Head v Greenock 1
Scottish Amateur Cup - 4th rnd replay - Saturday 6th January
Saints teach Fromer Pupils a lesson
Oban Saints 2 v 0 Greenock HSFP
IT WAS a case of third time lucky for Oban Saints last Saturday as their Glencruitten pitch was declared playable, if still slightly frosty, to allow their twice previously postponed Scottish Amateur Cup fourth round replay against Greenock High School Former Pupils to finally go ahead.
The tie must still have been in doubt up until the eve of the match when the seemingly endless rain finally decided to relent for a spell. Full marks to Argyll and Bute Council groundsman Ian Hay for preparing such a good playing surface under trying conditions.
Oban Saints manager Alex Craik made five changes to the starting eleven which came from behind twice to force a 2-2 draw at Battery Park, Greenock, five weeks previously.
The visitors also welcomed back some regulars who had missed the previous match, making four changes to their starting eleven and naming a strong four-man bench.
Referee Thomas Lacy got proceedings under way on a crisp afternoon with the visitors kicking off attacking the Mossfield end where the low sun threatened to pose problems for Saints keeper Graham Douglas.
The Oban side were first to threaten in the third minute after Willie Gemmell had cut out a Kenny Munro cross from the left intended for strike partner and scorer of the High’s second goal in the previous match Craig Boyd. From the clearance from Graham Douglas Myles McAuley nodded down to Keith Millar who sent Scott Maitland scurrying up the left wing. Maitland fed skipper Donald Campbell 22 yards out, who opened up his body for a curling shot across Neil Flack which beat the High keeper’s left hand but bounced inches wide of target.
In the eighth minute referee Lacy rather harshly adjudged Paul Carmichael to have fouled Craig Boyd in winning a header 35 yards from goal. Saints knew what to expect from the resulting free-kick but fortunately Greenock dead ball expert Barry Munro sent an excellent effort just wide of the junction of post and bar.
The 10th minute signalled the beginning of a spell of Saints pressure starting when Matthew Kelly and Donald Campbell combined well on the right for the skipper to send a cut-back to Ally McKerracher, whose first-time shot was saved by the legs of Neil Flack at the expense of a corner kick. McKerracher’s delivery from the right was headed behind at the back post by Stuart Higgins. The second delivery was cut out at the front post by Lewis Graham with the third effort again failing to clear the front post but falling kindly for Scott Maitland, who struck the crossbar with a left-foot effort from the corner of the six-yard box with Neil Flack rooted to the spot.
The High couldn’t clear their lines and Saints kept the pressure on with Craig MacEwan winning a free-kick 25 yards from goal on the left. Willie Gemmell’s flighted delivery picked out Craig’s clever back-post run with last season’s top scorer cushioning a half volley a foot wide of Neil Flack’s left upright.
The visitors forced their first corner kick in the 16th minute with Thomas MacFarlane getting up well at the back post to head Barry Munro’s delivery from the right just over the Saints crossbar.
The D & K Lafferty-sponsored Oban side responded with another flurry of chances which saw Neil Flack get down well to save from Craig MacEwan before Myles McAuley and Scott Maitland linked up well on the left setting up Ally McKerracher for a shooting opportunity which he sent wide of Flack’s left-hand post.
Craig MacEwan then cut in from the left and teed up Donald Campbell who smacked the outside of Flack’s left-hand upright with the keeper beaten.
Barry Munro’s 29th minute corner kick from the left after Steven MacLeod had headed behind a Craig Boyd cross was only partially cleared, allowing Lewis Graham to nip in ahead of Ally McKerracher and send a decent effort over the top of the Saints cross bar.
The High goal continued to lead a charmed life as Scott Maitland raced up the left wing on the half-hour mark and picked out Donald Campbell in the box who threaded a left-foot shot through the legs of Lewis Graham but unfortunately yet again wide of Neil Flack’s left-hand post.
The visitors enjoyed their best spell of the first half after 37 minutes when Willie Gemmell produced a solid block to deny Kenny Munro after the High danger man had beaten Paul Carmichael on the bye-line to turn and fire in a left-foot shot from eight yards.
Munro was put through again two minutes later by namesake Barry with Graham Douglas bravely smothering the ball at the feet of the High striker.
Saints dead ball expert Willie Gemmell had two opportunities before the half-time interval, with the first being deflected off the Greenock wall and over the crossbar before the second from 22 yards beat the four-man wall but bounced wide of Neil Flack’s right-hand post.
With nothing to show for their first half supremacy Saints knew they had to maintain the high tempo in the second half and were immediately back on the attack after the restart. Greenock goalkeeper Neil Flack, a Scotland cricket international, twice denied Donald Campbell inside the opening two minutes, firstly blocking with his legs at the near post and secondly diving full length to his left to fingertip a net-bound effort around his left-hand post.
Saints eventually made the breakthrough in the 51st minute when an audacious piece of skill from Craig MacEwan left Stuart Higgins for dead just short of the bye-line on the left of the Greenock Box. The trick gave MacEwan time and space to measure a dinked cross over the heads of David McLean and Lewis Graham for Ally McKerracher, who beat Robbie Davis to loop a header from eight yards into the postage stamp corner beyond the despairing dive of Neil Flack.
McKerracher threatened to double his tally two minutes later, bursting through the inside-left channel before being denied to a vital interception by David McLean.
Two-time Scottish Amateur Cup winners Greenock weren’t about to give up their place in this season’s competition without a fight and tested Graham Douglas in the 57th minute with a deflected Kenny Munro shot which looped up into the grateful arms of the Saints keeper.
There was a brief stoppage on the hour mark for treatment to Greenock midfielder Michael O’Donoghue before inspirational skipper and last season’s player of the year Kevin Brown almost hauled his side level in the 65th minute, exploiting a rare slip in a solid performance from the Saints defence to send a free header wide of target. From the goal kick, Saints raced to the other end where Donald Campbell passed up yet another good opportunity, again shooting wide of Neil Flack’s left-hand post.
Saints gaffer Alex Craik decided to freshen things up in midfield, introducing Kerr Newbigging for his first appearance of the season at the expense of Keith Millar. At the same time the High brought on veteran of many campaigns Chris McAllister to bolster the attack in favour of Craig Boyd. McAllister soon set about making a nuisance of himself and headed a deep Kevin Brown cross from the right wide of target.
An accidental clash between Paul Carmichael and Barry Munro left the Saints man nursing an ankle injury from which he couldn’t recover, forcing the introduction of Craig Campbell in a straight swap at the back in the 75th minute.
Graham ‘Sugar’ Douglas kept his clean sheet intact with a sensational save to deny Kenny Munro, who cut in from the right and unleashed a fierce 78th-minute left-foot shot which Sugar threw himself to his right to parry away at full stretch.
Craig MacEwan’s first match back since sustaining a cracked rib in the third round replay against Falkirk Community on November 11 came to an end in the 80th minute when he was replaced by Daniel McCuish making his home debut.
McCuish was quickly into the action showing no sign of being overawed by the occasion and linking up well with Kerr Newbigging to send Ally McKerracher through for a left-foot shot from the corner of the six-yard box which cleared the head of David McLean but unfortunately also the crossbar.
McKerracher blazed over again with five minutes remaining on the clock after Donald Campbell had skilfully taken down a Kerr Newbigging diagonal ball on the corner of the 18-yard box.
Saints finally made the tie safe in the 89th minute with a swift counter-attack from a Greenock free-kick cleverly won by Chris McAllister 10 yards inside the Saints half. With everybody expecting a straight ball into the box, David McLean rolled the ball short to Kenny Munro, who was immediately closed down by the quick reactions of Ally McKerracher, who slid in at full pace to dispossess the Greenock striker.
Saints then broke quickly with Daniel McCuish threading a perfectly timed pass for Donald Campbell to race through one-on-one with Neil Flack. The Saints skipper rounded the Greenock keeper and, from a tight angle, clipped the ball left-footed into the unguarded net for Saints’ second goal.
Referee Lacy, whose job was made easy by both sets of players, brought another cracking Scottish Amateur Cup tie to an end after three added minutes, signalling Saints’ progress to the fifth round and another away tie with familiar foes East Kilbride Rolls Royce which will take place this Saturday with a 2pm kick-off. Venue still to be decided.
Saints: Douglas, MacLeod, Gemmell, Carmichael (C Campbell), Kelly, Millar (Newbigging), McAuley, Maitland, McKerracher, D Campbell, MacEwan (MacCuish). Subs not used: Craik, Smith
Scottish Amateur Cup - 4th Round - Saturday 2nd December
Depleted Saints battle to stay in cup
Greenock HSFP 2 v 2 Oban Saints
A DEPLETED Oban Saints, with two 17-year-olds and a considerably older member of the coaching staff on the subs bench, forced a highly creditable Scottish Amateur Cup fourth round draw at Battery Park, Greenock, last Saturday.
The well below full strength Saints side twice battled back from a goal behind against Central Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division Greenock High School Former Pupils to force a replay at Glencruitten this Saturday.
A crippling combination of injuries, work and family commitments forced Saints manager Alex Craik to keep up his unwanted record of naming a different starting 11 for every match so far this season.
Saints got proceedings underway at a dry but overcast Battery Park, Greenock, playing into the cold wind blowing in off the Firth of Clyde. The makeshift Saints, trialling a new 3-4-2-1 formation, made a solid start against opponents Greenock who were also missing a few regulars.
Shaun MacIver forced the first corner kick of the match in the eighth minute after a powerful run from inside his own half from Myles McAuley. MacIver’s delivery from the left was headed clear by Greenock stalwart Chris McAllister under pressure from Craig Campbell.
The ‘High’ responded immediately with their first corner kick after Matthew Kelly was penalised for a foul on Lewis Graham on the half-way line. Another Greenock stalwart, Barry Munro, sent the free-kick into the Saints box and it was headed behind by Craig Campbell. Dead ball expert Munro’s corner kick from the right was watched closely by Graham Douglas as it drifted inches over his crossbar.
Munro tried his luck from the opposite flank in the 11th minute after Alex Craik had headed a speculative Michael O’Donoghue long ball behind. David Smith’s headed clearance from the six-yard line only got as far as Kevin Brown on the edge of box who was quickly closed down by Matthew Kelly and Myles McAuley. McAuley set off on another driving run which was only halted by a vital sliding interception from Lewis Graham midway inside the Greenock half.
Home keeper Neil Flack showed good reactions in the 20th minute, getting down smartly to his left to stop a Shaun MacIver left foot strike from the corner of the 18-yard box.
As the half wore on, the home side gained the upper hand in terms of possession with Saints content to sit in and look to hit on the counter-attack. Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, the ‘High’ were unable to unlock the solid looking Saints back three who were well screened by a hard-working midfield.
The home side came close to breaking the deadlock in first half stoppage time from a corner on the left after Steven Mac Leod had headed a speculative Kevin Brown long ball behind.
Barry Munro’s in-swinger to the back post was headed back towards the edge of the box by Chris McAllister and Brown produced a far more threatening delivery which found the head of Harry Donaldson on the six-yard line. Fortunately for Saints, Donaldson, who had stolen in ahead of Myles McAuley, could only guide his header into the grateful hands of Graham Douglas keeping the scores level at the break.
In the 48th minute, Willie Gemmell worked the ball forward to Myles McAuley who looked to have played Shaun MacIver in with a defence splitting pass. MacIver’s efforts in rounding Neil Flack and tucking a neat finish into the bottom corner were, however, in vain as Mr Caldwell gave the benefit of an extremely close offside call to the home side, much to Saints’ frustration.
To compound the agony, the scoreline didn’t remain blank for much longer with the ‘High’ getting their noses in front after 52 minutes.
Ryan McCorkindale’s run into the box was forced left by Alex Craik, with the Greenock striker digging out a cross from the bye-line which looped over Graham Douglas to be poked home at the back post by Ryan Corr who held off the attentions of Scott Maitland to open the scoring.
Saints struck back almost immediately with Scott Maitland and Shaun MacIver combining to force a corner on the left straight from the re-start.
So often chipping in with vital strikes already this season, Willie Gemmell added to his growing list of telling contributions, curling an equaliser direct from the corner flag just inside the far post.
The thrills and spills kept coming and just three minutes after the equaliser Harry Donaldson was felled in the Saints box by Craig Campbell with Mr Caldwell pointing to the penalty spot. A lengthy stoppage ensued as Donaldson, who was unfortunately unable to continue, received treatment. He was replaced by Craig Boyd.
The visitors were relieved to see Kevin Brown strike the crossbar with his spot kick with Alex Craik heading the rebound to the edge of the box where Myles McAuley won a free-kick for a push in the back by Thomas MacFarlane.
At the midway point of the second half, 17-year-old Daniel McCuish made his debut as a replacement for David Smith who had put in a good shift in the middle of the park alongside skipper Willie Gemmell.
The home side regained the lead in controversial circumstances after 72 minutes. After a tussle with Daniel McCuish on the Greenock right, Chris McAllister sent a long ball into the box which Craig Boyd appeared to handle under pressure from David McPhee. Referee Caldwell saw nothing wrong and ignored the loud Saints appeals allowing Ryan Corr on the edge of the box to lob the loose ball back towards goal. A backpedaling Steven MacLeod got his head to the ball, but only succeeding in sending it back to Boyd who, from six yards, beat the combined efforts of Graham Douglas and Alex Craik to find the bottom corner.
In a bid to get back into the match Saints were committing more players forward and were relieved to see Graham Douglas make a good save after a smart 79th minute turn and shot from Craig Boyd.
