Two games back to back prove just too much for Oban Saints

The Oban Times - - Sport - Rhu Am­a­teurs 1, Oban Saints 5 Oban Saints 1, Greenoch HSFP 5 Greenock HSFP 1, Rhu Am­a­teurs 1

ON THE ba­sis that they do more than their fair share of trav­el­ling dur­ing the sea­son, Saints don’t nor­mally play away from home in pre-sea­son. How­ever, the in­vi­ta­tion to take part in the 120th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions of one of Scot­land’s old­est sur­viv­ing am­a­teur football clubs proved too good to turn down. Saints there­fore took to the road last Satur­day and headed for the pretty con­ser­va­tion vil­lage of Rhu at the mouth of the Gare Loch.

Three clubs took part in the com­pe­ti­tion, Saints, their old friends, Greenock High School For­mer Pupils, and hosts, Rhu Am­a­teurs, with the teams play­ing each other once in matches last­ing 70 min­utes.

The Oban side were miss­ing skip­per, Marc Mac­Cal­lum, Thomas McCul­loch, Craig MacEwan, Keith Mil­lar and Dean Smith, but still man­aged to take a squad of 16 play­ers to the com­pe­ti­tion.

First up on the well-pre­pared but steeply slop­ing and very soft play­ing sur­face were Saints and Rhu. Saints made the break­through in the 12th minute. Jamie Graham made a good run cut­ting in from the left wing and slipped the ball to Lewis Cameron whose low cross from the left of the box was de­flected into his own net by a Rhu de­fender.

Af­ter a rak­ing Wil­lie Gem­mell pass from the back, Lewis and Jamie linked up again in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion to win a free kick when Jamie was tripped just out­side the box. Lewis curled the free kick around the wall to­wards the keeper’s bot­tom left-hand cor­ner and, de­spite the keeper get­ting both hands to it, he was un­able to keep the ball out of the net.

The Oban side were com­pletely dom­i­nant in this first pe­riod and added a third when another long pass from Wil­lie Gem­mell picked out Lewis Cameron’s run through the in­side left chan­nel.

With the de­fence beaten, a first time flick with the out­side of his right boot from Lewis caught the keeper ad­vanc­ing to­tally by sur­prise and the ball nes­tled in the bot­tom cor­ner of the net.

The Rhu de­fence was char­i­ta­ble with Ross Mait­land the grate­ful re­cip­i­ent pounc­ing on a wretch­edly short back pass to roll the ball into the net past the stranded keeper to make the score 4- 0 at half-time.

Man­ager, Alex Craik, de­ployed all four sub­sti­tutes at half-time send­ing on David McArthur, Matthew Kelly, Kevin Keen and Shaun MacIvor to re­place Jamie Graham, Paul Kerr, Lewis Cameron and Allan Mackay.

Saints started the sec­ond half ca­su­ally and were made to pay af­ter just sixty sec­onds when Stu­art McGil­livray sprung the Saints off­side trap for an easy fin­ish past Daniel Cas­sells.

On the hour mark, Saints got their fifth goal when Shaun MacIvor made a good run to get on the end of a ter­rific de­fence split­ting pass from Don­nie Camp­bell leav­ing the Rhu de­fence ap­peal­ing in vain for off­side as he rounded the keeper and steered the ball into the un­guarded net.

Ref­eree, James Gal­lacher, brought the first of his three matches to an end al­low­ing Saints a ten minute breather be­fore fac­ing the fresh legs of West of Scot­land Am­a­teur Cup hold­ers, Greenock High School For­mer Pupils.

Saints started the game against old friends the ‘ High’ with the same line-up as the first match with the ex­cep­tion of Jamie Graham who made way for David McArthur at left back. The Cen­tral Scot­tish Am­a­teur Football League Premier Di­vi­sion out­fit were to prove an en­tirely dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion to that posed by the hosts and a very even open­ing thirty five min­utes en­sued.

Saints were al­most caught out in the tenth minute by a swift High counter at­tack, but were saved by a timely Paul Kerr tackle on Stephen Bur­den at the ex­pense of a cor­ner. How­ever Saints failed to clear the dan­ger from the cor­ner kick from the High left and Michael McCol­gan bun­dled the ball over the line from close range.

