No hang­over as Saints stun last year’s Scot­tish Cup fi­nal­ists

The Oban Times - - Sport -

THERE was no sign of a new year hang­over as Saints re­turned to ac­tion af­ter the fes­tive break for their big­gest fix­ture of the sea­son so far at Glen­cruit­ten last Satur­day.

A tremen­dous all-round team per­for­mance earned the D&K Laf­ferty-spon­sored side a thor­oughly de­served 4-1 win over Craigshill This­tle, last sea­son’s beaten fi­nal­ists, in the Scot­tish Am­a­teur Cup fifth round, in­flict­ing the Liv­ingston side’s first de­feat of the sea­son in the process. Man­ager Alex Craik stuck with the same start­ing 11 that had beaten Postal United in the last round, with Dene Cas­sells and Keith Mil­lar re­turn­ing to join Alex, Al­lan MacKay and Scott Mait­land on the bench.

Look lively Saints started brightly and forced Craigshill keeper Robert Sin­clair into ac­tion in the se­cond minute with the big keeper hav­ing to look lively to punch a Wil­lie Gem­mell cross from the left off the head of David McArthur who had made a ter­rific run to the back post.

At the other end, Saints net­min­der Thomas McCul­loch saw his first ac­tion of the af­ter­noon in the sixth minute ris­ing con­fi­dently to catch a deep cross from ‘Jags’ right back Gary White.

Saints opened the scor­ing in the 13th minute af­ter two bril­liant saves from the vis­it­ing keeper led to a cor­ner. Don­ald Camp­bell rose eight yards out and, de­spite stretch­ing back, met Ross Mait­land's flighted de­liv­ery per­fectly find­ing the bot­tom cor­ner of the net with his header to give Saints the lead.

Tor­rid time

Ross Mait­land was giv­ing the Jags left back Robert McGre­gor a tor­rid time on the Saints right and in the 23rd minute he burst through the in­side right chan­nel onto a slide rule pass from Don­ald Camp­bell, once again leav­ing Robert McGre­gor trail­ing in his wake. Ross un­leashed a pow­er­ful swerv­ing shot which Robert Sin­clair could only parry into the path of Dean Smith who drilled the ball home to dou­ble Saints’ lead.

The vis­i­tors be­gan to ex­ert more of an in­flu­ence on the game and en­joyed a good pe­riod de­spite be­ing un­able to break down the Saints de­fence, al­though a free kick de­flected off the Saints wall and hit the junc­tion of the post and bar with Thomas McCul­loch strug­gling to get close.

Ref­eree James Gal­lacher, who was ex­cel­lent through­out, pro­duced his first yel­low card of the match in the 44th minute when a late Don­ald Camp­bell chal­lenge on the half way line brought a dan­ger­ous look­ing Craigshill counter at­tack to a halt.

It was def­i­nitely a case of Don­ald tak­ing ‘one for the team’ and proved to be worth­while as the free kick came to noth­ing and the half ended with Saints in a com­mand­ing 2 - 0 lead.

Saints made a storm­ing start to the se­cond half with a daz­zling 20 minute at­tack­ing dis­play which even­tu­ally made the tie safe.

Saints came close in the 48th minute when Dean Smith de­liv­ered an ex­cel­lent cross from the left, pick­ing out Ross Mait­land who had made a good run to the back post. The de­light­fully cush­ioned ef­fort off his in­step from Ross beat the keeper but slipped ag­o­nis­ingly wide of the post.

More per­sis­tence from Dean Smith in the 50th minute won a free kick 20 yards from goal and slightly left of cen­tre. Wil­lie Gem­mell took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the kick and curled a de­li­cious ef­fort around the wall and onto ex­actly the same spot on the junc­tion of post and bar that Craigshill had hit in the first half.

From a cor­ner on the right, Wil­lie then pro­duced his own ac­ro­bat­ics with a spec­tac­u­lar bi­cy­cle kick which beat Robert Sin­clair but the ball flew nar­rowly over the cross­bar.

Lobbed Dean Smith in­creased the home team’s lead in the 59th minute when he beat the Craigshill off­side trap.

He clev­erly lobbed the ad­vanc­ing keeper with the ball rolling into the un­guarded net for Dean’s se­cond and Saints third goal of the af­ter­noon.

In the 70th minute Fred­die Coyle brought down Dean Smith 22 yards from goal and right of cen­tre.

The an­gle didn’t favour a strike on goal from a right footer but Wil­lie Gem­mell once again took re­spon­si­bil­ity and curled a de­light­ful ef­fort around the wall and in off the keeper’s right hand post to give Saints a four-goal lead. In the 73rd minute, a good ball from Craig MacEwan found Don­ald Camp­bell who picked out Dean Smith in­side the box. With a hat trick firmly in his sights, Dean blazed over the bar when per­haps a lay off to the bet­ter placed Ross Mait­land would have been the bet­ter op­tion.

With the match over as a con­test, man­ager Alex Craik gave all his sub­sti­tutes some valu­able game time as the clock ran down.

In the 79th minute the ir­re­press­ible Don­ald Camp­bell won pos­ses­sion in­side the cen­tre cir­cle and threaded an­other de­fence split­ting pass send­ing Dene Cas­sells through on goal. Dene made a good run and squared the ball to Al­lan Mackay on the edge of the box whose shot was charged down and the dan­ger cleared.

The con­so­la­tion goal for the vis­i­tors came with just four min­utes of the 90 re­main­ing. Sub­sti­tute Mark Ship­ton made an ex­cel­lent run up the left wing and crossed low across the face of goal past the de­spair­ing dive of Thomas MacCul­loch for fel­low sub Ja­son McGowan to ham­mer the ball into the un­guarded net. Saints com­fort­ably saw out the re­main­ing time plus the three ad­di­tional min­utes added by Mr Gal­lacher to se­cure their place in the sixth round where a trip to face Cen­tral Scot­tish Am­a­teur Foot­ball League side Stir­ling City awaits.

Man­ager Alex Craik was de­lighted by the re­sult but more im­por­tantly by the per­for­mance of his team.

He said: ‘ We were ex­cel­lent to­day.

‘Ev­ery­one played their part in a great team per­for­mance. We de­fended well when we had to and al­ways looked dan­ger­ous go­ing for­ward.

‘Make no mis­take about it, that was a big scalp we took.

‘If we can keep up that level of foot­ball then we are ca­pa­ble of do­ing re­ally well in the the cup this year.’

It’s back to league ac­tion for Saints on Satur­day when they travel to play East Kil­bride Rolls Royce at The Mur­ray, kick- off 2pm.

Pho­tos: Stephen Law­son. Match re­port: Derek Black

Saints’ striker Dean Smith is mobbed by his team mates af­ter scor­ing the third goal against Craigshill.

De­ter­mi­na­tion writ­ten all over Craig MacEwan’s face as he races

past two Craigshill de­fend­ers.

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