The extra endeavour from Saints paid dividends with just ten minutes remaining. Daniel MacCuish slipped a perfect ball through the inside left channel for the overlapping run of Scott Maitland who beat the advancing Neil Flack with a low left foot finish drilled into the bottom corner.
The deserved equaliser gave Saints the lifeline they needed and they almost snatched a winner in the 83rd minute with MacCuish again the architect. The Saints youngster sent Shaun MacIver racing through but, unfortunately, MacIver was unable to get the ball out from his feet allowing David McLean to make a vital interception on the 18-yard line.
Sixty seconds later, the ‘High’ had their chance to seal victory with the gaffer proving the Saints’ saviour getting a crucial touch to deny Kevin Brown inside the Saints box.
Saints had to endure the five minutes of stoppage time added on by Mr Caldwell with ten men thanks to a needless red card picked up by Shaun MacIver.
The young striker, who lead the line extremely well on his first outing since recovering from an operation, needlessly lashed out at Greenock second half substitute Lee Curran in retaliation for a trip ten yards inside the Saints half.
The remaining minutes of what was a very entertaining Scottish Amateur Cup tie were played out with little incident leaving Saints the more satisfied of the two to have secured another cup reply for the Glencruitten faithful to enjoy.
Saints: Douglas, McPhee, Craik, C Campbell, MacLeod, Gemmell, Smith (MacCuish), Kelly, Maitland McAuley, MacIver. Subs not used MacMillan and MacCallum
West of Scotland Cup - 4th Round - Saturday 19th November
Saints have to do a little bit extra
Red Star 2 v 3 Oban Saints (after extra time)
OBAN Saints secured their place in the fifth round of the West of Scotland Amateur Cup last Saturday with a gutsy extra-time win over Red Star at Lochend Sports Centre in Glasgow’s eastern suburbs. After twice coming from behind, and playing for almost an hour with 10 men, a beautifully struck dipping shot from Willie Gemmell finally saw off the challenge of a very useful Red Star side.
Manager Alex Craik’s selection woes continued when Craig MacEwan’s cracked rib, sustained in the Scottish Amateur Cup replay victory over Falkirk Community, ruled him out along with Donald Campbell, Marc MacCallum and Ross Maitland. On the plus side, Ally McKerracher and David McPhee returned from extended spells on the sidelines to bolster the squad numbers.
In charge of proceedings was Glasgow-based Willie McCulley whom Saints last encountered in a Scottish Amateur Cup fourth round tie against the now-folded Postal United. However, this was to be no case of old familiar faces as only skipper for the day Willie Gemmell remained from Saints starting eleven on that particular afternoon less than two years ago.
Willie Gemmell won the toss of Mr McCulley’s coin and chose to take advantage of the bright low sun by switching ends for the first half. The move, however, didn’t go quite according to plan as Saints conceded from Red Star’s first attack with just 90 seconds on the watch. A quick counter-attack on the right wing led by Kevin Fraser turned the Saints back four with Sam Donald tapping in Fraser’s low cross at the back post to give the home side an early advantage.
Saints recovered from this early setback to create their first decent opening in the fourth minute with Steven MacLeod and Paul Carmichael linking up to force a throw-in on the right. The two combined again for Carmichael to swing in a deep cross which Scott Maitland controlled, picking out Ally McKerracher who laid the ball off to Myles McAuley for a shot from 20 yards which flew narrowly wide of keeper David Hosie’s right-hand post.
Saints restored parity from Hosie’s goal-kick when Matthew Kelly’s run up the right wing was halted unfairly by John Crawley. Kelly’s low free-kick picked out Ally McKerracher in the middle nine yards out. With his back to goal McKerracher turned away from the assembled throng and clipped a clever left-foot finish into the bottom corner past the unsighted David Hosie.
This should have been the signal for Saints to kick on but it was the home side who seized the initiative against a very much out-of-sorts Saints.
From a hotly disputed seventh-minute John Crawley corner on the right, Steven MacLeod cleared an Allan Cairns header off the goal-line before danger man Cairns got the better of young Saints left-back Craig MacMillan to fire a low shot across Graham Douglas but wide of the far post.
Calamity struck the Saints defence in the 12th minute when a misplaced Willie Gemmell back-pass put keeper Graham Douglas under pressure gifting an opportunity to John Crawley. Douglas stopped but couldn’t hold Crawley’s effort which squirmed loose to Sam Donald who gratefully accepted his second tap-in of the afternoon.
Matthew Kelly latched onto a Paul Carmichael flick-on in the 19th minute with the big striker quickly on his toes to get on the end of Kelly’s cutback from the right. Disappointingly, Carmichael’s shot from 18 yards cleared the crossbar by some distance.
Scott Maitland and Craig MacMillan swapped places after 20 minutes with the Saints youngster introducing himself to the midfield battle with a late tackle on Paul Shaw which earned him the game’s first yellow card.
Saints continued to struggle in the middle of the park and created little of note for the strikers. On the rare occasions when Saints did get forward Red Star keeper David Hosie, who shipped nine goals with Millbeg Villa in the Scottish Amateur Cup at Glencruitten two years ago, was happy to see efforts from Ally McKerracher and Paul Carmichael slip wide of the target.
Calamity wasn’t restricted to the Saints defence when referee McCulley blew for half-time after just 41-and-a-half minutes. To his credit, the jovial whistler quickly realised his mistake and brought the players back on to play out the remainder of the allotted 45 minutes plus an additional two minutes of stoppage time.
Manager Alex Craik opted for a tactical reshuffle for the second half, switching to a 3-5-2 formation to match that of the home side. The change necessitated a sixth appearance of the season for the overworked gaffer with young Craig MacMillan making way.
The change of formation gave Saints more of an attacking threat with Scott Maitland desperately unlucky to see a 49th-minute goal-bound shot from 18 yards blocked on the penalty spot by Ally McKerracher.
Getting free on the right wing in the 53rd minute, McKerracher frustratingly sent his near post cross too close to the Red Star keeper with Paul Carmichael closing in.
At the other end, Graham Douglas had to come quickly off his line to save at the feet of substitute Craig Stewart, who had come on to replace the injured Allan Cairns. The loose ball found its way across to John Crawley on the left who blazed over from the corner of the 18-yard box.
Saints responded with a Keith Millar left-foot shot from 17 yards which David Hosie, unable to hold the veteran Saints man’s effort, was relieved to see Michael McKenna turn behind for a corner kick.
Millar was in the thick of the action again in the 57th minute, acrobatically volleying a Paul Carmichael flick-on from a Willie Gemmell throw over the crossbar.
Craig Campbell was next to attempt an acrobatic finish, hooking a Matthew Kelly corner kick over from eight yards after Myles McAuley’s driving run and shot had been blocked behind.
Ally McKerrcher made space again on the right and sent a tempting ball across the face of goal which Scott Maitland, racing in at the back post, could only turn into the side netting.
The momentum was building for Saints and they were left incredulous in the 64th minute when referee McCulley turned down a loud penalty appeal when John Crawley appeared to ‘save’ a Keith Millar shot inside his own six-yard box.
There was no reprieve for the Red Star defence 60 seconds later when Mr McCulley pointed to the spot after Ally McKerracher was tripped cutting into the box from the right. McKerracher’s rash reaction to the foul sparked a melee which Mr McCulley quickly put the lid on by flashing a red card in McKerracher’s direction and issuing a yellow to Red Star skipper Gary McLean.
To compound the blow of losing McKerracher, Willie Gemmell had his spot kick saved by David Hosie diving to his right.
While Saints were reeling from this double setback, Red Star passed up a gilt-edged chance to extend their lead when substitute Ross Lambie lost his footing on the 18-yard line after Sam Donald had sent him clean through on the counter-attack.
In a bold move to get back into the match Saints pushed Craig Campbell up front to partner Paul Carmichael leaving just the gaffer and Steven MacLeod at the back.
Mr McCulley dismissed another loud Saints penalty appeal with 15 minutes remaining when David McGaoghey appeared to wrestle Paul Carmichael to the ground on the corner of the six-yard box.
Saints risky man-for-man policy at the back was exposed in the 77th minute when Sam Donald again picked out Ross Lambie in the middle but Graham Douglas saved the day with a smart stop to deny the Red Star substitute.
Scott Maitland’s run from the left of midfield across the Red Star defence presented a shooting opportunity to Matthew Kelly who tested the handling of David Hosie from 25 yards.
Kelly followed this up in the 80th minute with a run of his own which John Crawley unceremoniously ended 28 yards from goal.
Having previously been denied from 12 yards, Willie Gemmell found this distance more to his liking and drew Saints level, curling the ball around the Red Star wall and inside David Hosie’s left-hand post leaving him clutching at fresh air.
Before the restart the clearly struggling Steven MacLeod limped off to be replaced by David McPhee, who, with parity again restored, was joined alongside the gaffer by Willie Gemmell.
Saints received another let-off with two minutes of the 90 left to play when a long throw from the right found its way across to the unmarked John Crawley, who sent a left-foot shot flying inches over the crossbar.
Injury struck again for Saints in the dying seconds when Keith Millar’s tightening hamstring forced him off, to be replaced by Andy Moore.
The first period of extra-time got off to a dream start for Saints who took the lead for the first time in the match after just one minute. Paul Carmichael won a throw-in on the right which Myles McAuley took, aiming for Carmichael’s head on the corner of the six-yard box.
Cameron Stevenson knocked the ball to the edge of the box where Andy Moore played it back out to McAuley on the right. McAuley picked out Willie Gemmell on the edge of the D who beat Andrew Hosie all ends up with a dipping effort into the top corner.
Saints at last had something to cling to and coped well in the ensuing 14 or so minutes, with Graham Douglas making comfortable saves from Jamie Campbell and Craig Stewart as the home side loaded the box for set-pieces before Mr McCulley brought the first half to a close.
Despite briefly threatening in the opening minute when David Hosie had to come a long way off his line to intercept Scott Maitland’s through ball for Paul Carmichael, it was very much a case of attack against defence in the final 15-minute period. The 10-man Saints side defended manfully again, restricting six times Glasgow and District Saturday Morning League Premier Division Champions Red Star to set-piece opportunities which on the whole were repelled comfortably.
When the chances did fall Red Star’s way, Saints were grateful beneficiaries of wayward finishes from Ross Lambie and John Crawley which enabled the visitors to hold on and dig out a heroic victory.
Although the performance fell a long way short of the standard required to mount a serious assault for honours this season, Saints gaffer Alex Craik will be quietly pleased with the dogged determination of his charges not to accept defeat against a useful Red Star side, particularly when reduced to 10 men for almost an hour.
Saints: Douglas, MacLeod (McPhee), Gemmell, C Campbell, MacMillan (Craik), Kelly, Millar (Moore), McAuley, Maitland, Carmichael and McKerracher
Scottish Amateur Cup - replay - Saturday 11th November
All smiles as Myles nets the winner
Oban Saints 3 v 2 Falkirk Community
A COLLECTOR’S item Myles McAuley goal eventually proved the difference between Oban Saints and Falkirk Community at Glencruitten last Saturday. After an epic 180-plus minutes Scottish Amateur Cup struggle, McAuley’s second-half strike finally separated the sides earning Saints a fourth round trip to old rivals Greenock High School Former Pupils.
Saints manager Alex Craik was yet again forced to ring the changes as Graham Douglas, Shaun MacIver and David Smith all dropped out of the squad that had shared six goals with Falkirk Community at Alva Academy just seven days previously. Craig Campbell and Paul Carmichael returned after spells in the treatment room while Thomas McCulloch and veteran Ross Maitland answered the call to bolster the depleted squad numbers.
After an impeccably observed Armistice Day silence of remembrance, visitors Falkirk Community kicked off attacking the Mossfield end on a remarkably good Glencruitten surface considering the recent heavy rain.
Saints were quickly onto the attack with skipper Donald Campbell driving into the Falkirk box only to be dispossessed before he could get a shot away by the combined efforts of Brayden Docherty and opposite number Scott Wright.
Falkirk gave an early warning of the threat they would pose on the break from recent signing from Sauchie Juniors Stuart MacFarlane’s measured clearance. Callan Kerr flicked on MacFarlane’s clearance on the half-way line to strike partner James Stevenson who raced away from Willie Gemmell and fired in a shot which Thomas McCulloch held well low down to his right.
From McCulloch’s clearance Saints were on the attack again with Craig MacEwan and Donald Campbell combining in the box to pick out a good overlapping run from Myles McAuley.
McAuley’s cut back from the left found Paul Carmichael, who rattled the crossbar from 12 yards with goalkeeper Stephen McKinnon rooted to the spot.
The early Saints pressure continued forcing a series of corner kicks on the left which the Falkirk defence successfully repelled before Paul Carmichael again narrowly failed to find the target. Craig MacEwan and Myles McAuley were again heavily involved before Donald Campbell held off the challenge of Scott Wright to set up Carmichael for a shot from 18 yards which flew inches over the crossbar.
In the 12th minute Paul Carmichael had a surging run from midfield halted on the edge of the box by Falkirk right fullback Brayden Docherty.
From the left and level with the penalty spot, Willie Gemmell rolled his free-kick back to Ross Maitland who placed a low shot 12 inches wide of keeper McKinnon’s right hand post.
Saints maintained their earlier dominance but still had to be wary of Falkirk who continued to look dangerous on the break.
The home side deservedly got their noses in front in the 26th minute from a passage of play started by the game’s principal protagonist Myles McAuley.
