Who Put The Ball In The Rangers Net?

by William Sheridan
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ALAN HANSEN

15.03.1977 Rangers [h] W4-3 (SFL Premier Division - game 26)
Harry Johnston (1-0, 20 mins); Jim Melrose (2-1, 53 mins); Alan Hansen (3-3, 67 mins); Alan Hansen (4-3, pen 85 mins)

Such were the masterful mid-70s performances of Alan Hansen in the heart of the Thistle defence that he was hotly tipped to be the next capture of both Celtic and Rangers and, being a laid-back kind of guy, he’d have signed for either without thinking twice about it. He admitted, however, to feeling especially disappointed that the move to Rangers, his boyhood club, hadn’t come off in the summer of ’76, despite many positive noises from the Ibrox insiders of the day. It’d be fair to say, the big guy felt he had a point to prove; and he did just that!

Season 1976-77 was a strange one for Thistle. For the first time in our history, we were now playing each of our League opponents four times; twice at home and twice away. Things were going fairly well at home (W6 D2 L4) but not so well away (W0 D6 L7) and we were only a couple of points above the relegation place. Rangers were going for the title, and couldn’t afford to be dropping any more points at Firhill – as they had done with their 1-2 loss back in October.

Brian Whittaker’s injury-time winner from that day was still fresh in the minds of all spectators who assembled on the evening of Tuesday, 15th March, 1977. Surely Thistle couldn’t do it again? In what was regarded as one of the greatest games ever seen at Firhill, that’s exactly what they did, again coming back from a losing position to win both points with an oh-so-sweet late winner.

Our multi-talented stroller played a blinder on the night, being involved in 3 of the goals as an epic struggle unfolded, this way and that. His 30-yard shot in the 20th minute created the chaos which ultimately led to Harry Johnston tapping home the opener. Twice Rangers levelled (the second being a 20 yard stunner from Kenny Watson) and when Derek Parlane put them 3-2 ahead on 64 minutes, all of Thistle’s hard work had seemingly been undone.

But back we came, and in the 67th minute a long pass from Brian Whittaker found Alan Hansen, once again venturing deep into enemy territory. He took it on the half-volley with his left-foot and it flew gloriously into the top corner, leaving Stewart Kennedy with no chance. 3-3! What a game. This drama wasn’t over though…

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With just 5 minutes left to play, John Greig mistimed a pass-back, and Jim Melrose was onto it like a flash. With a goal looking certain, a desperate Greig took the “professional” option of tripping down the striker just before he pulled the trigger. No referee, no matter how deep their love of the Rangers, could argue with that one. PENALTY!

Dougie Somner had missed the last two Thistle penalties, the latest being just last week in a 2-1 defeat at Parkhead. Thus, it was time for a change. Alan Hansen took the ball, with a steely-eyed look of determination on his face. Unable to look, Alan Rough crouched at the North end, head bowed to turf. Thistle fans in the main stand looked to the rafters. Rangers fans could only look on in disbelief; it was déjà vu from October as the sweetly struck ball hit the back of the net. 4-3 to the Jags!!!

Come time, Bertie Auld “bit on a bashed cigar Clint-Eastwood style, and threw assorted salutes to the 10,000 crowd at Firhill”.

As for the stroller himself? “I felt an extra degree of satisfaction” said he, mindful as ever of his stay-cool personna.

Publishing date Originally published on 17-Dec-2017 (WAT).
Thistle Archive publishing date Republished here on The Thistle Archive, 07-Sep-2020.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 17-Dec-2017.

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