Millennium Champions: Shining McKnight
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Thursday, 8th April 2010
The more things change, the more things stay the same. A decade ago we faced Falkirk in a crucial game, but this time both clubs were bidding to win the first division rather than avoid dropping out of the top flight.
Despite still being with a shout of winning the league, Falkirk couldn't get promoted due to the state of Brockville - something that did not amuse their manager, Alex Totten. The Scottish football press all felt sorry for him, the rest of us couldn't have cared less - especially as Falkirk's squad hadn't seemed to suffer while they didn't bother doing any work on their ground.
Just to rub things in, our new, shiny, SPL-compliant stand was all finished, although wasn't due to be opened until the next home game. However, due to the massive crowd, a few hundred fans ended up in there. On the pitch, newboy Jens Paeslack started, with Paul McKnight on the bench. One of them would make a rather impressive impact on proceedings.
We started poorly and after a few minutes, a slack passback from Tommy Turner was collected by Kevin McAllister, taking a break from seeing off bad guys in the Home Alone films to resume his previous role of being an annoying wee git in a Falkirk shirt. He raced in on goal, went to round Ludo Roy, and hit the deck. I must admit, I was expecting a penalty and a red card for our keeper, but referee Cammy Melville booked "Crunchie" for diving instead. After seeing it on TV the following day it seemed the right decision - and it made Totten even angrier.
Gareth Hutchison cracked an effort off the woodwork as we continued to struggle, before Junior Mendes had to come on for the injured Mark Yardley. That seemed to settle us a bit and we looked slightly better until the break. Early in the second half, Falkirk were denied another penalty when Hutchison and Ludo clashed. Cue Totten getting even angrier.
Things got rather physical after that and Kevin Christie somehow stayed on the park for an assault on Paeslack. The big German actually suffered a broken leg in the challenge, but completed the game and the problem wasn't discovered for another 10 days or so! Not so lucky was sub Ryan Robinson, who had to go off. On came McKnight.
As we entered the final 10 minutes, Christie looked to have scored form a corner, only for Ludo to pull off a sensational save. It was at the expense of another corner, and from it the game's only goal finally arrived - about 90 yards away. Paeslack cleared it as far as Steven McGarry at the half way line and somehow the forward kept it in play. He fed it in-field to McKnight, who shrugged off the attentions of Jamie McQuilken before coolly slotting a shot past Myles Hogarth from the edge of the bench. It was a classic counter attack, rope-a-dope moment and the Saints fans were vocal in their celebrations of a goal that could well just have helped the club take a massive step towards the title.
Of course, things are never that easy and Tom Brown promptly got himself sent off for a clash with Nicholls. That set us up for a nervy ending, but the remaining 10 players saw out time before linking arms to salute the terrific home support.
The terrific, well deserved win (which annoyed Totten into the bargain) was a huge step towards promotion. Dunfermline were once again our nearest challengers but now they were five points behind with just four games left. Next up for the table-topping Buddies? A trip to Almondvale to face Livingston.