On This Day In 1946: Rangers v Hibernian

On This Day In 1946: Rangers v Hibernian

Victory Cup Final

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BY RUSSELL MCFADYEN

Professional football had been suspended for the duration of the Second World War. With authorities keen for football to continue in some form, for the most part to maintain public morale, unofficial wartime competitions were initiated, albeit on a regional basis.

Rangers had become the predominant team in Scotland under the guidance of Bill Struth. They were Scottish Champions at the time of the outbreak of hostilities, and that dominance continued into the wartime with the Club firstly winning the Western Division and then every single edition of the Southern League.

Arguably, the closest challenge to Rangers throughout the War years came from Hibernian. The Edinburgh side were the only club to reach as many as three finals of the Summer Cup tournament, and finished second to the Ibrox side in the Southern League twice, including its final season of 1945-46.

The cessation of war came too late for a proper football season in 1945-46. Keen as they were to restore national competition, it was ordered by the SFA that, instead of the Scottish Cup, which had been withheld for the duration of the conflict, a “Victory Cup” would be competed for in April, May and June of 1946. A similar title had been awarded in 1919 following the conclusion of World War I, won by St Mirren.

Rangers v Hibs 1946

The 1st Round would be a two-legged affair, changing to single games for the remainder of the tournament with Semi-Finals and Final played at neutral venues.

Rangers began their campaign with a comfortable 8-2 aggregate victory over Stenhousemuir, followed by a 4-0 defeat of Airdrie, who had eliminated the Gers from the 1919 version. A replay was required before Falkirk were beaten 2-0 at Ibrox setting-up an Old Firm Hampden Semi. 90,000 watched on as the two sides played out a goalless draw. 4 days later, and it was the men in blue celebrating following a controversial 2-0 triumph. The match as a spectacle was ruined to some degree when Celtic had two men dismissed for dissent.

Awaiting in the Final were Hibernian. The men from the capital had begun with a narrow 3-2 aggregate triumph over Dundee, before defeating Edinburgh rivals Hearts by 3-1. Like Rangers, a replay was required in the Quarters as they despatched of Partick Thistle 2-0 after a 1-1 draw at Firhill. Clyde were the semi-final opponents at Tynecastle. A 2-1 victory saw Willie McCartney’s men book their Final spot. Coincidentally, McCartney’s father John had been in-charge of Hearts when they were beaten by St Mirren in the Final of the 1919 Victory Cup.

A six-figure crowd turned out for the Hampden showpiece on June 15th. The match saw brothers Jock and Davie Shaw on opposing sides.

The Rangers XI was: Bobby Brown; Sammy Cox, Jock Shaw; Charlie Watkins, George Young, Scot Symon; Willie Waddell, Torry Gillick, Willie Thornton, Jimmy Duncanson and Jimmy Caskie.

Hibs lined-up: Jimmy Kerr; Jock Govan, Davie Shaw; Hugh Howie, Peter Aird, Willie Finningan; Gordon Smith, Willie Peat, Arthur Milne, Johnny Aitkenhead and Bobby Nutley.

The referee was Mr J.M Martin of Blairgowrie.

Rangers’ game-plan was clear from the off. Neat passing moves were woven across the Hampden turf, with the Edinburgh men struggling to get a foot on the ball in the early stages.

Whilst not much fell in the Light Blues’ way of clear goal-scoring opportunities, they were running Hibs ragged. The effect was Aitkenhead and Peat having to retreat towards their own goal and help out their defensive colleagues as opposed to providing service for Smith and Nutley. The Full-back duo of Shaw and Govan were performing admirably in denying Rangers, but they could only be reasonably expected to maintain the heroics for so long.

Just over 20 minutes were on the clock when Rangers won a throw-in. It was taken by Caskie, and a quick dash by Duncanson caught the Hibees’ backs unawares. The no.10 cushioned the ball back to the Winger who delivered a cross. Making a clever run was Gillick who, without breaking stride, struck the ball goalwards. Finningan managed to intervene but could only divert the ball beyond his own Goalkeeper to give Rangers the lead.

Despite going behind, Hibernian actually began to grow into the match. Gordon Smith in particular was causing Jock Shaw some difficulty. It was a classic display of the traditional Scottish style of short and swift passing moves by both sides. None better was this showcased just minutes prior to the half-time interval.

Nutley and Milne cleverly worked the ball up the left side, exchanging passes. A dummy by Nutley allowed his partner to deliver a ball into the Rangers box. A lung-bursting run by Aitkenhead saw him reach the ball and thundered it first time beyond Bobby Brown and into the roof of the net. 1-1 was the score at half-time.

It was Rangers to kick-off the second period. Under pressure to respond to the Hibs leveller, the Ibrox men did so immediately with one of the greatest goals scored at Hampden. A “Blackbooard Goal” one newspaperman described it as.

Thornton kicked-off and played the ball to Torry Gillick. He returned it to Thornton and he in-turn passed the ball back to Symon. The half-back lobbed the ball into the centre to be met by Thornton who had made the run. The no.9 laid it off neatly for the arriving Duncanson to lash it into the net from fully 20-yards. The first time a Hibs player touched the ball in the second period was to pick it out of the net.

The goal did little to dampen the spirits of the Easter Road outfit. The battle between Smith and Shaw still captivated the crowd, with honours in that specific duel fairly even. It was Smith who was the architect of the majority of Hibs’ efforts on goal. On more than one occasion he was inches away from bringing his team level. Another instance, one of his in-swinging balls forced a spectacular save from Bobby Brown.

It was, however, still Rangers in command. A high ball forward saw a nice backwards header from Thornton find it’s way to Waddell. The winger shot and scored, but somewhere in the move the referee spotted an infringement and the goal was chalked off.

It took until the dying moments of the match for the affair to be decided. Willie Waddell found himself with the ball a long way out of position on the left flank. Showing incredible vision, he launched the ball downfield. Bursting through the middle was Jimmy Duncanson who beat all opposition to the ball and touched it beyond the Edinburgh Goalkeeper for his second of the match, Rangers’ third and surely the Victory Cup.

3-1 was the final score, and the trophy which Rangers had won five times as the Southern League Cup was heading back to Ibrox on a permanent basis.

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