by Craig Benson & Allan Auld
On 24th May 1997 Bobby Williamson and his rag-tag bunch of youngsters and veterans stepped onto the pitch at Ibrox Stadium to take on former manager Alex Totten and his Falkirk side in the final of the 1996/97 Tennent's Scottish Cup. What happened in the next 90 minutes have gone down in Killie folklore as, thanks to yet another strike from Paul Wright, Kilmarnock Football Club lifted the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1929.
So how did Killie get to the Final? Here are the re-caps of each matches along the way to our Cup success...
Kilmarnock 1 Dundee United 0
Kilmarnock, and their lucky mascot, manager Bobby Williamson, the man who was put in temporary charge in December, snatched a famous victory in this semi-final replay at Easter Road.
They were second best in the first half when United really ought to have put them too far behind to recover, but after the interval, they were in charge and Jim McIntyre gave their fans the perfect climax with a goal four minutes from the end.
A David Bagan corner, a John Henry cut-back, and Jim McIntyre (left) netted from four yards.
No one could grudge them their moment. When you consider that they are still not quite out of the battle to escape a play-off to stay in the top division, yet have gone eight games without defeat, they are entitled to some decent reward.
Yet United will rue the chances they missed in the first half when they played with a verve and skill that had been absent altogether in the first game.
This time they looked like the team that had been struggling in September when Tommy McLean took over, but have since gone on to secure a place in the UEFA Cup.
Had they done themselves justice at the business end, they would be heading for a fitting finale to their season, but they discovered, like many before them, including the Old Firm, that Kilmarnock have a resilience and a self belief that has to be erased completely or they will be back seeking victory.
That is what they did last night and the consequence, remembering how depressing the first game turned out, was a superb fluctuating semi-final which deserved a far bigger audience than the 9000 or so who made it through to Edinburgh.
Now Ayrshire will be out in force for the final on May 24, Whoever wins the other semi final had better be on their best and most determined form.
Unlike last week, when Kilmarnock assumed the initiative immediately, it was the Tayside team who took command from the off, and within 10 minutes they had played at least as many passes as they had done in the previous 90.
They also created a couple of chances which were clearer than anything in the opening spell devised by the teams first time around.
Both of them came from the left where Andy McLaren found space enough to time two excellent crosses, the first of which was just too far for Ray McKinnon to reach and the second was too high for even Kjell Oloffson.
Then, after a well constructed move involving a number of players, Mark Perry went closest of all with a shot that was only a little off target.
It was all United and Neil Duffy could not believe his touch towards goal from close range was deflected off team-mate Zetterlund and then cleared. The conveyor belt of United attacks continued with a fine through ball to Olofsson, who went past the keeper but when he tried to cut the ball inside, found Kevin McGowne in his path and a dangerous situation petered out.
Killie, who had scarcely made any forward moves of note, suddenly caused bother with a corner kick forced on the left. When David Bagan's cross came over, Dylan Kerr nodded it on and it needed a touch by Sieb Dysktra to knock the ball for another corner.
United were soon back in charge, however, and Lekovic had to get down smartly to a well-struck effort from Oloffson after McKinnon nodded down a McLaren cross.
With a couple of minutes left of the first half, United took off Maurice Malpas, who had been suffering from a calf injury, and replaced him with David Bowman, but by then Kilmarnock had managed to get involved a little more in attack and went in at half time with their support a bit more encouraged.
Killie, perhaps after a severe talking-to from their manager, were much more purposeful after the interval and twice within a minute came closer than they had done during the first 45.
However, Killie felt they were unlucky not to go in front when they had the ball in the net, put there by Paul Wright. He stepped in immediately after a shot by John Henry was parried by Dykstra but the stand-side linesman hd his flag in the air to signal offside
Straight away United broke downfield and when Lekovic raced out to clear, he hit the ball against McLaren and was relieved to see it rebound over his bar. United brought on Robbie Winters in 62 minutes for out-of-touch Jamie Dolan, whose midfield role was taken over by McKinnon.
