was won, in the centenary year of the "Evening TImes", beating Port Glasgow 3-1. During this season, Martin ferguson played his 300th game for the club.
Sadly, season 1976-1977 saw the club relegated back to Division "B", picking up only 21 points. A terrible run of 15 games at the start of 1977 saw one win in the last match, three draws in between, and nine consecutive defeats. In the cup competitions the club never proceeded and further than the third round.
Division "A" status was regained after only one season, as the club finished up as runners-up to Cumbernauld United on goal difference. This feat was all the more commendable in that no home games were played untl the first week in 1978, the notoriously bumpy Showpark having been levelled and re-sown. the club also reached the quarter final of the Junior Cup for the third time, but after leading 1-0 through Gordon Stuart, Thistle lost 2-1 to that season's surprise finalists Stonehouse Violet.
1978-79 saw the club reach the final of the new Langs Trophy, in which the final was postponed for one month due to Kilbowie Park being flooded on the day of the final. When the match eventually took place, it was between the bottom two clubs in the division, and Arthurlie triumphed 3-1 in December. The remainder of the season was a struggle against relegation with the club never out of the bottom four until the last three games, where four wins in the last five matches saw the club finish five points clear of the drop. Two further players stepped up to the Senior grade, with John McClymont and Jim Rodger both signing for Airdrie. Jim played for Junior Scotland that season, and in a match against Wales, scored with a diving header, which wasn't bad for a left back who later couldn't remember the goal due to having been concussed earlier.