Keith Millar fed McAuley in the centre circle who strode forward and fired in a shot from 25 yards which took a slight deflection on the way through and struck the foot of Stephen McKinnon’s left hand post. Donald Campbell returned the loose ball which McKinnon could only parry into the path of Craig MacEwan 12 yards out, who calmly side footed the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Over elaboration in front of goal prevented Saints from testing Falkirk keeper McKinnon further which was to prove costly as the first half neared an end. Another stray pass in midfield allowed Falkirk to run at the Saints defence once again with Willie Gemmell producing an excellent sliding interception to halt James Stevenson 20 yards from goal.
Saints failure to capitalise on their first-half superiority was severely punished two minutes before the interval. From a disputed throw-in on the Falkirk right, level with the Saints penalty spot, even more Saints protests erupted when what appeared to be a foul throw went unpunished. Falkirk worked the ball into the box where Myles McAuley scuffed an attempted clearance straight to James Stevenson who didn’t need a second invitation to slam the ball past Thomas McCulloch and bring the Bairns level.
An incensed Marc Maccallum continued his protests into the half-time interval where, after a heated exchange of words, calm was eventually restored.
The equaliser reinvigorated the visitors who began the second half strongly, refusing to allow Saints to settle back into their first-half rhythm.
Thomas McCulloch produced the save of the match in the 54th minute diving high to his right to finger tip a James Stevenson net bound effort out for a throw-in.
First half roles appeared to be fully reversed with Falkirk dominating possession and Saints now reduced to hitting on the counter-attack. Cutting in from the left Paul Carmichael flashed a shot across Stephen McKinnon but wide of his left hand post before narrowly failing to get on the end of a Ross Maitland cross from the right which the veteran winger sent fractionally too deep.
Coming out of retirement to help his beleaguered former team mates Ross Maitland put in an excellent shift on the right of the front three but was again too heavy with a right wing cross on the hour mark which drifted harmlessly behind Donald Campbell at the far post.
Both sides received injury blows in the 64th minute. Speedy Falkirk winger Grant Plenderleith pulled up with a hamstring injury while Saints lost the services of Paul Carmichael to a calf strain. Falkirk made a straight swap with club vice captain Joe Clark taking Plenderleith’s place on the right wing while Saints moved Willie Gemmell forward into midfield with Alex Craik coming on to join Marc Maccallum at the heart of the defence.
The movement of Falkirk strike pairing James Stevenson and Callan Kerr continued to pose problems for the Saints defence and it took a perfectly timed 71st minute Steven MacLeod challenge on the 18-yard line to deny James Stevenson a one-on-one with Thomas McCulloch.
Falkirk hit the front with 15 minutes remaining thanks to an audacious strike from substitute Joe Clark. With Saints defending a throw-in on the right and seemingly little danger the diminutive winger picked up the ball on the corner of the 18-yard box and curled a delightful finish into the top corner past a helpless Thomas McCulloch.
Saints picked themselves up immediately and were back on terms just two minutes later. Craig MacEwan won a throw-in eight yards from the bye-line on the left. Willie Gemmell looked for MacEwan’s head with the throw but keeper Stephen McKinnon climbed above MacEwan to punch the ball towards the corner flag. Just as Brayden Docherty was about to clear, MacEwan nicked the ball away and was clattered by Docherty’s follow-through with referee McCann having no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Despite guessing correctly, keeper McKinnon couldn’t reach Willie Gemmell’s perfectly placed strike from 12 yards which beat his right hand and nestled in the bottom corner.
With the momentum now swinging back in Saints’ favour the lead changed hands for the fifth and final time in the 80th minute with the goal coming from the unlikeliest of sources.
A devastating move on the left wing involving Donald Campbell and Craig MacEwan was started and finished by Myles McAuley who atoned for his first half error with a calm side foot finish past the despairing right hand of Stephen McKinnon to put Saints back in front.
Having found the net in stoppage time seven days earlier, Falkirk were desperate for another late equaliser to force extra time. The Bairns threw everything they could muster at the Saints defence which this time remained defiant with Thomas McCulloch barely troubled.
At the other end Donald Campbell passed up a good opportunity on the break to put the tie to bed. Racing through the middle on the end of a 93rd-minute Ross Maitland pass Campbell uncharacteristically missed the target to leave the Saints bench and large crowd of spectators still looking nervously at their watches.
As everyone wondered if Mr McCann’s watched had stopped, Saints received another injury blow when Craig MacEwan and Falkirk man-of-the-match Stuart MacFarlane collided on the right touchline midway inside the Falkirk half. A badly shaken MacEwan came off worse nursing a suspected cracked rib and was replaced by Craig Campbell.
Eventually after six added minutes Mr McCann, who had a good game, blew for full time sending Saints through to a hard-fought fourth round tie against two-time Scottish Amateur Cup winners Greenock High School Former Pupils. This game is due to be played on December 2.
Manager Alex Craik said: ‘This was another cracking game between two evenly matched teams. We played some great football at times, especially in the first half. We were disappointd to lose the equaliser in added-on time the week before but I thought the boys worked really hard and we got the result our play deserved.’
Saints: McCulloch, MacLeod, MacCallum, Gemmell, Maitland, Millar, Camichael (Craik), McAuley, Mailand, D Campbell,, MacEwan (C Campbell). Subs not used: Moore and MacMillan
Scottish Amateur Cup - 3d Round - Saturday 4th November
Late equaliser denies Saints cup win
Falkirk Community 3 v 3 Oban Saints 3
OBAN Saints and Falkirk Community will reconvene at Glencruitten this Saturday afternoon after a pulsating 90-plus minutes of end-to-end action at Alva Academy failed to separate the two evenly-matched sides.
The keenly-contested Scottish Amateur Cup third round tie ebbed and flowed throughout the afternoon with the home side snatching a dramatic stoppage time equaliser to force a replay.
Saints Manager Alex Craik’s selection problems deepened with four players dropping out from the squad which defeated Inverclyde on league duty the previous Saturday, so much so that Marc Maccallum interrupted his sabbatical to partner the Gaffer at the heart of the defence.
With Falkirk FC playing at home, the Falkirk Stadium was unavailable to the Community team therefore the tie was switched some 20 miles away to Alva Academy, a venue slightly more in keeping with the Scottish Amateur Cup.
The home side kicked off playing into the bright low sun with lightning quick right winger Grant Plenderleith posting early notice of the threat his pace would pose accelerating away from Scott Maitland in the first minute and sending in a deep cross which Steven MacLeod hooked clear.
Scottish sprint champion Plenderleith was through again in the fifth minute sending a shot with the outside of his right boot wide of the right-hand post of Saints keeper Graham Douglas.
Saints weathered the early pressure from the hosts and threatened for the first time in the ninth minute. Shaun MacIver won a free kick on the edge of the centre circle from where Willie Gemmell found Donald Campbell on the edge of the box. Campbell held the ball up well and slipped it through to Craig MacEwan who shaved the outside of the right hand post of Falkirk keeper Campbell Geddes.
Shaun MacIver fired wide of the same post two minutes later after linking up well with Donald Campbell in a move started by a Marc Maccallum interception of the half-way line.
Saints were left appealing in vain in the 13th minute when referee Joseph Todd gave the benefit of an extremely tight offside decision against Craig MacEwan in favour of the home side. Falkirk Skipper Jack Stickler didn’t wait around to debate the matter and sent a long ball up to James Stevenson to which Alex Craik reacted quickly to snuff out the danger and head the ball back to Graham Douglas.
The home side took the lead in the 20th minute from a passage of play typical of the end-to-end nature of the match.
Craig MacEwan was harshly penalised for a challenge on Robert Duncan just inside the Saints half. Marc Maccallum climbed above Callan Kerr to head the free-kick clear, launching a counter attack which saw Shaun MacIver and Donald Campbell combine well for Campbell to draw a smart save from Campbell Geddes low down to his right.
Falkirk immediately turned defence into attack with Robert Duncan sending speedster Grant Plenderleith in behind a high Saints back line. Alex Craik read the danger well to get across, unfortunately, these days his brain moves a lot faster than his legs and Plenderleith switched on the afterburners to race away and fire a shot across Graham Douglas and into the bottom corner.
Back at the other end Keith Millar and Scott Maitland worked an opening on the left with Maitland’s cross being headed out by Scott Wright to Steven MacLeod, who thumped a right foot shot from 25 yards just over the junction of post and bar.
In the 26th minute Shaun MacIver dropped deep to take the ball from Steven MacLeod and tossed in a tempting cross to the far post which Campbell Geddes did well to punch away under pressure from Craig MacEwan.
In between times Grant Prenderleith raced away again on the right and sent a cut-back to Callan Kerr who, from 10 yards, beat the left hand of Graham Douglas but, fortunately for Saints, also the outside of the post.
Saints drew level in the 29th minute after Scott Wright halted a promising Craig MacEwan run 28 yards from goal. Campbell Geddes in the Falkirk goal got down well to turn Willie Gemmell’s free-kick round his left hand post for a corner kick.
Shaun MacIver’s delivery from the right was met perfectly by Craig MacEwan who got across Robert Duncan on the six-yard line to power a header past Geddes and into the net.
Steven MacLeod was the unlucky recipient of the game’s first yellow card for his protestations at a hotly disputed corner kick awarded to the home side. Calm was restored when Ryan Donnelly sent the corner from the left straight behind for a goal kick.
Donnelly fared better in the 41st minute getting to the bye-line and picking out Paul McCarthy on the corner of the box who shot wide of the far post.
Having come close earlier Steven MacLeod joined the attack again in the 42nd minute and had another shooting opportunity cutting in from the right which again narrowly failed to hit the target.
As Mr Todd blew the half-time whistle the previously sunny afternoon gave way to a hail downpour when an ominous looking black cloud opened up sending both camps scampering for the shelter of the changing rooms.
The timing of the half-time interval was perfect as the heavy shower passed over for the bright low sun to return for the start of the second half.
Saints made an encouraging start to the second 45 forcing a corner on the left in the first minute through Donald Campbell and Scott Maitland.
Craig MacEwan and Donald Campbell both had half chances snuffed out before Falkirk responded winning their first corner kick of the second half in the 52nd minute.
Central defender Scott Wright climbed above Alex Craik to send a header wide of Graham Douglas and his right hand upright.
The home side once again used their pace in the wide areas to good advantage in the 54th minute with Ryan Donnelly sending in a deep cross from the left which Grant Plenderleith on the full volley sliced out for a throw-in. On the hour mark Donald Campbell had his heels clipped by Callan Kerr 10 yards inside the Falkirk half. Willie Gemmell played the free-kick up to Campbell on the edge of the box who found space for a shot which fizzed across the face of goal and wide of the right hand post of Campbell Geddes.
Two minutes later the Saints front three linked up well playing their way up to the edge of the Falkirk box where Scott Wright unfairly halted Craig MacEwan’s progress earning himself a yellow card in the process. From the free-kick Willie Gemmell looked to test the keeper again unfortunately his effort over the wall from 19 yards wouldn’t come down quickly enough and cleared the crossbar by some distance.
Saints kept up the pressure with Campbell Geddes having to slide out to deny Donald Campbell with his legs and Craig MacEwan reacting first to the loose ball but sending it over the crossbar under pressure from Jack Stickler.
Whether the return of Marc Maccallum after a 10-week absence proves to be any more than a temporary arrangement remains to be seen, however, the value of his presence alongside the Gaffer in central defence was never more evident than in the 66th minute when a sliding last ditch tackle foiled Grant Plenderleith when in behind Scott Maitland.
Unfortunately there was to be no saving tackle two minutes later when Plenderleith pounced on a misplaced pass and sent James Stevenson racing into the area to slam a low shot past Graham Douglas and restore the lead for the home side.
Saints set about redressing the balance for a second time with Craig MacEwan back-heading a Willie Gemmell cross over the cross bar and Shaun MacIver finding himself crowded out on the edge of the box when attempting to force his way through the middle of the Falkirk defence. The second Saints equaliser came in the 74th minute with Willie Gemmell claiming the assist with a precision through ball to open up the Falkirk defence. Donald Campbell timed his run onto Gemmell’s pass to perfection and from 10 yards slotted the ball under the left arm of Campbell Geddes and into the net.
With 15 minutes remaining Falkirk made the only change of the match introducing Blair Lockhart to replace Callan Kerr in attack.
Saints took the lead for the first time in the 78th minute with a move started deep in his own half by Alex Craik. The Gaffer picked out Keith Millar in the centre circle who, supported by Myles McAuley, raced forward holding off several challenges before feeding Craig MacEwan 25 yards out. With a pass and finish almost identical to the second goal, MacEwan split the Falkirk defence for Donald Campbell to slot the ball underneath the keeper and put Saints into pole position.
Shaun MacIver and Scott Maitland both found their way into Mr Todd’s notebook for mistimed challenges on Falkirk full back Brayden Docherty as the home side pressed hard for an equaliser.
Saints were happy to see Scott Wright and Blair Lockhart headers fly over the crossbar as Grant Plenderleith tossed dangerous crosses onto the six -yard line.
The sense of relief, however, turned to despair as Plenderleith snatched a draw in the second of four minutes added on by referee Todd. The speedy right winger sent in another cross from the corner of the 18-yard box this time into the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ between defenders and goalkeeper. The cross eluded Alex Craik and Blair Lockhart and bounced past a stranded Graham Douglas into the unguarded net ensuring that both teams go into the hat for Wednesday’s fourth round draw.
Manager Alex Craik said: ‘It was a terrific game, Falkirk are a good side. We would have taken a draw before the game but to lose the equaliser in added on time was a sickner.
