Oban Saints field young side in pre-sea­son friendly

The Oban Times - - Sport -

LOB­BY­ISTS for sum­mer foot­ball re­ceived a stark re­minder that the Scot­tish weather is no re­specter of sea­sons as Saints and Vale of Leven Ju­niors played out an en­ter­tain­ing friendly match in foul weather con­di­tions at Glen­cruit­ten last Satur­day. As was the case when Vale came vis­it­ing last year, heavy rain on the eve of the match ne­ces­si­tated an early morn­ing pitch in­spec­tion which Glen­cruit­ten 1, nor­mally re­served for matches with the oval ball, passed with fly­ing colours with the im­mac­u­lately pre­pared sur­face hold­ing up well dur­ing the match.

In­juries and hol­i­day com­mit­ments, in­clud­ing those of man­ager Alex Craik, gave the Saints line-up an un­fa­mil­iar look, par­tic­u­larly on the bench, where in charge for the day as­sis­tant man­ager Don­ald Campbell named young­sters Jay Cooper, Daniel Croarkin, Fraser MacFar­lane and 15-year- old Lewis Buchanan along­side ex­pe­ri­enced trio Gra­ham Dou­glas, Sean Ford and El­liot Dou­gal.

De­spite the ab­sence of eight or nine key play­ers, the start­ing XI was a strong one and in­cluded wel­come re­turns from long in­jury lay- offs for Martin Bonar and Myles McAu­ley. The ver­sa­tile Martin slot­ted in at right full back, mak­ing up the back four along­side Jamie Gra­ham, Wil­lie Gem­mell and Scott Mait­land. Myles took up his usual po­si­tion in the mid­dle of the park, with Paul Kerr and young Matthew Kelly for com­pany. Cap­tain for the day Don­ald Campbell joined Ross Mait­land and Dean Smith in at­tack with goal­keeper Thomas McCul­loch com­plet­ing the start­ing XI.

Saints set­tled quickly into their stride with Don­ald Campbell and Dean Smith com­bin­ing well on the left to carve out an op­por­tu­nity for Ross Mait­land who sliced an ex­cel­lent chance hor­ri­bly wide from just in­side the Vale box.

The vis­i­tors took the lead in the sixth minute from an in­nocu­ous look­ing deep cross from the right wing by Adam Mon­aghan. Thomas McCul­loch elected to stay on his line al­low­ing Mon­aghan’s cross to reach Scott Cowan who out­jumped Jamie Gra­ham at the back post to head the ball back across goal for Craig Cowan to nod into the net from three yards out.

De­spite the early re­verse Saints con­tin­ued to im­press against their semi-pro­fes­sional op­po­nents and pre­sented Vale keeper Scott Mor­ri­son, who played for Ar­broath last sea­son, with his first test of the af­ter­noon in the ninth minute.

Scott Mait­land made good progress on the left wing but, find­ing his path blocked by full back Devine, cut the ball back to Paul Kerr. Paul picked out Ross Mait­land, who shifted the ball to his right open­ing up the an­gle for a low shot from 22 yards which Mor­ri­son at full stretch tipped round his left hand post for a cor­ner.

Ross took the kick from the right and found the head of Martin Bonar who was un­able to re­peat his scor­ing feat from last year’s fix­ture, with Scott Mor­ri­son ini­tially par­ry­ing Martin’s ef­fort be­fore gath­er­ing safely at the sec­ond at­tempt.

Foot­ball

The move­ment of the Saints front three was keep­ing the Vale de­fence on their toes with Don­ald Campbell pro­duc­ing good work on the left in the 25th minute to set up a chance for Ross Mait­land. Un­for­tu­nately Ross couldn’t get the ball un­der con­trol on the edge of the six-yard box with the loose ball break­ing to­wards Dean Smith who could only turn a very dif­fi­cult op­por­tu­nity wide of Mor­ri­son’s right hand post.

