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Echoes of 1969 final against Celtic show this St Johnstone team Hampden is no place for nerves

Jimmy Donaldson can't prevent Bertie Auld's winner for Celtic.
Jimmy Donaldson can't prevent Bertie Auld's winner for Celtic.

Livingston’s fast start to their Betfred Cup semi-final against St Mirren isn’t the only warning St Johnstone will need to heed at Hampden Park on Sunday.

The echoes of a League Cup final past send the same message.

As Saints’ 1969 goalkeeper Jimmy Donaldson recalls, Willie Ormond’s team that faced Jock Stein’s Celtic at the national stadium were caught cold by a second minute Bertie Auld goal that proved to be the only one of the game.

Finals are about hitting the ground running and nerves need to be left in the dressing room.

“I remember getting a touch to Stevie Chalmers’ header to tip it onto the bar and it landed for Bertie to stick it in the net,” said Donaldson, 73, who still lives locally in Methven.

“John Lambie was back on the line but couldn’t do anything to stop it.

“It was the worst possible start for us. We were only two minutes into the game.

“We were nervous before the match, probably a bit overawed if I’m being honest.

“I remember thinking the dressing room was much quieter than usual in the countdown to kick-off.

“We had been relaxing at Allan Water in the build-up and arrived at Hampden on two buses, one for the team and one for the directors and wives.

“I was a bit apprehensive myself before the game got going. Like the other lads, it was my first final.

“The crowd at Hampden was huge, around 75,000, and of course most of them were backing Celtic.

“Our fans made themselves heard but the place erupted with their goal.

“We had to hang on for 20 minutes or so. They were pressing all the time. And remember half their team were Lisbon Lions.

“But we showed what we were capable of in the second half and John Fallon had to make a few very good saves to stop it going to extra-time, especially one from Benny Rooney late on.”

Henry Hall couldn’t score with this chance.

There were plenty of Hampden eye-witnesses who would suggest what happened after the second minute was worthy of extra-time, the legendary Parkhead boss among them.

It was quite touching, a nice gesture.

“I remember Jock Stein coming into our dressing room after the game to say we should be proud of ourselves and we deserved a draw,” said Donaldson.

“He’d warned his players we were no pushovers after a 2-2 draw at Parkhead earlier that season. We were in that final on merit.

“We were downhearted but it was a lovely touch from a manager who had won the European Cup two years before.

“It was quite touching, a nice gesture.

“Looking back now we can be proud of our performance. Celtic were between European Cup finals at the time, with seasoned internationals in that team.”

Donaldson’s team were the first from Perth to get to a national final and in a few days they will lose their tag of the only one to compete for a trophy at Hampden.

And the former keeper gives Callum Davidson’s men a great chance of completing a Fair City Scottish and League Cup double.

Penalty box action at Hampden.

“I’d love to see this Saints team go one better and win it,” he said.

“They got rid of a Livingston hoodoo with a win at their place a few weeks ago.

“The club has won the Scottish Cup and now they have a great chance to win the League Cup for the first time in their history.

“I certainly think this team has a fair chance of winning the trophy.”

ANALYSIS: There is no trust issue for Callum Davidson with Guy Melamed anymore – he has earned his St Johnstone Betfred Cup final place the hard way

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