‘However, we have home advantage now and hopefully we’ll get a good crowd of supporters and have a few more players available.
‘We haven’t had a settled squad all season, being forced to make changes every week which is no good at this level of football - you must have continuity.’
Saints: MacLeod, Craik, MacCallum, Maitland, Millar, McAuley, Gemmell, MacIver, Campbell, MacEwan. Subs not used: MacMillan, Smith, Moore
SAFL Premier Division - Saturday 25th October
Good home win over Inverclyde
Oban Saints 4 v 2 Inverclyde
OBAN Saints returned to winning ways in the Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division at Glencruitten last Saturday with a hard-fought win over an in-form and vastly experienced Inverclyde.
Injury meant Craig Campbell had to miss out and David McPhee was away for the weekend but the squad was bolstered by the return of Willie Gemmell, Keith Millar, Myles McAuley and Ally McKerracher.
Also returning to take the reins after a two-week holiday was manager Alex Craik who named himself on the bench alongside Fraser MacFarlane, Craig MacMillan, Mark Robertson and David Smith.
Desperate to atone for the previous week’s aberration against league leaders Goldenhill, Saints produced a vastly-improved performance with a dominant first half performance laying the foundations for a hard-fought but ultimately deserved victory.
Returning after a six-week injury absence, Ally McKerracher linked up well on the left with Scott Maitland in the second minute setting up skipper Donald Campbell for a shot from 22 yards which Tom McKitrick did well to block on the 18-yard line.
Two minutes later at the other end Inverclyde central midfielder Jamie Docherty also tried his luck from distance sending a 25-yard effort wide of the junction of post and bar after Steven MacLeod had headed clear a Nick Jack long throw-in from the right.
In the sixth minute Craig MacEwan and Donald Campbell played their way into the Inverclyde box on the left where, from the corner of the six-yard box, Donald Campbell shot across ’Clyde keeper Mark Monk aiming for the far corner only to see Peter Cleisham get back to thump clear from just short of the goal line.
Mark Monk produced a terrific diving save to deny Saints in the 10th minute. Keith Millar burst forward from midfield sending Scott Maitland towards the bye-line on the left.
Millar continued his run into the box where he was denied a spectacular diving header when Monk dived full length to get finger tips to Maitland’s cross.
Saints kept the pressure up with Craig MacEwan peeling wide and beating the ’Clyde offside trap. Cutting in from the left MacEwan drove into the box past right back Nick Jack where, from a tight angle, he was denied by the legs of keeper Mark Monk. From the resulting corner kick on the left Ally McKerracher’s delivery was partially cleared by Neil McCole but only as far as Donald Campbell 12 yards out, who was once again denied by a goal line clearance from Peter Cleisham.
’Clyde keeper Mark Monk showed excellent handling in the 13th minute making a clean catch from a Shaun MacIver cross from the corner of the 18-yard box with Ally McKerracher at the back post waiting to pounce.
Saints had the ball in the visitor’s net in the 24th minute, however, referee Litster gave the benefit of an extremely close offside call to the visitors.
Myles McAuley made a good run forward and worked the ball along the edge of the ’Clyde box to Donald Campbell. Campbell helped the ball onto Shaun MacIver who beat Mark Monk at his near post with a good finish only to be denied by Mr Litster’s whistle.
Saints kept knocking on the ’Clyde door with Keith Millar seeing a powerful shot from a Donald Campbell knock down blocked on the 18-yard line and Donald himself agonisingly unable to get the ball out of his feet after beating the visitor’s offside trap allowing Jamie Docherty and Fraser Gunn to get back and clear the danger.
Docherty was covering a lot of ground for the visitors and Willie Gemmell did well to block his stinging 29th minute shot on the 18-yard line.
Craig MacEwan was taken out by a scything Fraser Gunn 40th-minute challenge 25 yards out, however, Willie Gemmell failed to test Mark Monk sending his free-kick high and wide of target.
Gemmell didn’t have to wait too long for another dead-ball opportunity this time from 12 yards. Keith Millar made a 43rd-minute driving run into the ’Clyde box laying the ball off to Craig MacEwan.
Nick Jack cut off the possibility of a return pass to Millar and looked to have the situation under control before rashly sticking out a leg and tripping MacEwan. Mr Litster had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot from where Willie Gemmell fired the ball high into the net sending Mark Monk in the opposite direction in the process.
Gemmell’s successful spot kick sent Saints into the half-time interval with a deserved lead which they would look to build on in the second half. But the visitors had other ideas and came racing out of the traps testing Graham Douglas within 30 seconds of the restart.
Saints slow start to the second half allowed ’Clyde to gain the upper hand in the crucial midfield battle where Saints were unable to rediscover their crisp first half passing.
The improved spell from Saints continued with Donald Campbell unlucky to see a 58th-minute goal-bound effort turned behind for a corner kick by a flying Greg Wilson block. From the corner on the left Campbell played the ball short to Ally McKerracher, who sent a shot from a tight angle into the side netting.
On the hour mark Mr Litster had strong words for Shaun MacIver for a late challenge on Michael McKitrick on the half-way line. The Saints defence struggled to cope with Jamie Docherty’s free-kick which landed perfectly for McKitrick, who beat Graham Douglas but struck the base of the Saints keeper’s left hand post.
Saints’ second goal came in the 65th minute and was a stunning finish from the right boot of Shaun MacIver.
Previously denied by an offside decision there was no doubt about this one as MacIver controlled a Matthew Kelly pass and fired an unstoppable volley from 15 yards past a static Mark Monk.
Two minutes later Saints added a third with a classic counter attack from an Inverclyde corner kick. Willie Gemmell made an excellent sliding interception to turn a Ben Croucher cross behind for a corner. As the ball bounced around in the Saints box Gemmell made a telling clearance to Donald Campbell just inside the Saints half. Holding off the challenge of substitute Christopher McGivern, Campbell fed the overlapping Craig MacEwan on the left who bore down on goal and lifted the ball over the advancing Mark Monk and into the net.
Saints gaffer Alex Craik made his solitary change with 17 minutes remaining, replacing Ally McKerracher who had to come off with a shoulder injury with Mark Robertson.
Referee Jimmy Litster, who handled a good-natured encounter well, showed the only yellow card of the match to Neil McCole in the 77th minute for a late swipe at Myles McAuley born out of frustration.
Inverclyde replaced Steven Morris with James Buchanan, who would have a significant influence on proceedings during his short time on the field.
Within 60 seconds of joining the action Buchanan exploited a missed clearance by Matthew Kelly getting to the bye-line and sending a cut back to Michael McKitrick on the penalty spot who tucked away a neat finish beating Graham Douglas just inside his left hand post.
An ecstatic ’Clyde supporter dressed as Forrest Gump set off on a lap of honour only to come to grief at the second corner failing to negotiate the slippery Glencruitten surface in his white Fred Perry tennis shoes and ending up face down on the turf much to the hilarity of his traveling companions.
With five minutes of the 90 remaining Saints netted for a fourth time once again quickly turning defence into attack. Matthew Kelly intercepted a James Buchanan throw-in and played the ball up to Shaun MacIver. Hugging the right touchline, Craig MacEwan timed his run perfectly to meet MacIver’s through ball leaving the retreating Clyde defence trailing in his wake.
Mark Monk advanced to narrow the angle but MacEwan had the presence of mind to square to Donald Campbell coming in at the far post who lifted the ball over Jamie Docherty who made a valiant attempt to get back on the goal line.
The scoring wasn’t finished there, however, with the visitors grabbing a second in the 89th minute when James Buchanan repeated his earlier feat of picking out Michael McKitrick from the left wing. This time it was a near post run from McKitrick which beat the Saints defence and he doubled his tally for the afternoon with another good finish from close range.
Disappointing as it was to lose two late goals there was no disguising the delight on the faces of the Saints contingent when Mr Litster blew his final whistle after four added minutes to confirm just a second league win of the season for Alex Craik and his charges.
The massive confidence boost comes at just the right time as Saints prepare for next Saturday’s Scottish Amateur Cup third round trip away to Central Scottish Amateur Football League Division 1A high fliers Falkirk Community.
Saints: Douglas, Kelly, MacLeod, Gemmell, Maitland, McAuley, Millar, McKerracher (Robertson), MacIver, Campbell and MacEwan. Subs not used: Craik, MacFarlane, MacMillan and Smith
SAFL Premier Division - Saturday 21st October
Saints have no answer to slick 'Hill
Goldenhill 8 v 0 Oban Saints
OBAN Saints’ dismal league form continued at Glasgow Club Donald Dewar in Drumchapel last Saturday where they slumped to an 8-0 defeat against Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division title contenders Goldenhill.
On their previous visit to Drumchapel in the penultimate fixture of last season, Saints edged out Goldenhill by the odd score in a five-goal thriller to complete a home and away league double.
However, with only four survivors from that evening in their ranks, a perfect storm of a ravaged Saints and a rampant Gowdie combined to send Saints reeling to their worst ever Premier Division defeat.
Manager Alex Craik was still sunning himself on foreign shores so team affairs were once again left in the hands of assistant manager Donald Campbell. Donald had Matthew Kelly, Craig MacEwan and David Smith available after missing the previous week’s West of Scotland Cup win at Braehead. However, Paul Carmichael, Daniel Croarkin, Willie Gemmell and Keith Millar all dropped out for various reasons.
The morning rain at Garscadden Road gave way to a dry but overcast afternoon which made for good playing conditions on an excellent 3G surface.
Saints kicked off attacking the pavilion end and held their own in a quiet opening five-minute spell. The home side, with a 100 per cent record from their 10 competitive fixtures, including 63 goals, began to gain the upper hand in the vital midfield area and soon had Saints pinned back in their own half.
Already beginning to look like a long afternoon, Saints required maximum concentration to keep pace with their livewire opponents. Unfortunately, that was in short supply as lapses from the visitors contributed greatly to the home side’s domination.
From a 10th minute throw-in on the left, Jamie Grimes was given acres of room to stride forward from central defence and send a 25-yard shot wide of the left-hand post of Graham ‘Sugar’ Douglas in the Saints goal.
Sixty seconds later it was striker Ryan McKeever with a shot from a similar position which Graham Douglas turned behind for a corner kick. McKeever’s strike partner, James Gallagher, rolled the corner kick from the right to the corner of the 18-yard box for central defender Steven Dock, whose crisply struck shot smacked the face of Sugar’s left-hand post before being thumped clear by David McPhee
Saints ignored the earlier set-piece warning and allowed James Gallagher to repeat his corner kick routine from the right and pick out Martin Lawlor’s run to the edge of the box. The Gowdie central midfielder had time and space to measure a curling effort just inside the far post to give the hosts a deserved 18th-minute lead.
Unbelievably, Saints fell for the same routine 60 seconds later, this time on the opposite flank from where Lawlor curled a cross onto the head of Ryan McKeever on the six-yard line who doubled the home advantage.
At the other end, Shaun MacIver was inches away from getting on the end of a Craig MacMillan ball from the half-way line before Craig MacEwan drew a save from Scott Rennie dropping to his right to make a comfortable stop.
As Saints enjoyed their best spell, Craig MacEwan fired a second attempt on goal in the 35th minute which curled wide of Scott Rennie’s right-hand post. From the goal kick, Goldenhill raced up the left wing from where Kevin Kane fired a ball along the six-yard line which the unmarked James Gallagher tucked away for an all too easy third for the hosts.
Three minutes later Saints were ripped apart again with James Gallagher racing through the inside right channel and firing across Graham Douglas and into the bottom corner for a fourth home goal.
Saints steadied the ship but failed to negotiate the closing seven minutes entirely unscathed as Shaun MacIver pulled up with a groin strain.
New signing Mark Robertson was given the nod to replace MacIver with the change bringing about a tactical reshuffle to a 3-5-2 formation.
Saints continued their better showing into the seventh minute of the second half but had their good work undone by another example of poor decision-making in the middle of the park. Fraser MacFarlane tried to beat Kevin Kane 10 yards inside the Saints half instead of looking for a more straightforward lay-off. Kane won the battle and sent James Gallagher racing through the middle to fire a low shot into the bottom corner past Sugar’s right hand.
Not content with a hat-trick, Gallagher notched a fourth 60 seconds later, making a good near-post run to guide a Jonathon Dyer cross from the right past a helpless Graham Douglas.
In the 69th minute, Steven MacLeod raced out to try to prevent another Goldenhill short corner routine. However, this just left Saints short in the middle when the cross eventually came in and Damon Gray pulled off to the corner of the six-yard box and cushioned a volley past Graham Douglas for a seventh goal.
Already struggling with an ankle injury, Craig Campbell felt the full weight of Kevin Maxwell on his left instep in the 75th minute and was unable to continue.
Campbell’s misfortune gave new signing Andrew Moore a chance to make his Saints debut which he might reasonably have hoped would come in happier circumstances.
David McPhee’s outstretched right boot took the ball off Kevin Maxwell’s forehead as the Goldenhill substitute looked set to nod the ball home from two yards after Reace Syed had headed a deep Ian Stevenson cross back into the danger area.
The misery was complete for Saints in the 82nd minute when Graham Douglas palmed a speculative Jamie Grimes strike into the path of Ian Stevenson who needed no second invitation to slot the ball into the net and round off the scoring at eight.
Despite an extremely quiet afternoon, Gowdie keeper Scott Rennie maintained his concentration to the end making a good reaction save to deny Craig MacEwan a late consolation goal.
Referee John McNab, who had a good game, brought a miserable afternoon for Saints to an end consigning Saints to a fourth defeat in five Premier Division games.
