Impressive display as Saints beat last year’s league champions
OBAN Saints moved to the top of the SAFL Premier Division after an empathic victory over last year’s league champions East Kilbride at Glencruitten last Saturday.
Three second half goals were enough to secure all three points for the Oban side and secure their second clean sheet in as many games.
The manager was forced into two changes from the previous Saturday’s 8- 0 win over Petershall Villa. Craig Campbell and Matty Kelly dropped out through injury, so David McArthur and Jamie Graham took over the full back berths. Making a welcome return to the squad was Donald Campbell who has been unavailable for the last few games and Ross Maitland who had recovered from ’flu.
Dene Cassells was first to get the home fans cheering when he intercepted a pass, intended for Bob Thanda, deep in his own half. He charged up the pitch and slipped the ball to Willie Gemmell but East Kilbride’s defence were well set up and cleared the danger.
A slack pass from David McArthur fell to East Kilbride’s captain Gavin Thomson who played a low pass to Johnny Diack on the edge of the Saints box but Marc MacCallum made it dificult for the East Kilbride striker to get a shot on target.
Cassells then intercepted the ball in the middle of the park, before passing to Jamie Graham who fired in a great cross with Craig MacEwan just inches away from making contact.
Saints continued to apply pressure to the East Kilbride defence and a direct run from Brian McKay allowed him to cut the ball back to Scott Maitland, who was positioned on the edge of the box, but Maitland couldn’t keep his shot down and it sailed over the bar.
East Kilbride left back Thomson skipped past Willie Gemmell and played the ball to Diack, who played a great first time pass into the path of Jamie Innes, but his effort on goal was blocked and Marc MacCallum was on hand to mop up and clear the ball over his own crossbar.
Saints surged upfield in the 31st minute and MacEwan played the ball through to MacKay who was clear through on goal but he shot straight at East Kilbride keeper Ross Meldrum and a great chance was missed.
A Willie Gemmell free kick from the centre circle found the head of Paul Carmichael who jostled his way to the front post but the Saints’ striker’s effort didn’t trouble keeper Meldrum.
In the 39th minute, MacEwan and Carmichael combined to send MacKay through but the Saints front man over-ran the ball and his tame effort was collected by keeper Meldrum
The visitors had the first opportunity of the second half. Lee Ferguson played a deep cross into the box that found Thanda who connected well forcing a diving save from McCulloch.
A dazzling run from MacEwan led to the first goal of the afternoon. He turned his man inside out before hitting a shot that left Meldrum with no chance. His effort rattled off the inside of the post but a well positioned Scott Maitland was on hand to head the ball into the back of the net from six yards.
Saints increased their lead when Donald Campbell, who had come on for Brian MacKay, intercepted the ball in the East Kilbride half. He passed to MacEwan, who drilled the ball low towards the goal. His shot was blocked but again it fell kindly for Maitland who headed the ball into the back of the net for his second goal of the match.
East Kilbride’s Ross Campbell created a rare second-half opportunity to get his side back into the match. He took the ball down on the edge of the box and stuck a well-hit half volley but his shot went straight at keeper McCulloch.
Carmichael thought he had sealed the points for Saints. A long goal kick from McCulloch bounced into the path of Maitland, who flicked the ball over the top to Campbell in the box, which was intercepted, but the defender’s header spun wide to Carmichael who rattled the ball in to the top corner of the net.
But referee Jimmy Litster, who had a good game, had already blown for offside.
This was Carmichael’s last contribution as he gave way to Dean Smith.
Smith made an immediate impact. The ball was played to him in the box but as he turned he was brought down by keeper Meldrum, leaving the referee no option but to point to the spot.
Campbell stepped up and drilled the ball home to make it three goals and three points for Saints.
With the points in the bag, MacEwan was replaced by Fraser McFarlane and Gemmell made way for Ross Maitland.
After the game, manager Alex Craik said: ‘It was a great all -round team performance. It’s a good result against a team that have won five league titles in a row. I’m very happy. It’s good to get a clean sheet into the bargain.’
Saints travel to face FC Clydebank this Saturday in the third round of the Scottish Amateur Cup. The game will take place at Thorn Park, Bearsden, with a 2pm kick- off. Referee in charge is Michael Auld.
Scott Maitland, far left, looks on as he sees his header hit the back of the net to put his team 2- 0 in front.