Two min­utes later, Saints were back on level terms af­ter Ross Mait­land had won another cor­ner on the right this time from a Don­nie Camp­bell pass in­side the full back. Once again Ross de­liv­ered a good out swing­ing cross which was met by a ter­rific div­ing header into the net from Allan MacKay.

In the 23rd minute, Wil­lie Gem­mell picked up the only yel­low card of the en­tire af­ter­noon when ref­eree Gal­lacher, who han­dled pro­ceed­ings well through­out, fi­nally tired of his in­ces­sant ques­tion­ing of de­ci­sions.

The luck of the tour­na­ment draw saw Saints end the first half on 105 min­utes of con­tin­u­ous high tempo football, but with their op­po­nents on just 35 min­utes, the pen­du­lum was about to swing very much in High’s favour.

Low cross Four min­utes af­ter the restart there was noth­ing Daniel Cas­sells could do to pre­vent the High re­gain­ing the lead when a low cross from the right was turned in at the back post by Michael McCol­gan.

Greenock killed the game off when Stephen Bur­den de­liv­ered a cor­ner from the right which was cleared but only as far as Bur­den whose first time left foot strike from the cor­ner of the box fizzed past Daniel Cas­sells into the bot­tom cor­ner of the net.

Mo­ments later, Saints slipped fur­ther be­hind when a ter­rific Gor­don Smith strike from the edge of the D flew past Daniel Cas­sells giv­ing the big Saints keeper no chance. On 57 min- utes, Saints had some good buildup on the left, but with the ball scream­ing out to be cut back to Don­nie Camp­bell on the edge of the box, Allan MacKay elected to shoot from a tight an­gle send­ing his shot over the junction of post and bar. From the goal kick, the High again went long where Dene Cas­sells com­pletely mis­judged his at­tempted clear­ance slic­ing it into the path of the on­rush­ing Gor­don Smith who ea­gerly gob­bled up the chance to make it 5 - 1 to the High.

To their credit, Saints kept plug­ging away in a match they were now clearly not go­ing to get any­thing from, but men­tal fa­tigue was set­ting in and fail­ure to main­tain their shape was pre­sent­ing the High with chances to fur­ther ex­tend their ad­van­tage.

On the hour mark, Kevin Keen and Matthew Kelly came on to re­place Ross Mait­land and David McArthur with young Matthew fac­ing a baptism of fire in an un­fa­mil­iar left back role against the very ex­pe­ri­enced Barry Munro.

Saints man­aged two more at­tempts of note in the clos­ing fif­teen min­utes with Myles McAu­ley test­ing the keeper with a pow­er­ful run and shot and Don­nie Camp­bell hav­ing a de­cent long range ef­fort tipped over, but the match fin­ished with­out fur­ther scor­ing leav­ing Saints to hope for a home win in the fi­nal match.

The hosts put up a far bet­ter show­ing in the fi­nal match and were wor­thy of a share of the points against their more il­lus­tri­ous op­po­nents. How­ever Greenock pre­vailed thanks to a first half Stephen Bur­den strike earn­ing them the hand­some Mur­doch Gar­den­ing Ser­vices Tro­phy. Saints re­ceived some con­so­la­tion for their af­ter­noon’s work in the shape of the Player of the Tour­na­ment tro­phy awarded to Lewis Cameron.

Man­ager, Alex Craik, was happy enough with day. He said: ‘It was hard go­ing play­ing two 70 minute games back to back but good for fit­ness lev­els. We played re­aly well against Rhu and for the first half of the game against Greenock, but they are a good side and when we be­gan to tire and lose our shape they pun­ished us. I would have liked to have played them first when both teams were fresh.’

Saints face another busy day next Satur­day when they travel to Lochgilp­head for the Ar­gyll and Bute Cup be­fore the league sea­son kicks off on the fol­low­ing Satur­day with a home game against newly-pro­moted East Kil­bride.

Re­port and photos: Derek Black

BACK OF THE NET: Saints’ striker, Alan MacKay, on the ground, heads home Saints’ equaliser against Greenock HSFP last Satur­day.

WIN­NER: Oban Saints striker, Lewis Cameron, was voted Player of the Tour­na­ment

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