Who Put The Ball In The Rangers Net?

by William Sheridan
Top 25




04.04.1979 Rangers [n] D0-0 (Scottish Cup Semi Final)

Unlucky 13? Unlucky yer bum…

Going into this semi-final, Badger, so often a man-of-the-match winger for Thistle, had a well-placed confidence about our chances: “We respect Rangers, but we are not afraid of them… we held them to a goal-less draw at Ibrox earlier in the season and then a goal from yours truly gave us a 1-0 victory over them on our own ground… we’ve got players who can turn a game… I’m saying this is Thistle’s year for the Cup

Just as it was back in 1921, Thistle’s Scottish Cup campaign of 1979 was moving along determinedly and, after this match with Rangers, we were on a run of four successive clean-sheets. As good as that sounds, it really should have been four successive wins to nil…

Wednesday, 4th April, 1979 was a school night but the occasion was deemed too big to miss, and this young boy was insanely happy to be making his way to Hampden to see Thistle in a Scottish Cup semi-final. I had previously been there to see Rangers v Hearts in the final of ’76, but this time it was Thistle. This time it was personal. The whole occasion was simply awesome in my eyes. It was an 8pm kick-off and it was glorious to see heroes of mine such as Alan Rough and Bobby Houston 'neath the lights on the hallowed Hampden turf. Such was the excitement of the action that I was up and down all night from my perch on a crush barrier in the mixed North Terracing. As any kids from the pre-Hillsborough days will tell you, if the goalmouth action got too exciting, the safest thing to do was jump down before you were pushed down!

All night we were knocking on the door; McCloy in the Rangers goal denied Colin McAdam time and time again. I can’t help but wonder if things might have been different if big Dougie Somner (a late call-off with a dead-leg) had been fit to play. Still, we had plenty of decent ammo; Alex O’Hara made way for Bobby Houston in the second half as Thistle really went for it.

It was a bad blow for us when Peter McCloy was hurt midway through the second half. He had a cut above his left eye and was concussed. I dreaded Thistle pushing balls inside our penalty area after that… I am happy we are still in the Cup.

Rangers boss John Greig needn’t have worried. When Thistle got their seemingly inevitable goal, it was routinely and shamelessly dismissed as illegal.


With just 10 minutes left to play, a quick Thistle counter-attack was superbly executed, and Ally Love delivered an inviting cross which was beautifully met by the head of Bobby Houston, who had timed his run to perfection. At last, McCloy was beaten, and the feeling when that ball hit the net was indescribable; like a dream come true. I was off that crush barrier in an instant, bouncing around like a delirious puppy in a playground.

He’s not gi’en it, he’s not gi’en it!” exclaimed Dad as my short-lived ecstasy instantaneously collapsed into utter despondency, followed by total rage at the sheer injustice of it all. I would say it was thee single most brutal minute of my Thistle-supporting life - of which there have been many!

Turns out a linesman had flagged for offside and Ian Foote (aka Ian Flute) was only too willing to go along with it.

Many’s the time I’ve replayed the goal back in my head. We had a great view (nearly in line) and to this day, we swear that Bobby Houston was a good TWO YARDS ONSIDE when that cross came over. We conclude that those officials were DESPERATE to disallow the goal at all costs, and there seems little doubt that these were “Rangers minded” people.

Speaking to the Thistle programme some years later, Bobby relived the cruel moment:

We all thought that we could beat them and we did 'beat' them. The goal I scored was never offside. We had practiced the move leading to the goal at training and I can remember that when I started my run I was behind Ally Dawson. The ball came to me at head height and I just had to nod it into the net. I started running about delirious only to see the linesman chalk it off for offside. I met Stan Anderson, who was the Rangers coach at the time, a couple of weeks after the game and he told me that when the ball went in the Rangers bench thought the game was over as there were only ten minutes left.

After scraping past Thistle 1-0 in the replay, Rangers took 3 games to beat Hibs in the Final. By contrast, Thistle defeated Hibs 3 times out of 4 this term. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that we were cheated out of an amazing opportunity to get our name on the famous old trophy for a second time.

The smile on the face of referee Ian Foote at the end told it all” reported Hugh Taylor in the Times.

Aye, didn’t it just Hugh…

Publishing date Originally published on 13-Dec-2017 (WAT).
Thistle Archive publishing date Republished here on The Thistle Archive, 07-Sep-2020.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 13-Dec-2017.

© The Thistle Archive 2015-2024. All rights reserved. Third-party trademarks and content are the property of their respective owners, and subject to their own copyright terms and conditions. See the website links provided in each case.