Saints secretary David Buchanan said: ‘This was a steep learning curve for a lot of our players. Goldenhill were excellent today, they defended well and looked dangerous with every attack.
‘We need to get a settled team on the park, we’re having to change the line-up every week with players not being available.
‘We’ve got a big Scottish Cup tie against Falkirk coming up a week on Saturday so we need to get things sorted out and a good performance against Inverclyde this weekend is essential. Hopefully, we’ll have a few of our more experienced players back for Saturday.’
Douglas: MacLeod, McPhee, Campbell (Moore), MacMillan (Smith), Kelly, Campbell, Maitland, MacFfarlane, McIver (Robertson), MacEwan
West of Scotland Cup - 3rd Roud - Saturday 14th October
Saints march on in West of Scotland Cup
Braehead 0 v 4 Oban Saints
NORMALLY the threat of a trip to Braehead would fill any red-bloodied male with dread as it would inevitably entail an afternoon of drudgery being dragged by his better half around the shopping malls of the Intu Braehead Shopping Centre where insult would be added to injury in the shape of a substantial credit card bill.
On this occasion, however, the immeasurably more enjoyable prospect of a game of football was in store for the Oban Saints lads as they travelled south to face Braehead of the Glasgow and District Saturday Morning League in the third round of the West of Scotland Cup.
Manager Alex Craik was on holiday so assistant Donald Campbell took responsibility for team selection.
Saints started slowly allowing their opponents to settle and dictate the early exchanges. A sixth minute free-kick conceded by Craig MacMillan on the Braehead right gave Fraser O’Neil a chance to put a testing delivery into the Saints box. O’Neil found the head of Jason Hampsey nine yards out but his header lacked the power to seriously test Graham Douglas.
Operating in unfamiliar territory on the right of the front three, Scott Maitland won an 11th minute free-kick for a foul by Ryan Mulholland midway inside the Braehead half.
Willie Gemmell’s ball pitched into the box was glanced goalward by Fraser MacFarlane whose header beat Braehead keeper Scott Fraser but also the far post.
Two minutes later a heavily disguised pass through the inside right channel from Willie Gemmell sent Scott Maitland racing into the box. Scott’s shot from the corner of the six-yard box was saved by the feet of Scott Fraser with Braehead Skipper Gavin McNicol making a vital block at the expense of a corner kick to prevent Paul Carmichael knocking home the loose ball. Scott Maitland’s corner from the right was headed behind at the far post by Dean Kerr before Scott Fraser came through a ruck of bodies to punch clear Fraser MacFarlane’s delivery from the left.
Willie Gemmell opened up the Braehead defence once again in the 16th minute with Donald Campbell frustrated not to have picked out the supporting run of Paul Carmichael. Donald’s frustration however didn’t last long as 60 seconds later he opened the scoring with a well-struck finish from 20 yards. Paul Carmichael flicked a Willie Gemmell long ball into the path of Fraser MacFarlane, who helped the ball onto Donald who didn’t need a second invitation to slam the ball low past Scott Fraser’s despairing left hand.
Fraser MacFarlane tested Scott Fraser in the 21st minute controlling a deep Donald Campbell cross from the right and firing in a shot which the big keeper did well to palm away.
Saints doubled their advantage in the 23rd minute with MacFarlane claiming his second assist of the afternoon. Fraser’s pin point delivery from the corner flag landed perfectly on the head of David McPhee who guided his header inside the far post beating Iain McLennan on the goal-line.
A rare lapse in concentration in the Saints defence allowed Martin Wojtczak in behind with Graham Douglas having to react quickly to turn Wojtczak’s effort behind for a corner. Douglas safely held Fraser O’Neil’s corner kick from the left under pressure from Dean Kerr.
Scott Maitland was comimg in for some rough treatment and another heavy challenge from Ryan Mulholland gave Willie Gemmell a dead ball opportunity 26 yards out. The suspiciously close looking Braehead wall did its job sending Willie’s effort spinning behind for a corner kick. Scott Maitland’s in-swinger from the right was headed back across goal by Craig Campbell where Paul Carmichael sliced a volley wide of target.
Carmichael passed up two further presentable chances to put the tie to bed before the half-time interval with Donald Campbell also getting in on the act shooting over from 22 yards.
Fraser O’Neil hit the top of the crossbar with a miscued cross in the 43rd minute before closing the first half action with a shot wide of target after Craig MacMillan had done just enough to put the Braehead wide man off his stride.
Saints were good value for their half-time lead but two moments of slackness in an otherwise comfortable defensive performance almost un-did their first half efforts.
A misplaced 46th minute pass inside from young left-back Craig Campbell, who impressed in his first start for the Oban side, was pounced on by Martin Wojtczak. Keith Millar reacted well to get back and stop Wojtczak just outside the Saints box but unfairly in the opinion of referee Charles Burns. Jason Hampsay sent the resulting free-kick just wide of the junction of post and bar.
Five minutes later a blind pass inside from David McPhee only succeeded in finding Ross Hocknull, who drew a good save from Graham Douglas diving to his right to safely hold the Braehead midfielder’s right foot shot.
Saints’ first effort of the second half came in the 52nd minute when Steven MacLeod who, although not quite the rampaging right-back of yesteryear, still managed to get forward and found himself in the Braehead box where he saw a decent effort blocked behind for a corner kick.
Any hopes of a comeback for the home side were snuffed out just before the hour mark when Willie Gemmell notched Saints’ third. Paul Carmichael forced a corner kick on the right which Scott Maitland sent into the six-yard box for David McPhee.
The big centre-half was denied a second goal of the afternoon by Iain McLennan who stopped McPhee’s header on the goal-line with his right arm giving Mr Burns an easy decision to award the visitors a penalty kick.
Saints’ recent record from 12 yards has been patchy but Willie Gemmell showed no nerves grabbing the ball and slamming it emphatically into the postage stamp corner giving Scott Fraser absolutely no chance.
Braehead made a change in the 68th minute replacing Iain McLennan at right-back with Nick Espie. Espie’s first involvement was to scythe down Paul Carmichael 28 yards from goal. Donald Campbell’s free-kick looped off the three-man Braehead wall into the box where Paul Carmichael controlled the bouncing ball and sent a left-foot shot inches over the crossbar.
Saints made their first change in the 73rd minute replacing Craig MacMillan with Shaun MacIver. Shaun joined the attack with Scott Maitland returning to his more familiar left-back slot.
Only some excellent work by skipper Gavin McNicol and keeper Scott Fraser kept Saints at bay in the 75th minute. A Willie Gemmell free-kick was flicked on by Fraser MacFarlane into the path of Donald Campbell who raced into the box and delicately lifted the ball left footed over the head of Scott Fraser. With the big keeper well beaten Gavin McNicol somehow got back to hook the ball off the goal-line but his goal saving clearance set up nicely in the six-yard box for Paul Carmichael. From point blank range Fraser saved Carmichael’s shot with his right leg and was quickly up on his feet to turn Shaun MacIver’s effort on the follow-up around his left hand post.
Carmichael’s impressive midfield shift alongside the ever dependable Willie Gemmell and Keith Millar came to an end with 12 minutes remaining when he was replaced by Daniel Croarkin.
The fresh legs of Shaun MacIver were proving a handful for the home defence and, with 10 minutes remaining, a powerful run from the half-way line ended with Willie Gemmell looping a shot from the edge of the box into the gloves of Scott Fraser.
The Braehead keeper had similarly easy saves in the 83rd and 90th minutes. A good run from Keith Millar set up MacIver for a shot from the edge of the box and a Willie Gemmell free-kick onto MacIver’s head both brought comfortable saves from Scott Fraser.
MacIver finally got the goal he so desperately wanted in the third minute added on by Mr Burns. Willie Gemmell and Daniel Croarkin linked up well on the right with Croarkin claiming the assist as MacIver rifled an unstoppable volley from 16 yards over the head of Scott Fraser and into the roof of the net.
Mr Burns blew for full time immediately after the restart sending Saints through to Tuesday’s fourth round draw.
Donald Campbell said: ‘I thought we played some good football today. Braehead were a decent side although they never put us under too much pressure.’
Saints: Douglas, MacLeod, ,McPhee, Campbell, MacMillan (MacIver), Miller Gemmell, Carmichael (Croarkin), MacFarlane, Campbell, Maitland.
Scottish Amateur Cup - 2nd Round - Saturday 30th September
Plain sailing as Saints net six
Oban Saints 6 v 0 Plains
RESPLENDENT in their new red, white and navy blue kit kindly sponsored by D&K Lafferty Contractors, to whom the club are grateful for their continued support, Oban Saints eased into the third round of the Scottish Amateur Cup with an ultimately comfortable win over Plains at Glencruitten last Saturday afternoon.
Saints manager Alex Craik made just one change to the starting eleven which put nine past Cambusnethan Talbot in their last outing with Donald Campbell starting in favour of Shaun MacIver, who was away for the weekend. Paul Carmichael also returned from injury to take a place on the substitutes bench alongside Daniel Croarkin, Steven MacLeod, Craig MacMillan and David Smith.
Plains were first to threaten in the third minute when Johnny Mitchell was given time and space in the middle of the park to pick out Stephen McGowan cutting in from the left wing. Taking one touch to control the ball, McGowan’s left-foot effort fizzed wide of the right hand post of Graham ‘Sugar’ Douglas in the Saints goal.
It took 17 minutes for Saints to muster their first attempt on goal which came from a swift counter-attack when Willie Gemmell found Donald Campbell with a measured pass through the inside right channel. Donald raced towards the box with Jamie Brogan and Anthony Hynds in pursuit and tried to beat Darren Hunter with an early shot from 17 yards.
An excellent 20th-minute take on the left touchline by Craig MacEwan from a Willie Gemmell diagonal pass unfortunately wasn’t matched by his cross for Donald Campbell coming in at the back post which was too close to Darren Hunter.
Fraser MacFarlane succeeded where Donald Campbell had earlier failed, beating Hunter at his near post to break the deadlock in the 22nd minute after Donald and Craig MacEwan had linked up to send Fraser in behind the Plains back three.
Donald Campbell worked the ball quickly from right to left in the 26th minute from a Matthew Kelly throw-in. Craig MacEwan picked out Scott Maitland’s overlapping run with the Saints left back passing up a good shooting opportunity and electing instead to look for Donald Campbell at the back post but sending his cross tamely into the grateful arms of Darren Hunter.
An ongoing war of words between Craig MacEwan and Anthony Hynds eventually snapped the patience of referee Kerr in the 33rd minute who issued yellow cards to both, with Donald Campbell and the impressive Plains midfielder Anthony Traynor also spoken to as tempers briefly threatened to boil over.
Unable to find a way through the solid-looking Saints back four of Matthew Kelly, David McPhee, Craig Campbell and Scott Maitland, Plains continued to try their luck from distance.
The Saints front three linked up perfectly from a 38th minute Scott Maitland throw-in on the left. Fraser MacFarlane controlled well and sent Craig MacEwan racing into the box from where Craig held off the challenge of Anthony Hynds to pick out Donald Campbell in the middle. Donald’s first touch took him past Paul Deighan and Jordan Dobbie and left him one-on-one with Darren Hunter, whom he beat easily low down to his left from eight yards to double the advantage.
Donald Campbell was through again 60 seconds later only for Mr Kerr to stop him in his tracks with an extremely tight offside decision in favour of the visitors.
There was no suggestion of offside in the 43rd minute when Willie Gemmell sent Donald through the inside left channel. With only the keeper to beat, Donald tried for a chip into the postage-stamp corner which he miscued badly, sending his effort well wide of target.
There was chances at both ends in the opening minutes of the second half. From the restart Daniel Fitzpatrick was allowed to drive into the Saints box where only a perfectly timed sliding interception from Willie Gemmell denied the Plains right-sided midfielder a sight of goal.
Any chance that Plains had of forcing their way back into contention was extinguished in the 48th minute when Jamie Brogan received a straight red card for a high and dangerous challenge on Fraser MacFarlane on the half-way line. Clearly struggling after the heavy challenge, Fraser made way for Paul Carmichael in the 56th minute.
Two minutes after joining the action, Paul added his name to the scoresheet from a Donald Campbell assist. Saints carved open the Plains defence on the left once again with Campbell unselfishly squaring to Carmichael for a simple tap-in from six yards.
A momentary lapse in concentration almost cost the Saints defence their clean sheet on the hour mark. From a throw-in level with their own 18-yard line Matthew Kelly and Graham Douglas got in a fankle on the corner of the box with Sugar thankfully managing to stick out a leg to send the ball away from Daniel Fitzpatrick and behind for a corner kick.
Donald Campbell and Paul Carmichael almost combined again in the 62nd minute when Donald’s cross from the left was taken off Paul’s head by Darren Hunter at his near post.
This was to prove just a brief stay of execution as two minutes later Scott Maitland added a fourth with an excellent individual effort. Picking up the ball inside his own half, Scott cut through the heart of the Plains defence and buried a low right foot shot past Darren Hunter’s right hand to make the score 3-0.
Saints manager Alex Craik made a double substitution with 20 minutes remaining replacing injured pair Craig MacEwan and Keith Millar with David Smith and Craig MacMillan. Young Craig slotted in at left-back with Scott Maitland moving into midfield where he was joined by Smith.
In the 73rd minute, Donald Campbell came within inches of finding the net direct from the corner flag. Paul Deighan headed a Paul Carmichael cross from the right behind for a corner kick on the Saints left. Donald’s in-swinging delivery cleared the heads of David Smith and Mark Fitzpatrick landing just in front of the goal line and bouncing inches wide of Darren Hunter’s left hand post.