Mor­ri­son made a fan­tas­tic dou­ble save three min­utes later to deny Don­ald Campbell and Dean Smith. Don­ald made a pow­er­ful run at the heart of the Vale de­fence be­fore un­leash­ing a shot which Mor­ri­son saved low down to his right. Dean Smith was first to the loose ball but the big keeper was quickly back on his feet to block Dean’s ef­fort at his near post at the ex­pense of a cor­ner kick.

Ross Mait­land once again found the head of Martin Bonar from the cor­ner flag whose knock down fell kindly for Don­ald Campbell who un­for­tu­nately couldn’t keep his shot down, send­ing the ball soar­ing high over the cross­bar from 10 yards out.

The Oban side even­tu­ally got their re­ward for their first half ex­er­tions de­servedly draw­ing level five min­utes be­fore the break. Myles McAu­ley threaded a per­fectly weighted through ball for Don­ald Campbell’s run through the in­side left chan­nel. Last sea­son’s top scorer made no mis­take, calmly pass­ing the ball into the bot­tom cor­ner of the net past the Vale keeper’s de­spair­ing left hand.

McAu­ley was in­volved again at the other end when he was pe­nalised by ref­eree Lit­ster 28 yards from his own goal. Lee McGeachy curled the free kick around the Saints’ wall draw­ing an ex­cel­lent save from Thomas McCul­loch div­ing full length to his left to send the teams into the half-time in­ter­val on level terms.

With man­ager Alex Craik on hol­i­day, team af­fairs were in the hands of as­sis­tant man­ager Don­ald Campbell who used the sec­ond half to give his en­tire bench a good run out. Gra­ham Dou­glas came on to re­place Thomas McCul­loch in goal and con­tin­ued the good form he showed in the D&K Laf­ferty Cup two weeks pre­vi­ously.

Not­with­stand­ing the raft of changes made by both sides and the wors­en­ing weather con­di­tions, the sec­ond half main­tained the high tempo of the first 45.

The hour mark was the sig­nal for Saints to make five changes, with­draw­ing Martin Bonar. Matthew Kelly, Paul Kerr, Myles McAu­ley and Dean Smith and in­tro­duc­ing a mixed bag of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence con­sist­ing of Jay Cooper and Fraser MacFar­lane, who had fea­tured in the D&K Laf­ferty Cup, debu­tant Daniel Croarkin, Sean Ford and El­liot Dou­gal.

With 20 min­utes re­main­ing Saints made their fi­nal change in­tro­duc­ing 15- year- old Lewis Buchanan for his first-team de­but re­plac­ing Ross Mait­land on the right wing.

Don­ald Campbell al­most dou­bled his tally mak­ing a good run from the right in the 77th minute to meet a de­fence split­ting di­ag­o­nal pass from Wil­lie Gem­mell. Don­ald’s first time shot left the keeper flat footed but slipped nar­rowly wide of the far post.

The Saints young­sters were cer­tainly not over­awed by the oc­ca­sion and showed up well against their more ex­pe­ri­enced op­po­nents with Jay Cooper com­ing close to net­ting a late win­ner cut­ting in from the left and forc­ing Vale keeper Mor­ri­son into a smart save at his near post.

Ref­eree Jimmy Lit­ster, who had en­joyed an easy af­ter­noon’s work, brought a good na­tured con­test to an end with hon­ours even and plenty of pos­i­tives for both sides to take into their next warm-up fix­tures.

Saints’ next op­po­nents, St An­thony’s, are also from the Ju­nior ranks and visit Glen­cruit­ten 1 this com­ing Satur­day af­ter­noon. Kick- off is 2pm with ref­eree Martin Rae in charge.

Match re­port and photos: Derek Black

Wil­lie Gem­mell and Dean Smith ap­peal for a penalty in the first half but ref­eree Jimmy Lis­ter, who had a good game, wasn’t in­ter­ested.

Photo: Kevin McG­lynn

Martin Bonar clears the ball from Vale of Leven goalscorer Craig Cowan.

Saints’ keeper Thomas McCul­loch makes a great save div­ing low to his left hand side.

15-year- old Lewis Buchanan and Fraser MacFar­lane in ac­tion.

Young Daniel Croarkin played well on his de­but.

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