Kilmarnock skipper Ray Montgomerie was booked after he held back Winters who had already begun to make his presence felt. Then came the dramatic winner from McIntyre with his headed goal four minutes from the end
KILMARNOCK - Lekovic, MacPherson, Kerr, Montgomerie, McGowne, Reilly, Bagan, Henry, Wright, McIntyre, Holt. Substitutes - Brown, McKee, Prytz.
Dundee Utd 0 Kilmarnock 0
KILMARNOCK, the underdogs in last night's Tennents Scottish Cup semi-final tie will head for the replay next week with their odds surely shortened.
For last night against a curiously apprehensive Dundee United, they did enough to win the game and push themselves into the final of the tournament. Instead, the Ayrshire team, revitalised in recent weeks by new manager Bobby Williamson, were left to look back at two second-half moments which might have given them victory.
The first arrived in 65 minutes, when their young winger, David Bagan, floated in a cross from far out on the right wing. The ball deceived the keeper, Dutchman Sieb Dykstra, and swirled beyond him before striking the face of the bar before being cleared.
Then, seven minutes from the end, it was Dykstra who saved the Tannadice team. This time he read the shot from Kevin McGowne correctly as the defender attempted a try from 30 yards.
Somehow the keeper reached the ball, pushed it away, and made a recovery save as a Kilmarnock forward raced in on goal.
These were the main second-half chances but earlier, Dykstra twice saved from Jim McIntyre within the space of a minute as Kilmarnock tried to finish the semi, and have at least one team out of the four through to the final.
At the weekend, Celtic and Falkirk drew 1-1, last night came this follow-up and that means we are no closer to knowing who will be taking part in the Ibrox final on May 24.
As that game was put on hold once more, so, too, was the league title. For United's game against Rangers, scheduled at Tannadice next Wednesday, will be pushed further back on the calendar, and that was a night when the Ibrox support thought that their nine-in-a-row dream would be completed.
Last night's game was not a match that the Tannadice team will wish to recall.
Nor was it a game which the watching TV audience would have enjoyed too much.
It was a game beset by nerves, and a game where the two teams appeared to have listened to all the pre-match warnings which spelled gloom and doom.
United manager, Tommy McLean, had insisted all along that semi-finals were nerve-wracking affairs, adding that the Easter Road pitch would make this game even worse.
He was right.
His players rarely looked comfortable at the ground where their long unbeaten run had come to an end two weeks ago.
They went in to the game cautiously, never displaying the confidence which had marked their play before they lost to Hibs.
It was Kilmarnock who always looked the brighter team. They have gathered momentum in their last half-dozen games, in a run which has carried them away from the bottom of the league towards safety, and into last night's semi-final.
It might just have taken them that one step further last night if luck had been just a little more in their favour.
United had their best attempt of the match three minutes before half-time, when the erratic Andy McLaren sent a ball through the heart of the Rugby Park defence.
It found Kjell Olofsson who shot quickly and saw the ball strike the outstretched foot of goalkeeper Dragoje Lekovic.
In the second-half, there was a snap shot from Robbie Winters but little else to worry Kilmarnock.
In 68 minutes, Ray McKinnon took over from McLaren, who had been cautioned in the first-half for comments made to the standside linesman, as manager McLean attempted to change the pattern of the game.
The substitution did not work. Kilmarnock still had the best of things and towards the end, when Tom Brown took over from Colin McKee and Gary McSwegan appeared in place of Robbie Winters, it still left Kilmarnock with the initiative.
Now United face a rethink. They will have the inspiring and imposing presence of Steven Pressley back at the heart of the their defence, but the repairs which must be carried out are mainly psychological.
McLean must somehow convince his players by a week tonight that they can come to Easter Road with confidence.
If they approach the replay in the same, tentative, uncertain manner that they did in the first game last night, then their hopes of going to the final will vanish.
Kilmarnock seem to have no such worries.
They played with much more verve than their opponents and even though they were without one of their best young players, Alex Burke, who was injured, he will return and if he shows the kind of form which Bagan demonstrated last night then United will find themselves in further trouble.
Meanwhile, for the moment, the Scottish Cup competition has been derailed by the two draws.
Next week the verdict on the final will be reached.