The gaffer made his final changes. Willie Gemmell and David McPhee were withdrawn in favour of Daniel Croarkin and Steven MacLeod. Steven was a straight replacement for David alongside Craig Campbell in the middle of the back four while Daniel took up the right-back berth with Matthew Kelly moving into midfield.
Saints notched their fifth goal with 10 minutes remaining when Donald Campbell latched onto a Matthew Kelly through ball to slot past Darren Hunter from 10 yards.
To their credit the visitors kept plugging away and were almost through after the restart when second-half substitute David Burns got the better of Daniel Croarkin on the left only for the Saints youngster to make an excellent recovery tackle inside the Saints box at the expense of a corner kick.
Jordan Dobbie produced an equally vital interception at the other end, stooping to head the ball off Donald Campbell’s toe after a dazzling run from Scott Maitland and right wing cross from Matthew Kelly.
Donald Campbell rounded off the scoring in the 89th minute. Scott Maitland’s running from midfield created the opening which Donald eagerly gobbled up, lifting the ball from 12 yards over the head of the stranded Darren Hunter to claim his second successive hat-trick since returning from injury. There was barely any time left on the referee’s watch with Mr Kerr, who handled proceedings well, blowing for full-time shortly after the restart sending Saints through to Tuesday’s third round draw.
Although his team scored six goals, manager Craik was critical of the performance. He said: ‘We didn’t work hard enough and the passing was sloppy. It might have proved costly against a better team although Plains made us fight all the way. However, we’re through and looking forward see who we get next.’
Saints: Douglas, Kelly, McPhee (MacLeod), Campbell, Maitland, Miller (Smith), Gemmell (Croarkin), McAuley, MacFarlane (Carmichael), Campbell, MacEwan (MacMillan).
West of Scotland Cup - 1st Round - Saturday 19th September
Saints net nine against Cambusnethan
Oban Saints 9 v 0 Cambusnethan Community
OBAN Saints eased past Cambusnethan Talbot Community to confirm their place in the draw for the third round of the West of Scotland Amateur Cup. Despite a spirited performance the Strathclyde Saturday Morning Amateur Football League men from Wishaw were no match for a Saints side slowly clicking into gear after a sluggish start to the season.
Injured pair Paul Carmichael and Ally McKerracher dropped out of the squad along with Bartosz Faron, who was working. Shaun MacIver returned after illness and Donald Campbell made his first appearance of the season after recovering from a groin strain picked up in pre-season.
Attacking the railway end in the first half, Saints started slowly but still managed to open the scoring in the sixth minute with their first meaningful attack. Willie Gemmell played the ball up to Scott Maitland on the left who was hauled down by Mark Preston. Gemmell’s free-kick from the just inside the touchline and level with the 18-yard line picked out an intelligent near-post run from Craig MacEwan who guided the ball past Robert Lofferty in the Camby goal and into the bottom corner.
Shaun MacIver and Camby central defender John Hill received a ticking off from Mr Litster for some pushing and shoving as the two battled for supremacy through the middle.
The D & K Lafferty-sponsored Oban side extended their lead in the 21st minute.
Scott Maitland and Fraser MacFarlane linked up well on the left of the Camby box with MacFarlane’s lay off sending Maitland through on keeper Lofferty. From a tight angle, Maitland cut the ball back to Craig MacEwan, who found the the bottom corner beating Ryan Airth on the goalline.
With Keith Millar, Willie Gemmell and Myles McAuley controlling the midfield, the chances kept coming for Saints.
Getting on the end of a Craig MacEwan lay-off from a Willie Gemmell pass, Matthew Kelly bombed forward on the right in the 24th minute and sent a shot across Robert Lofferty and inches wide of the big keeper’s right-hand post.
Willie Gemmell’s short free-kick 60 seconds later presented Fraser MacFarlane with a shooting opportunity from 25 yards which he gratefully accepted and was unlucky to see his deflected effort come back off the upright.
Another good lay-off from Fraser MacFarlane on the left sent Shaun MacIver in behind the Camby defence with the Saints’ centre forward drawing a good save from Robert Lofferty at his near post to keep out MacIver’s left-foot shot.
At the other end, the visitors made a rare foray forward and Stuart Brown fired off a decent shot from the corner of the Saints box which cannoned off Craig Campbell and behind for a corner. Graham Douglas showed good handling to gather Mark Preston’s corner kick under pressure from John Hill.
In the 34th minute, the simmering feud between Shaun MacIver and John Hill threatened to boil over but Mr Litster restored order and showed the yellow card to both players.
Mr Litster, who had a good game in his bright yellow kit, gave the benefit of another tight offside call to the visitors in the 37th minute, ruling Scott Maitland fractionally offside and halting another promising Saints move.
Camby’s Stuart Brown was presented with a 42nd minute chance to test Graham Douglas in the Saints goal after David McPhee had unfairly halted Mark Preston’s progress 28 yards out. However, Brown’s left-foot effort curled harmlessly high and wide of Sugar’s right-hand post.
Craig MacEwan notched his third goal of the afternoon on the stroke of half-time, beating the offside trap to get on the end of a well-weighted Willie Gemmell pass. With the Camby defence appealing in vain for another offside decision, MacEwan rounded keeper Lofferty on the 18-yard line and slotted the ball into the net past a last-ditch attempted clearance from John Hill.
Fraser MacFarlane was rewarded for a good all-round display with a goal just two minutes into the second half. The build-up this time came on the Saints right with Craig MacEwan, Myles McAuley and Matthew Kelly all heavily involved. Kelly’s dinked cross was headed home by MacFarlane diving in at the back post to put the outcome of the tie beyond any lingering doubt.
Saints made their first change of the afternoon in the 55th minute when Craig Campbell made way for Steven MacLeod in a straight swap at centre back.
Robert Lofferty produced another fine save from Craig MacEwan in the 59th minute after the Saints captain had been played in by an excellent raking Willie Gemmell pass.
After 63 minutes Saints gaffer Alex Craik decided it was time to freshen things up a bit and made a triple substitution. Off went Willie Gemmell, Keith Millar and Shaun MacIver to be replaced by Donald Campbell, Daniel Croarkin and Craig MacMillan. Donald took the centre forward role vacated by Shaun while Daniel and Craig took the full back berths with Matthew Kelly and Scott Maitland moving into midfield.
Saints eventually rediscovered their rhythm and in the 67th minute Scott Maitland picked out Craig MacEwan’s run on the right. Craig darted past Ryan Airth and crossed for Donald Campbell who held off the challenge of Peter Cambridge to slot past Robert Lofferty for goal number five.
Chances were now coming thick and fast as the tiring Camby defence struggled to cope with Saints’ movement. Scott Maitland fired a decent effort just over the cross bar before a give-and-go with Craig MacEwan opened up the visiting defence for Donald Campbell who saw his shot well saved by Robert Lofferty at his near post.
With 20 minutes remaining, Saints gaffer Alex Craik made his final change sending on David Smith to replace David McPhee at centre back. Smith was quickly involved with a well-timed challenge on Stuart Brown as he wriggled his way into the box on the Camby right.
Craig MacEwan rifled a right foot shot over the junction of post and bar before Donald Campbell notched a sixth goal for Saints in the 74th minute. Linking up with Scott Maitland Donald strode through the static Camby defence and slammed the ball past Robert Lofferty.
Scott Maitland was revelling in his midfield role and getting forward at every opportunity. The legs of Robert Lofferty denied Scott after he again broke through on the left with the big keeper, who put a brave fight despite the scoreline, also making a smart save to cut out a Fraser MacFarlane cross intended for Donald Campbell.
There was nothing Lofferty could do to prevent Donald Campbell marking his comeback with a hat-trick as Donald powered home an 81st-minute header from a Craig MacEwan cross from the right.
Saints regained possession straight from the restart and, in behind the defence once again, Scott Maitland must have realised it wasn’t to be his day in front of goal when he finally beat Lofferty only to see his effort hit the side netting.
Graham Douglas produced a moment of brilliance to keep his clean sheet intact back-pedalling and stretching up to stop an attempted lob from Stuart Brown after the Camby striker had dispossessed David Smith.
A driving run into the box from Myles McAuley set up goal number eight in the 88th minute. After forcing his way past Craig Thomson and John Hill, Myles had only the goalkeeper to beat but unselfishly squared the ball to Craig MacEwan, teeing up the skipper for his fourth goal of the afternoon.
The ninth and final goal came in the 90th minute and owed much to the determination of young Craig MacMillan on the Saints left. Chasing down a Ryan Airth pass back, the Saints youngster refused to allow Robert Lofferty time on the ball and his hurried clearance fell at the feet of Craig MacEwan. Craig pushed into the Camby box and rounded the advancing keeper before lifting the ball from a tight angle over the retreating Ryan Airth and into the roof of the net to make the final score 9-0.
Manager Alex Craik was delighed with the performance of his team. He said: ‘Talbot weren’t
the toughest of opponents but we did what we had to do and played some excellent football in the process.’
Saints have no game this Saturday due to the September holiday weekend but the manager has organised a full-scale training match for Saturday morning starting at 10am to keep the squad ticking over before they take on Airdrie side Plains Amateurs in the second round of the Scottish Cup on Saturday September 30. This game will be played at Glencruitten with a 2pm kick-off. Referee in charge is Peter Kerr from Glasgow.
Saints: Douglas, Kelly, McPhee (Smith), C Campbell (MacLeod), Maitland, Miller (Croarkin), Gemmell (MacMillan), McAuley, MacFarlane, MacIver (D Campbell), MacEwan.
SAFL Premier Division - Saturday 9th September
Saints lose out to a late goal
Oban Saints 2 v 3 St Joseph's FP
REIGNING Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division Champions St Joseph’s extended their Glencruitten winning streak to four games in a five-goal thriller last Saturday.
Just as they had in their 4 - 2 win at William Street at the tail end of last season, Saints recovered from a two-goal deficit to haul themselves back into contention, however, this time it was the Duntocher men who had the added desire to force the winner.
With manager Alex Craik at a wedding, coaches Jamie Graham, Peter MacCallum and secretary David Buchanan were in charge of team affairs.
The instructions from the gaffer were to stick closely to the previous week’s winning line-up adding only the returning Scott Maitland and David McPhee. However, a late call-off from Shaun MacIver meant an earlier than planned outing for recovering injury victim Paul Carmichael.
Saints kicked off attacking the railway end but it was the visitors who looked hungrier giving the home side no time on the ball. Martin McComish’s late challenge on Ally McKerracher gave Willie Gemmell an early chance to put the ball in the danger area but Willie’s delivery was too long for Craig Campbell at the far post. McComish tested the patience of referee Peter Laing again in the second minute with another heavy challenge on McKerracher with Mr Laing happy just to have a quiet word with McComish.
Saints had the first effort on target in the ninth minute from the head of David McPhee. McPhee’s central defensive partner Craig Campbell won an important interception midway inside the Saints half and launched the ball forward for Paul Carmichael who won a corner kick on the right. David McPhee beat Ryan Halpin to Willie Gemmell’s delivery but his effort was straight at Sean Gibbons who made a comfortable save.
A fantastic block by Fraser Murray prevented Ally McKerracher from testing the keeper in the 15th minute after a good move on the right involving Matthew Kelly and Paul Carmichael. The same three linked up again three minutes later with McKerracher this time claiming that his shot was blocked by the hand of Kearn Docherty but Mr Laing dismissed the Saints appeals for a penalty kick.
Daniel McKenna clipped a decent effort over the crossbar before St Joseph’s new signing from local rivals Goldenhill opened the scoring for the visitors. From a harmless looking ball from Craig Cameron deep inside his own half the Saints rearguard was opened up far too easily with McKenna running through to slot the ball past the hopelessly exposed Graham Douglas.
Referee Laing drew the ire of the Saints bench for an extremely tight offside call against Paul Carmichael in the 26th minute before a tame shot from Ally McKerracher 60 seconds later slipped harmlessly wide of target.
Graham Douglas came to the rescue in the 29th minute throwing himself to his right to tip a Ryan Halpin shot round the post for a corner kick.
Before the restart Daniel Croarkin, who was suffering from stomach cramps, was replaced by Myles McAuley making his first appearance of the season. Myles took up a position in midfield with Scott Maitland dropping back to fill the left-back role vacated by Croarkin.
Saints threatened in the 38th minute. From deep inside his own half on the left Myles McAuley linked up well with Craig MacEwan to send Ally McKerracher tearing towards the bye-line. Ally outpaced Craig Cameron to fire in a left foot cross which was inches beyond the outstretched boot of Paul Carmichael racing in at the far post.
With five first half minutes remaining Saints captain Craig MacEwan superbly chested down a high ball just inside the left touchline and was hauled back by his well-beaten opposite number Craig Cameron. To the amazement of both sets of players Mr Laing penalised MacEwan for hand-ball with the protests from the irate Saints players continuing for several minutes.
The second half began in disastrous fashion for Saints conceding a second goal just two minutes after the restart. Paul Carmichael won a free-kick on the edge of the St Joe’s box which Cameron Harkins saw out for a goal kick. From Sean Gibbons’ goal kick Harkins raced to the other end and delivered a cross from the left wing which Daniel McKenna headed back across goal for Ryan Halpin to dive in and head past Graham Douglas.
Paul Carmichael’s perseverance on the edge of the D created an opening for Craig MacEwan with the Saints skipper drawing a smart save from Sean Gibbons at his near post.
