Dundee United 0, Rangers 2 - The Scotsman, 6 April 1978
RANGERS produced two typically well-timed second-half goals at Hampden last night, and in so doing progressed towards yet another shot at yet another trophy and sent a gallant Dundee United reeling from this Scottish Cup semi-final.
The goals, by Derek Johnstone and John Greig, were scored when legs, wearied by the pace of a stirring tie, were beginning to flag, and they were just too much for United to absorb at the end of a night when they had produced much that was memorable.
Jim McLean’s men had, if anything, established a slight edge before the crunch came and, while Rangers’ Bobby Russell picked up the Man of the Match award, a good case could have been argued also for United’s Graeme Payne and Paul Hegarty, both of whom were quite outstanding, and Russell’s colleague, Alex MacDonald, who got through tremendous work in holding the Ibrox midfield firm when collapse threatened – which was fairly often.
This was a Dundee United in their most positive mood, and their display last night will have earned them many friends. They played open, exciting football and with Rangers taking up the challenge willingly, the game lived up to its potential, and that doesn’t often happen these days.
After all the alarms and excursions of the build-up days, both teams were along familiar, first-choice lines on the night. David Narey was fit for Dundee United and Rangers had reverted to the men who had represented their top line-up on their best days of the season, with Davie Cooper back on the left wing and Russell in the midfield.
The opening exchanges were pure cup-tie football. Rangers swarmed forward first with MacDonald driving play from midfield and Gordon Smith slipped a pass in front of Russell which that young man sent wide of Hamish McAlpine’s right-hand post. Then United signalled their presence by almost scoring.
A high ball from the right was headed down from the far post by Paul Sturrock. John Bourke made contact, and with Rangers’ goal yawning wide and empty, Colin Jackson materialised to scoop the ball inelegantly to safety. Payne headed strongly over from a George Fleming cross and then Peter McCloy had to make two attempts to gather a Hegarty header from a Payne corner.
Inevitably the fire abated but play continued to flow in an exciting, pleasing fashion, typified when Cooper made a chance out of a hard through ball with a superb back flick which foundered in a packed defence with the United goalkeeper looking wrong-footed.
Hegarty was booked for a foul on Johnstone – a pity, for it had been a clean enough contest so far – and Cooper’s free kick gave McAlpine a lot of trouble. Then Fleming sent a shot raging over McCloy’s crossbar. It had been a half of unbroken action and it closed on a high note with John Holt sending a powerful drive just wide.
The first quarter of the second half was conducted at the same heady lick. A Cooper jink and pass almost let MacDonald in, then Smith knifed through to shoot wide. Payne played United out of defence and was on hand to lob to Billy Kirkwood, who was foiled by McCloy when the goalkeeper kicked desperately clear.
If the chances were not coming along quite so frequently as they had in the first, it was probably due as much to the effects of the killing pace as anything else.
It was a good time of the game to score a goal – and in the 69th minute Rangers did. Russell moved from the deep right midfield, sent a diagonal ball perfectly to the head of Johnstone and the striker struck a powerful flighted header to McAlpine’s left hand where it struck the post and glanced into the net.
It was a good goal, a great lift for Rangers who hadn’t been looking all that comfortable, and a terrible blow for Dundee United who had been threatening to take over.
Rangers sent on Alex Miller for Smith as the Tannadice side strove to get back in the match and Payne tested McCloy with a long-range shot. But in the 78th minute Rangers wrapped it up. Tommy McLean floated one of his patented free kicks into the penalty area where it was picked up by none other than John Greig, who clipped it with evident pleasure over McAlpine into the back of the net.
There was a flurry of non-playing activity then with Frank Kopel being booked for a foul on Cooper, Bobby Robinson coming on for Alex Rennie, Alan Forsyth replacing Payne and Rangers sending on Derek Parlane for Johnstone. But the formation of the sides was now academic.
Dundee United: McAlpine, Rennie, Kopel, Fleming, Hegarty, Narey, Sturrock, Kirkwood, Bourke, Holt, Payne. Subs – Forsyth, Robinson.
Rangers: McCloy, Jardine, Greig, Forsyth, Jackson, MacDonald, McLean, Russell, Johnstone, Smith, Cooper. Subs – Miller, Parlane.
Referee: I M D Foote.