Saints and East Kilbride draw a blank
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.