Saints hauled themselves back into contention in the 56th minute when Craig MacEwan controlled a Willie Gemmell long ball wide on the right and picked out Paul Carmichael sliding in at the back post to poke the ball past Sean Gibbons.
The visitors almost immediately restored their two-goal advantage with only the outstretched left foot of Graham Douglas denying Daniel McKenna from the restart.
With 15 minutes remaining Ally McKerracher, who still looks a little short of full match fitness, was replaced by Steven MacLeod. The change of personnel also brought another positional switch with Matthew Kelly moving into midfield and Steven MacLeod taking Matthew’s right-back berth.
In his new advanced role Kelly had a big hand in Saints’ 80th minute equaliser. Linking up well with Scott Maitland on the left, Kelly forced his way to the edge of the St Joe’s box. The ball broke to Craig MacEwan, who produced an exquisite turn to escape the attentions of Craig Cameron and Fraser Murray and stroked the ball into the bottom corner past the left hand of Sean Gibbons to make the score 2-2 – game on.
St Joe’s made an 83rd minute change with Stephen Dallas replacing Ally Graham in attack before Mr Laing made another controversial decision which this time benefited the home side. Keith Millar and Stephen Dallas had a coming-together in the Saints box and, much to the relief of all in navy blue, the decision which could have gone either way was given in Millar’s favour. The sense of relief for Saints unfortunately evaporated after 88 minutes when Scott Smith was given too much time and space to carry the ball from midfield into the Saints box. The combined efforts of David McPhee and Steven MacLeod couldn’t stop Smith from getting a left foot shot away which squirmed under the advancing Graham Douglas and nestled in the bottom corner much to the delight of the St Joe’s contingent.
Mr Laing allowed a full five minutes of stoppage time, but try as they might Saints were unable to threaten the St Joe’s goal giving the visitors the full three points and a happy bus journey back to Duntocher.
Secretary David Buchanan said: ‘We never got into our stride in the first half and when St Joe’s scored their second goal we looked to be in big trouble but credit to the lads they dug in and we managed to play some good football to get back on level terms but to lose the goal so close to the end was devastating.’
Saints: Douglas, Kelly, McPhee, Campbell, Croarkin, Gemmell, Millar, Maitland, McKerracher (MacLeod), Carmichael, MacEwan. Subs: Faron, MacFarlane Smith, McAuley,
Scottish Amateur Cup - 1st Round - Saturday 2nd September
MacEwan hat-trick sees Saints through
Oban Saints 4 v 0 Mauchline United
TWICE beaten semi-finalists Oban Saints returned to the Scottish Amateur Cup trail last Saturday when they hosted Mauchline United in a first round tie at Glencruitten.
The visitors, whose small but vocal support, were enjoying the Oban sunshine, kicked off attacking the Mossfield end, however, it was Saints who were first to threaten. Willie Gemmell sent a free-kick from just inside the Mauchline half and wide on the right into the visitors’ box for new signing Ally McKerracher who flicked Willie Gemmell’s free-kick to Craig MacEwan but Craig couldn’t get the better of Mauchline right back Ryan O’Donnell who saw the danger out.
The early pressure bore fruit for Saints in the seventh minute when Shaun MacIver burst through on the end of a Craig MacEwan pass to fire the ball into the roof of the net from 18 yards after good work in midfield from Keith Millar and Ally McKerracher.
McKerracher almost made it two 60 seconds later cutting in from the right and flashing a low shot across the face of goal and narrowly wide of Andrew Clark’s right-hand post.
A heavy challenge on Matthew Kelly on the half-way line by John Rutherford earned the Mauchline defender a stern talking-to from referee Tony McCann as the visitors battled to get a foothold in the game.
A sloppy five-minute spell from Saints gave Mauchline increased confidence and almost cost the home side the lead. In the 20th minute David Howat made a terrific run up the right wing and fizzed a low cross along the six-yard line inches away from skipper Liam O’Donnell.
Saints capitalised fully on this let-off with O’Donnell’s opposite number Craig MacEwan rounding off an excellent move for the first of his three goals. MacEwan sent Fraser MacFarlane scurrying forward on the right but, with his path blocked by Steven Leitch, the Saints wide man turned back inside and laid the ball back to Keith Millar. Millar kept the ball moving across to the left for Daniel Croarkin who in turn picked out Ally McKerracher. McKerracher split Ryan O’Donnell and Campbell Thomson with a perfectly weighted pass through the inside left channel for Craig MacEwan who slotted past Andrew Clark from eight yards beating the Mauchline keeper at his near post.
Fraser MacFarlane came the width of the post away from increasing Saints’ lead in the 29th minute. Ally McKerracher hurdled three challenges before picking out Fraser MacFarlane coming in from the right. Fraser’s shot beat Andrew Clark low down to his left but struck the outside of the near post and flew behind for a goal kick
McKerracher’s direct running continued to pose problems for the Mauchline defence with Andrew Clark having to come quickly off his line to smother at the Saints man’s feet in the 32nd minute.
With experienced duo Willie Gemmell and Keith Millar rolling back the years and pulling the strings in midfield Saints continued to push forward looking to kill the tie off before the half-time whistle. Daniel Croarkin linked up with Craig MacEwan on the left who turned inside and sent an excellent diagonal ball into the box for Ally McKerracher to fire inches wide of the keeper’s left hand post.
Another driving run from McKerracher in the 41st minute saw the Saints midfielder delicately lift the ball over the advancing Andrew Clark but unfortunately also just over the crossbar.
At the other end the visitors gave Saints a reminder of their threat on the break when Liam O’Donnell sent a low shot inches wide of the right hand post of Saints keeper Graham Douglas.
Saints began the second half still very much on the front foot with Ally McKerracher winning a free kick 32 yards out which Willie Gemmell scuffed wide of Andrew Clark’s right hand post.
Keith Millar joined the attack after five second half minutes feeding Fraser MacFarlane but not receiving the return pass he had hoped for as Fraser pushed into the box himself before over running the ball and allowing Campbell Thomson to make the interception.
Keith Millar then sent Fraser MacFarlane in behind the Mauchline back four with a well-measured pass in the 54th minute from where the Saints wide man showed good composure to square the ball to the unmarked Craig MacEwan who, with the keeper left stranded, gratefully rolled the ball into the unguarded net for Saints third goal. Only a terrific sliding interception by John Rutherford on Ally McKerracher denied Saints a quick fire fourth when Ally once again drove at the heart of the Mauchline defence from the restart.
Presentable chances for MacEwan, MacFarlane, MacIver and McKerracher all came and went before manager Alex Craik signalled to the bench to ready the first changes in the 72nd minute. Daniel Croarkin, who had picked up an ankle injury, and Ally McKerracher, who made an impressive return to the side made way for new signings Craig MacMillan and Ruaridh Horne. The replacements took up the full back berths with Matthew Kelly moving into midfield to take up the position vacated by McKerracher.
With fifteen minutes remaining a sublime piece of trickery by Craig MacEwan on the bye-line took out Mauchline keeper Andrew Clark. Unfortunately it also caught Shaun MacIver on the back foot and the big striker was fractionally too slow to reach Craig’s ball from an acute angle allowing John Rutherford to get back and make the block at the back post.
MacIver was on his toes three minutes later bursting into the box where Andrew Clark sent him tumbling for a penalty kick. Mr McCann showed Clark the yellow card before Craig MacEwan hit the outside of the post from 12 yards after sending Clark in the wrong direction. Despite a dominant performance, Saints didn’t have things all their own way and were indebted to Craig Campbell for a double block on Liam O’Donnell and Darren McGill in the 83rd minute.
In the final minute Willie Gemmell expertly lifted a free-kick into the box for Craig MacEwan who turned away from Ryan O’Donnell and Steven Leitch and, from six yards, slotted past Andrew Clark to clinch his hat-trick and make the final score 4-0.
Saints Manager Alex Craik will be delighted by the progress made by his side in the last two games and more especially with the clean sheet. A sterner test awaits Saints in their next fixture where they welcome reigning Premier Division Champions St Joseph’s FP to Glencruitten on Saturday, kick-off 2pm. Referee in charge is Peter Laing.
Saints: Douglas, Kelly, Craik, Campbell, Croarkin (MacMillan), McKerracher (Horne), Gemmell, Millar, MacFarlane (Cooper), MacIver (Faron), MacEwan.
SAFL Premier Division - Saturday 26th August
Saints gain first points of the season
East Kilbride 1 v 2 Oban Saints
OBAN Saints got their first league points of the new season on the board at the third time of asking with a hard-fought win in East Kilbride. Hosts East Kilbride FC Amateurs gave their visitors a thorough examination at their excellent K-Park home but the the makeshift Saints 11 produced a battling performance to clinch an unexpected but ultimately deserved first victory of the season.
Already seriously depleted, Saints were reduced to the bare bones when Craig Campbell, Paul Carmichael, Graham Douglas, Marc MacCallum and Dean Smith joined the lengthy unavailable list after the previous week’s defeat to Motherwell Thistle.
Thomas McCulloch answered the call to pull on the number one jersey while youngster Craig MacMillan was signed up on the morning of the match to bolster the number of the travelling party.
Saints kicked off in pleasant sunshine attacking the pavilion end and made a good start against the 2015-16 Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division Champions.
Saints’ good start was undone after 12 minutes when Kilby central defender Craig Scott picked up a loose ball in the centre circle and was allowed to run unchallenged through the Saints midfield. The big defender unleashed a shot from 28 yards which smacked off the inside of Thomas McCulloch’s right hand post and landed in the opposite bottom corner to give the hosts the lead.
The home side had their noses in front for just three minutes when Saints’ new skipper Craig MacEwan pegged them back with his and Saints’ first goal of the season. David McPhee won the ball from Jonny Diack in the centre circle and fed Willie Gemmell inside the Kilby half. Willie’s threaded pass through the inside left channel split the opposition defence and was perfectly weighted for Craig MacEwan who lifted the ball over the advancing Ross Meldrum and into the empty net.
Scott Maitland’s running was causing problems for the Kilby defence with Craig Mackie forced to concede an 18th-minute free-kick halting Scott’s progress 25 yards from goal. Willie Gemmell curled a decent effort around the Kilby wall and inches wide of Ross Meldrum’s left hand post.
The hosts were enjoying the majority of possession but certainly weren’t having things all their own way against a hard-working Saints 11 spurred on by old heads Alex Craik, Willie Gemmell and Keith Millar.
Saints took the lead on the half hour mark. Daniel Croarkin lobbed a straight ball into the Kilby box which a backpedaling Gary McDowall attempted to head back to keeper Ross Meldrum. Meldrum found himself in no-man’s-land and Craig MacEwan nipped in to nod the ball over the keeper’s head and into the net.
Willie Gemmell’s eye for a pass almost sent Fraser MacFarlane through in the 33rd minute, however, Meldrum anticipated the danger and came quickly off his line to foil MacFarlane.
Saints passed up a fantastic opportunity in the dying seconds of the first half when the hosts had over-committed in search of an equaliser. Scott Maitland made an excellent interception on the edge of box and raced forward for a one-two with Craig MacEwan. Craig somehow failed to find the yawning gap between Gary McDowall and Craig Scott leaving Scott exasperated and the Kilby rearguard relieved.
At the other end Craig MacEwan won a free-kick just short of the bye-line wide on the right. Willie Gemmell’s clipped cross was agonisingly just behind Craig MacEwan in front of goal but broke kindly for Scott Maitland on the edge of the box. Scott’s dipping shot was spectacularly tipped over the crossbar by Kilby player of the year for 2016-17 Ross Meldrum, who safely held Willie Gemmell’s ensuing corner kick from the Saints left.
There was no further scoring with Saints going in at the break with a narrow 2-1 lead.
As in the first half the hosts continued to dominate possession without putting the Saints defence, which was superbly marshalled by Alex Craik, under too much pressure.
There was a loud penalty appeal from the home bench in the 63rd minute for a handball against Daniel Croarkin as Saints repelled another Kilby corner kick but Mr Rose was not convinced and signaled play on.
With the home side still appealing Saints looked to hit on the break and Ross Meldrum had to come quickly off his line to cut out a Craig MacEwan pass intended for Scott Maitland.
After more wayward shots from Jamie Innes and Gavin Thomson Saints countered again on the left with Craig MacEwan and Scott Maitland linking up well to win a free kick. Willie Gemmell took the kick short to Craig MacEwan whose path into the box was blocked by Gary Smith at the expense of a corner kick. Ross Meldrum climbed above Craig MacEwan and Shaun MacIver but could only palm Willie Gemmell’s delivery to the back post and the waiting Fraser MacFarlane. Fraser’s hooked left foot effort was blocked by the chest of substitute Matthew Meechan who then took Fraser’s follow up right foot shot on his right cheek at point blank range preventing a certain goal.
Saints threat on the break almost produced a third goal in the 73rd minute when Craig MacEwan latched onto a Willie Gemmell pass and lifted the ball over Ross Meldrum’s head but unfortunately also inches over the crossbar.
Thomas McCulloch’s goal kicking gained Saints considerable territory in the 76th minute from where Craig MacEwan won a throw-in on the left. Willie Gemmell’s throw was gathered in by Shaun MacIver on the corner on the 18-yard box and he turned and flashed a drive across the face of goal, just wide of Ross Meldrum’s left hand post.
Gemmell and MacIver combined again four minutes later on the right with the young Saints striker forcing his way into the box and drawing a good save from Meldrum at his near post.
