Dougal’s wonder strike helps Saints win Marshall Cup
AFTER finally laying to rest their Millburn Park hoodoo against Motherwell Thistle on Wednesday May 11, Saints made a swift return to Alexandria and the home of Vale of Leven Juniors last Friday night to face cup holders St Joseph’s FP in the final of the Scottish Amateur Football League Jimmy Marshall Cup.
Saints and St Joe’s held a dress rehearsal for this fixture in Oban seven days previously with the men from Duntocher running out convincing winners albeit only by a 2-1 scoreline.
Manager Alex Craik’s options were given a timely boost when skipper Marc MacCallum declared himself fit enough to start his first match since the league draw away at Alba Thistle on April 27. The gaffer was also relieved to see Scott Maitland come through his tour of duty with the Scottish Amateur Football Association Select in Lithuania unscathed, fit and raring to go.
Scott went straight into the starting XI where Alex pulled off a tactical surprise by deploying him on the left of a midfield diamond anchored by Paul Kerr with Keith Millar on the right and Paul Carmichael at the point.
Saints squandered the first of several good opportunities in the 14th minute when Dean Smith, inside the six-yard box, could get only the slightest of touches on a low Scott Maitland cross from the left leaving Lee Mitchell with an easy save.
Saints were almost made to pay immediately for this missed chance with a lightning quick St Joe’s counter attack which was eventually halted on the edge of his own box by an excellent sliding interception from Marc MacCallum at the expense of a corner kick.
If there was one complaint against an otherwise good allround opening 20 minutes from the Oban side, it was their tendency to give away possession from their own throw-ins.
St Joe’s captain Colin Gailey picked up the first of what was to be many yellow cards for his side in the 39th minute for a late challenge on Paul Kerr.
Saints were eventually rewarded for their first half dominance with just one minute of the 45 remaining. Paul Kerr swung in a free kick and found the head of Dene Cassells. Dene’s header looped back across the face of the six-yard box and was watched all the way by Dean Smith who took it down and fired in a right foot shot which Lee Mitchell saved magnificently. Unluckily for the St Joe’s keeper, his two-handed push up into the air failed to clear the crossbar and came down nicely for Paul Carmichael to nod into the net from virtually on the goal-line to make the half time score 1- 0.
The realisation that the Jimmy Marshall Trophy was heading towards joining the Centenary Cup and Premier Division title in slipping through their hands led St Joe’s into making some uncharacteristically bad challenges with Kearn Docherty joining the growing list of miscreants in the referee’s notebook for another heavy tackle on Scott Maitland who was taking more than his fair share of punishment.
The almost inevitable red card for St Joe’s arrived in the 53rd minute with Colin Gailey clattering into Marc MacCallum. Mr McCart awarded a free-kick to Saints and a second yellow to the St Joe’s skipper who might well have expected to receive a straight red.
St Joe’s fullback Craig Cameron was treading a fine disciplinary line and was lucky to escape a second yellow for a late 61st minute challenge on Scott Maitland on the half-way line which Mr McCart deemed worthy only of a free-kick.
However, Cameron’s disciplinary high wire act eventually came to grief in the 67th minute when he injudiciously hauled back Paul Carmichael 10 yards inside the St Joe’s half picking up a second yellow card in the process.
Although down to nine men St Joe’s were certainly in no mood to give up their push for an equaliser but their lack of numbers at the back and in midfield presented Saints with several more opportunities to stretch their advantage.
Saints’ second and killer goal came in the 72nd minute in a moment of inspiration from Dougal Graham. Not for the first time Dougal found himself higher up the park and far more central than his manager would have liked. With the St Joe’s defence backpedalling, Dougal spotted Lee Mitchell off his line and without breaking stride sensationally lobbed the ball from 40 yards over the keeper’s head and into the empty net.
St Joe’s policy of gambling at the back and looking for the quick counter attack finally paid off with eight minutes remaining. A free kick conceded by Paul Kerr 30 yards from goal and left of centre presented Ryan Craig with a chance to test Thomas McCulloch. Thomas had already produced two ex- cellent saves to keep St Joe’s at bay but this time, despite getting two strong hands to the ball low down at his right hand post, he only succeeded in pushing the ball into his own net.
A miserable night for St Joe’s was completed in the 90th minute when Ryan Craig took exception to Craig MacEwan and Ross Maitland playing keep-ball by the corner flag and launched an over exuberant tackle on Craig which earned his second and his team’s 10th yellow card of the evening.
There were solid all-round performances from all in navy blue but an eye- catching display at left back coupled with his second half wonder strike earned Dougal Graham the man of the match award which was presented by retiring Scottish Amateur Football League president Frank McCann.
A jubilant Oban Saints squad celebrate after their 2-1 win over St Joseph’s FP in the final of the Jimmy Marshall Cup last Friday evening at Millburn Park, Alexandria.
Oban Saints captain Marc MacCallum with the impressive Jimmy Marshall Cup.
Saints defender Dougal Graham receives the man of the match award from Scottish Amateur Football League president Frank McCann.