KILMARNOCK -- Lekovic, MacPherson, Kerr, Montgomerie, McGowne, Reilly, Bagan, Henry, Wright, McIntyre, McKee. Substitutes -- Brown, Findlay, Hamilton.
Greenock Morton 2 Kilmarnock 5
Killie romped into the Semi-Finals of the Tennants Scottish Cup thanks mainly to a fine hat-trick by midfielder, John Henry (below).
Other goals by Paul Wright and Jim McIntyre sealed a fine victory over a Morton side who have proved to be a bogy side to Kilmarnock in recent years.
A crowd of 9000 watched the seven goal thriller which produced everything fans would expect of a cup tie. The match was end to end until John Henry broke the deadlock in the 13th minute. David Bagan swung in a cross which fell to Paul Wright via the crossbar. His shot was blocked and the reultant rebound fell to Henry who rifled a shot into the roof of the net. Paul Wright added a second in the 32nd minute when he rifled in a low drive from just inside the box.
On 39 minutes Killie added a third when Jim McIntyre pulled back a neat ball from the goal line and John Henry tapped home his second from close range.
Morton's afternoon of misery continued when McCahill was red carded in the 44th minute for a dreadful tackle from behind on Paul Wright.
After the break Morton began a resurgance and brought the score back to 2-3 thanks to a double from Alan Mahood. Kilmarnock kept their cool and Jim McIntyre cooly slotted home the fourth in the 67th minute to effectively put the tie beyond the battling Greenock side.
John Henry added his third and Killie's fifth with a minute to play when he headed home from close range. (Left)
All in all this was a good display and result from a Kilmarnock side who have been struggling in recent weeks. Reaching the last 4 of the cup will hopefully give Kilmarnock the much needed boost in the remainder of the league campaign in an effort to maintain their Premier League Status.
KILMARNOCK Lekovic, McPherson, D.Kerr, Montgomerie, Hamilton, Reilly, Bagan (McKee), Henry, Wright (Brown 48), McIntyre, Burke. (Subs not used - Findlay)
Clyde 0 Kilmarnock 1
Killie moved into the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup thanks to a controversial penalty kick.
But this was a match which Killie rarely looked like losing, with the home side only occasionally threatening Dragoje Lekovic in the Killie goal.
With more of the play in the first half, Killie kept Clyde pinned back but rarely made any clear cut chances. Things improved after the interval however, and at last the break came, when Killie were awarded a penalty kick in the 63rd minute. Referee McCurry adjudged Prunty to have impeded Paul Wright and the striker made no mistake form the spot kick. (right),
With Alex Burke on for the injured Colin McKee and David Bagan raiding down the flanks, Killie always looked likely to score again, while the midfield and defence gave Clyde little room at the other end.
Not a vintage Killie performance, but this was potentially a difficult tie, and the large travelling support were simply happy to see the team progress to the last 8 of the competition.
KILMARNOCK Lekovic, MacPherson, D.Kerr, Montgomerie, McGowne, Reilly , Mitchell, Brown, Wright, Bagan, McKee (Burke 64) (Subs not used - Henry, McIntyre)
Kilmarnock 2 East Stirlingshire 0
Killie eased their way into the 4th round of the Scottish Cup, but never really shook off a determined 'Shire side.
Another spate of injuries and illness meant a re-shuffle with the defence going to 'three at the back' and Tom Brown coming in to partner Jim McIntyre up front.
Although we had by far the bulk of the possession we couldn't find a way past the 'Shire goalkeeper in the early stages, but with half time approaching and the crowd getting restless, up stepped Kevin McGowne to score his first goal for the club in the 44th minute, blasting in a 25 yard free kick. (below)
Three minutes after the restart the game was effectively over when Mark Roberts skipped past 3 defenders before striking a superb shot which the keeper managed to touch onto the bar, but Tom Brown reacted first to score with a diving header from the rebound. With Killie stuck in 3rd gear and 'Shire rarely threatening, there were few highlights over the rest of the second half.
Tennants Man Of The Match : Tom Brown
KILMARNOCK Lekovic, MacPherson, Anderson, Reilly, McGowne, Henry, Bagan, Roberts, McIntyre (D.Kerr 80), Brown, McKee (Burke 60) (Hamilton - not used)
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