After seeing out another Kilby corner kick in the 84th minute Willie Gemmell spotted Kilby keeper Ross Meldrum off his line however his attempted lob from 10 yards inside the Saints half didn’t have the legs to seriously trouble Meldrum who recovered his ground to make a comfortable catch.
With the home side continually probing for openings, Saints defended manfully restricting Kilby to shots from distance which failed to trouble Thomas McCulloch.
At the other end Saints remained a threat on the break and passed up another good chance to settle any nerves in the 85th minute. Craig MacEwan chased down what looked like a lost cause on the right wing and from almost on the bye-line cut back for Fraser MacFarlane who, from eight yards out, shot wide of the junction of post and bar.
With three valuable points within touching distance, manager Alex Craik resisted the temptation to make any changes which might upset the balance of his side preferring instead to take the ball to the corner flags at every opportunity to eat up valuable time.
Saints withstood a late flurry from the home side riding their luck at times as the ball bounced around the penalty area before Mr Rose, who handled the game well, blew for full time after four added minutes. The Saints players, who had worked tirelessly all afternoon, were delighted with their victory against an impressive East Kilbride side who were probably unlucky not to take something from the game.
Manager Alex Craik was delighted with the performace of his team and, of course, the result. He said: ‘Our squad was stretched to the limit, we had no fewer than 13 players unavailable for various reasons but the boys who played were superb.
‘It was a great result against a very good East Kilbride side. We rode our luck at times but on the other hand we created three or four excellent chances to kill the game off but we didn’t take them.’
Saints: McCulloch, Kelly, McPhee, Craik, Croarkin, MacFarlane, Gemmell, Millar, Maitland, MacIver and MacEwan. Subs not used: Smith and MacMillan
SAFL Premier Division - Saturday 19th August
Two defeats in a row for Saints
Oban Saints 0 v 3 Motherwell Thistle
OBAN Saints first home fixture of the 2017-18 season ended in a disappointing defeat against Motherwell Thistle at Glencruitten. After the previous weekend’s defeat at newly-promoted Hillington, Saints manager Alex Craik had hoped for an improved display on home territory.
The dismal start to the season continued with another toothless display against the South Lanarkshire men who followed up convincing Centenary Cup wins over Kings Park Rangers and Duncanrig FP with a comfortable victory in their first league outing.
Saints welcomed back experienced figures Craig Campbell, Paul Carmichael and Keith Millar to the starting line-up with Alex Craik and Daniel Croarkin dropping to the bench and youngsters Nathan Allan, Cammy Kerr and Kenny Black returning to the youth ranks.
Graham Douglas lined up in goal behind a back four of Matthew Kelly, skipper Marc Maccallum, Craig Campbell and Scott Maitland. Willie Gemmell was joined in midfield by returnees Paul Carmichael and Keith Millar. Up front Dean Smith lead the line flanked by Fraser MacFarlane and Craig MacEwan. On the bench were Alex Craik, Daniel Croarkin, Shaun MacIver, David McPhee and David Smith.
Motherwell Thistle had a squad of just 12 players and referee Jimmy Litster, resplendent in his pink kit, allowed a 30-minute delay to kick-off pending the late arrival of a car load of players who had experienced some mechanical difficulties en-route.
Of the dozen who did eventually turn up, 10 had featured in Thistle’s 3 -2 victory in their only previous visit to Oban last April contrasting starkly with the 11 changes in the Saints ranks.
Saints kicked off and opened brightly attacking the railway end on an excellent Glencruitten surface which defied the recent heavy rain which continued to fall well into the first half.
Inside the opening minute Craig MacEwan hit the top of the crossbar from an acute angle on the left with Thistle keeper Paul Aiton well beaten. In the fourth minute Thistle central defender James Gibbons made a vital interception to halt Paul Carmichael’s driving run into the 18-yard box. Sixty seconds later Dean Smith sent a low shot wide of target after a good turn 20 yards from goal.
Graham Douglas in the Saints goal produced a stunning save 60 seconds later springing high to his right to stop a delightful curling left foot effort from Colin Gillies.
Saints pressed the self destruct button on the half hour mark sparking a disastrous eight-minute spell which would see the visitors race into a three-goal lead.
Another misplaced pass on the half-way line was intercepted by William McMaster, who fed James Faughnan. Paul Carmichael’s clumsy challenge just inside the Saints box sent Faughnan tumbling and had referee Litster pointing to the penalty spot. Colin Gillies slotted the spot kick low to the right of Graham Douglas sending the Saints keeper in the opposite direction to open the scoring.
Willie Gemmell responded with Saints’ first effort on target which Paul Aiton saved well low down to his left but more agony was to follow in the 32nd minute.
The visitors once again ruthlessly exploited Saints’ deficiencies with Colin Gillies intercepting a wayward pass on the Saints’ left, to then find James Faughnan in acres of space and he lofted the ball over the advancing Graham Douglas to double the Thistle advantage.
The visitors completed their devastating period in the 38th minute with an excellently-crafted goal which left Saints with a mountain to climb. Colin Gillies beat Scott Maitland wide on the Thistle right with a delightful turn opening up space for him to measure a low cross to the front post where James Faughnan was first to react bagging his second goal of the afternoon.
Saints Manager Alex Craik made a tactical switch at half-time moving to a 4-4-2 formation. This change necessitated a personnel change with Fraser MacFarlane coming off to be replaced by Daniel Croarkin taking up the right back berth vacated by Matthew Kelly, who moved into midfield.
Good early second half pressure from Saints forced a corner kick on the right which Willie Gemmell placed onto the head of Craig MacEwan, bringing out a spectacular save from Paul Aiton who palmed the ball over his crossbar.
Craig Campbell’s afternoon came to an end in the 50th minute with a recurrence of the thigh strain which has plagued him for some time.
David McPhee came on to replace Craig in central defence slotting in well alongside Marc Maccallum on his competitive debut for the club.
Saints hit the woodwork for the third time in the 54th minute when Dean Smith controlled a Willie Gemmell pass and raced into the box before striking the outside of the post with a decent effort under pressure from Gary Tomlinson. Saints were handed a lifeline on the hour mark when Anthony Mitchell brought down Dean Smith just inside the Thistle penalty area. Last season’s top scorer Craig MacEwan accepted the challenge, however Paul Aiton has an excellent record in those situations and dived to his left to block Craig’s effort.
The injury worries increased for Saints in the 68th minute when Dean Smith twisted awkwardly on his left ankle and had to be helped from the field.
Shaun MacIver came on for Dean in a straight swap joining Craig MacEwan up front.
Saints continued to enjoy the majority of possession but with a lack of urgency which gave the solid Thistle back four far too comfortable an afternoon.
Unable to penetrate the visitor’s back line, Saints resorted to shots from distance from which Paul Aiton produced another spectacular save to deny Willie Gemmell from 25 yards.
Craig MacEwan followed this up with an effort from 20 yards, which failed to trouble the keeper before Willie Gemmell followed suit firing high and wide after collecting a Daniel Croarkin throw-in from the right.
Second half substitute Shaun MacIver added to the procession of off-target shots firing narrowly wide of the postage stamp corner from 22-yards when a pass to Craig MacEwan might have been a better option.
David Smith joined the action replacing Keith Millar in the middle of the park.
Mr Litster, who had a good game, brought proceedings to a close after three added minutes consigning Saints to back-to-back league defeats ahead of the daunting prospect of an away trip this Saturday to 2015-16 Premier Division Champions East Kilbride.
Saints manager Alex Craik was gutted at the end of the game. He said: ‘We played well enough and had the majority of the possession, but we lacked penetration up front and we gave away three poor goals.
‘We’ve lost seven players from last year’s squad and are carrying a number of injuries so it is going to be a big struggle until we get some of the injured players back.’
Saints - Douglas, Kelly, Maccallum, C Campbell (McPhee), Maitland, Gemmell, Millar (D Smith), Carmichael, MacFarlane (Croarkin), Smith (MacIver) and MacEwan. Sub not used: Craik.
SAFL Premier Division - Saturday 12th August
Saints struggle in first game of the season
Hillington 2 v 0 Oban Saints
OBAN Saints kicked off their 2017-18 Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division campaign with a disappointing away defeat against newly-promoted Hillington at Glasgow Club, Drumoyne, last Saturday.
Injuries, retirals and unavailability of players dictated the Saints line-up would contain just five survivors from the starting 11 which put four goals past Hillington in last season’s Jimmy Marshall trophy semi-final.
With a number of key players missing for various reasons, manager Alex Craik was forced to call up three of the club’s youth players.
And a late call-off from Keith Millar had the gaffer searching the kit bag for his own boots to make his first start in eight months.
Saints kicked off attacking down the slight slope and into the stiff breeze where they made the most of the early running but lacked the guile to find a way through the Hillington defence.
Good work on the right by Daniel Croarkin and Matthew Kelly created a fifth minute opening for Dean Smith who saw a decent effort well blocked by Scott Caskie. A well-timed 14th minute run from Matthew Kelly took him in behind the Hillington back line on the end of a Fraser MacFarlane pass. From 20 yards, Matthew attempted to chip the advancing goalkeeper but Gordon Phillips extended himself fully to make a fine save and keep the scores level.
Saints’ bright start to the match began to fade as the hosts came more into the match, making good use of set-pieces and long throws to put the Saints back line under pressure. A 21st minute long throw-in from Hillington right back Ross McQuilter caught the Saints defence out completely with Thomas Cunningham ghosting in behind to send a terrific opportunity wide of Sugar’s left hand post.
Willie Gemmell had a 27th minute opportunity to show his prowess with the dead ball after Mark McAllister had halted a Dean Smith run just outside the Hillington box. Willie’s effort caught the top of the Hillington wall with Fraser MacFarlane’s shot from the loose ball also blocked and cleared.
Saints survived another let-off at the hands of Thomas Cunningham when the Hillington striker moved in unmarked at the back post and guided a Paul McDonald ball along the six-yard line into the grateful arms of Graham Douglas.
At the other end, Dean Smith’s perseverance finally won him a clear sight of goal in the 34th minute but he couldn’t capitalise on it and sent his shot from 16-yards just over the top of the Hillington crossbar.
Stuart Ashton and Steven Cunningham both sent snap shots well wide of target for the hosts before referee John McNab blew the half-time whistle.
As in the first half, Saints made the better start but were again unable to find a way past the well-organised Hillington defence.
Scott Caskie was on his toes 60 seconds later to head behind a Willie Gemmell ball over the top.
A flurry of Saints’ corner kicks followed, which the Hillington rearguard successfully repelled.
The home side got their noses in front in the 60th minute, severely punishing a misplaced Saints pass on the half-way line. Ashton again broke forward on the left and sent an inviting ball along the six-yard line which skipper Scott Gold knocked home sliding in at the back post. Saints responded with Craig MacEwan collecting a Willie Gemmell pass and cutting in from the right before curling a left foot shot wide of target.
Manager Alex Craik made his first change in the 64th minute bringing to an end young Nathan Allan’s competitive debut replacing him on the left of the back three with the experienced David Smith.
The gaffer added further fresh legs in the 67th minute with Daniel Croarkin and Dean Smith making way for Cameron Kerr and Shaun MacIver.
Youngster Kerr, another making his senior competitive debut, made an early contribution playing in Craig MacEwan who was disappointed not to make better contact with his shot sending an excellent chance wide of the keeper’s left hand post.
With 15 minutes remaining, Hillington’s Scott Caskie made a vital interception taking the ball off Craig MacEwan’s toe from a Fraser MacFarlane cut-back after the Saints wide man had made a good run on the right wing.
From the resulting corner kick, Gordon Phillips spread himself full length to his right to turn a Scott Maitland shot from 18 yards around the post.
Craig MacEwan’s frustrating afternoon continued in the 76th minute when he failed to make the desired contact with Willie Gemmell’s bouncing through ball, allowing Gordon Phillips to make another save.
When Saints finally managed to beat Phillips in the 78th minute referee John McNab, who had a good game, correctly ruled out Shaun MacIver’s effort for offside.
Willie Gemmell was handed an ideal 87th minute free-kick opportunity 22-yards out and slightly left of centre. Willie successfully guided his effort on target with Gordon Phillips only able to parry the ball after it bounced six yards in front of him. Cameron Kerr reached the loose ball but could only steer it wide of target under pressure from Steven Cunningham and Martin O’Connor.
Mr McNab gave the benefit of an extremely close off-side call to the home side in the 88th minute with Craig MacEwan through one-on-one with goalkeeper Phillips.
With time ebbing away, Hillington began knocking the ball into the corners to run down the clock, a tactic which produced an unexpected bonus in the first of the four minutes added by Mr McNab. Marc Maccallum regained possession from Paul McDonald and knocked the ball back to Graham Douglas on the right edge of his penalty box. Sugar’s clearance caught the top of Thomas Cunningham’s head severely reducing its effectiveness. The ball looped perfectly onto the instep of Hillington skipper Scott Gold ten yards inside the Saints half who cushioned a delightful volley into the unguarded net to seal the win for his team.
Saints kept plugging away in search of a consolation goal and had a Shaun MacIver header from a Fraser MacFarlane corner saved before Fraser fired a decent opportunity into the side netting with the last kick of the game.
Despite having so many players missing, manager Alex Craik will be bitterly disappointed with the poor showing of his charges getting a potentially difficult season off to the worst possible start.
Saints - Douglas, Allan (Smith), Maccallum, Craik, MacFarlane, Kelly, Croarkin (Kerr), Gemmell, Maitland, Smith (MacIver) and MacEwan: Sub not used Black