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When ‘Sinky’ double for Dundee sank St Mirren

When ‘Sinky’ double for Dundee sank St Mirren

When Dundee face St Mirren in the Scottish Cup at Dens Park on Saturday, the Dark Blues will be red-hot favourites to make it through.

As well as being a league above the Buddies, Paul Hartley’s team have hit fine form at home, winning four and drawing the other in their last five Premiership outings.

In contrast, Jack Ross’s beleaguered St Mirren have been struggling for wins anywhere and they head for Tayside in a break from what’s become a desperate battle to avoid relegation from the Championship.

Things, though, were not always that way when these two met in the cup. In the late 1970s the roles were, to an extent, reversed.

It was at the beginning of March 1979 when Jim Clunie’s team travelled from Paisley, not just as Premier League leaders, but on the back of having knocked out a very strong Dundee United at Tannadice in the previous round.

Under the guidance of Tommy Gemmell, Dundee’s main focus that season was to get back to the top flight, something they would eventually manage after the tightest of First Division promotion races.

In fact, with the weather hitting hard and leading to a backlog of league fixtures, in some ways the cup was a distraction for the home side.

When the in-form Paisley men arrived, though, Gemmell’s team rose to the occasion and pulled off one of the shocks of the fourth round.

And it was thanks in no small part to the contribution of a fans’ favourite, who at the time had become something of a forgotten man around the squad.

Eric Sinclair had made 17 appearances already that season but had dropped out of the squad in early December and was a surprise recall for this tie.

It proved a masterstroke by the manager because the robust striker’s presence unsettled the St Mirren defence and the two goals he got that day sent Dundee on the way to a highly impressive, if unexpected, 4-1 victory.

Bizarrely that victory came in the second of what was a run of three Scottish Cup ties in a row.

A week earlier a penalty from Sinclair’s long-time strike partner Billy Pirie had secured a single-goal win over Falkirk at Dens.

And a week after the St Mirren success, Gemmell took his team to Ibrox where they gave a reasonable account of themselves before going down to eventual cup winners Rangers 6-3.

More importantly for Dundee, Sinclair was back in the team and between then and the end of the season would chip in with another seven goals as promotion via the First Division title was secured by a one-point margin over Kilmarnock.

Returning to the Scottish Cup, the Dark Blues and the Buddies have not been frequent opponents down the years.

That “Eric Sinclair” tie was the first for 17 years and in the 38 since there have only be two further clashes, both of which Dundee have won comfortably.

A word of warning for the home team, however, the last time they lost to St Mirren in the Scottish Cup was back in late January 1962.

A 1-0 reversal at Dens sparked a run of three home defeats in a row for Bob Shankly’s team.

And, for a time, that form threatened to knock them off course in what turned out to be their famous championship-winning season.

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This article originally appeared on the Evening Telegraph website. For more information, read about our new combined website.