Saints and East Kil­bride draw a blank

The Oban Times - - Sport -

OBAN Saints opened their 201516 league cam­paign with a rare goal-less draw against newly pro­moted East Kil­bride Am­a­teurs at Glen­cruit­ten last Satur­day.

The Scot­tish Am­a­teur Football League Premier Di­vi­sion new boys were last sea­son’s Premier Di­vi­sion One cham­pi­ons and were fully ex­pected to pro­vide a stiff test for Saints own ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions.

With ev­ery player show­ing up well in pre-sea­son, man­ager Alex Craik, had some dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions to make in whit­tling his num­bers down to 16 for the match day squad and an even tougher job in se­lect­ing his first com­pet­i­tive start­ing 11.

On the most per­fect of play­ing sur­faces, beau­ti­fully pre­pared by the coun­cil’s grounds staff, Saints kicked off at­tack­ing the rail­way line end and forced the first cor­ner kick of the match af­ter just two min­utes.

Saints carved out a de­cent chance in the 10th minute get­ting in be­hind the EK back­line for the first time. Craig MacEwan played a neat pass in­side full back Stu­art Cox send­ing Scott Mait­land rac­ing to the bye­line where the Saints left back did well to dig out a cross. The cut back found Allan MacKay un­marked on the penalty spot but, with far more time than he re­alised, Allan planted his header wide of tar­get.

Both sides were pass­ing the ball well from the back and through the mid­field, but the vi­tal fi­nal pass in the at­tack­ing third was lack­ing.

It wasn’t un­til mid­way through the first half that Saints were again able to get be­hind the well- drilled EK de­fence and, when they did, Allan MacKay was again un­able to turn another good Scott Mait­land cut back on tar­get.

In be­tween times, Saints had two ef­forts from dis­tance, firstly Dene Cas­sells came strid­ing for­ward from cen­tral de­fence and fired in a pow­er­ful shot from fully 30 yards which looked to be on tar­get, but was de­flected wide of the dan­ger area.

On the half hour mark, EK had their best chance of the half when the im­pres­sive Di­ack’s turn on the eigh­teen yard line left Dene Cas­sells for dead and placed him one- on- one with Thomas McCul­loch. Di­ack elected to shoot first time, but the big keeper pro­duced the save of the match to fin­ger­tip the ball onto the in­side of his left-hand post.

Thomas re­acted quicker than the striker and was up in a flash to safely gather the re­bound in front of the posts.

Saints en­joyed a bet­ter spell to­wards the end of the half, but again couldn’t ap­ply the fin­ish­ing touch. In the 37th minute, Craig MacEwan chased down a pass back rob­bing the goal­keeper leav­ing him stranded wide of his goal line. Craig squared the ball to Allan MacKay but, with the Saints tar­get man just about to pull the trig­ger, EK cen­tral de­fender Gary McDowall got back to knick the ball off Allan’s toe.

Saints made a good start to the sec­ond half but were al­most caught out on the break when Jonny Di­ack beat Paul Kerr and sent a low cross from the left across the face of goal which, for­tu­nately for Saints, was slightly too heavy for the on­rush­ing Jamie Innes to con­nect with.

In the 49th minute, Martin Bonar ven­tured for­ward from right back and de­liv­ered a good cross into the box for Allan MacKay.

Allan’s hook shot was blocked on the six yard line and re­bounded to Don­ald Camp­bell, whose shot from the edge of the box was de­flected over the cross­bar for a cor­ner kick. Scott Mait­land and Craig MacEwan were link­ing up well on the left and Craig sent a tan­ta­lis­ing cross along the six yard line which Allan MacKay did well to reach at the back post, but couldn’t di­rect on tar­get.

Craig tried his luck him­self in the 64th minute when he burst into the box, but blasted his shot over the junction of post and bar.

Man­ager, Alex Craik, made his first change af­ter 68 min­utes bring­ing on Jamie Graham to re­place Martin Bonar at right back.

Jamie of­fered Saints a bit more go­ing for­ward, but his in­creased sense of ad­ven­ture left space for EK to ex­pose re­sult­ing in the best chance of the match in the 75th minute. Af­ter good work on the left, dan­ger­man Jonny Di­ack beat Marc Mac­Cal­lum wide on the edge of the box and squared to Scott McEwan for what should have been a rou­tine tap-in, but for­tu­nately for Saints, the EK man some­how man­aged to send the ball over the bar much to the re­lief of all in navy blue.

The man­ager made two fur­ther changes re­plac­ing Allan MacKay and Lewis Cameron with Shaun MacIver and Ross Mait­land, but the fresh legs could do noth­ing to change the out­come of the game.

With no fur­ther in­ci­dents of note in the clos­ing stages, ref­eree Alan Frame, who had en­joyed an easy af­ter­noon’s work, brought an even con­test to end with the hosts per­haps slightly lucky to es­cape with a point.

Alex Craik, said: ‘The game was pretty even. They had the bet­ter of the first half, but we had the bet­ter of the sec­ond. We both had chances, so I can’t be­lieve it stayed 0- 0.

‘We weren’t as sharp as we were in our pre-sea­son games.

‘ We looked a bit lethar­gic at times, but East Kil­bride were a good team so a draw was the right re­sult,’ he added.

This Satur­day, Saints travel to Bat­tery Park, Greenock, to take on In­ver­clyde in a league game. Kick- off is 2pm with ref­eree, Stephen Allan, in charge.

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