Injury-hit Saints struggle but still march on in Scottish Cup
‘ We can’t be turning in performances like that against better opposition or we would get absolutely murdered’
FC Clydebank 1 Oban Saints 3 Scotish Cup – third round
OBAN Saints booked their place in the Scottish Amateur Cup fourth round draw with a hard-fought third round victory over FC Clydebank in Bearsden last Saturday.
Despite the date, there was no fireworks in a very sporting contest which saw Saints bang in three goals to see them safely through to the next round.
With nine players missing for various reasons, and several others nursing injuries, manager Alex Craik had his selection options severely curtailed. Despite a badly bruised right foot, Jamie Graham once again lined up at left back alongside Dene Cassells, captain Marc Maccallum and David McArthur, who made up the back four. Injury concerns for Paul Kerr and Brian Mackay were bravely brushed aside as they joined Willie Gemmell in midfield. Up front, Dean Smith led the line flanked by Ross Maitland and Craig MacEwan. In goal was Thomas McCulloch, looking for a third consecutive clean sheet. Lack of numbers once again forced the gaffer to name himself on the bench where he had youngsters Matthew Kelly and Fraser MacFarlane for company.
Saints skipper Maccallum won the toss of referee Michael Auld’s coin and elected to switch ends, giving the opposition the problem of dealing with the bright low sun in the first half.
The Bankies kicked off on the large grass surface which was in good condition despite some recent heavy rain.
Saints settled into their passing game early without being able to find any penetration. Bankies danger man Kevin McInally gave an early indication of the threat he would pose on the right wing, forcing Marc Maccallum into a block to concede a fifth-minute corner kick which Thomas McCulloch did well to hold under pressure from Gavin Mcqueen.
McCulloch was in action again two minutes later making a comfortable save from a Mark Bird effort who didn’t quite make the connection he would have liked with a low shot from 25 yards.
Craig MacEwan returned the compliment at the other end, cutting inside from the left after being picked out by Willie Gemmell only to miscue a weak effort straight at Lewis Wood in the Bankies goal.
Saints looked ready now to pick up the tempo with Dean Smith slipping a good ball into the box for Craig MacEwan to run on to. However, Craig couldn’t get the ball under control quickly enough and was closed down by the Bankies defence.
Dene Cassells sent Jamie Graham tearing up the left wing in the ninth minute but there was no takers for Jamie’s dangerous cut-back.
A patient 12th-minute passing move started by Paul Kerr inside his own half led to another cutback from Jamie Graham on the left which this time found Brian Mackay inside the Bankies box. Mackay made space for a shot but saw his effort blocked by the combined efforts of Kyle Cruickshank, Martin Fleming and Andrew Weir.
David McArthur moved forward to join the attack for a 14th minute corner after good work on the left by Dean Smith. McArthur was able to get his head on Ross Maitland’s in-swinger from the left but couldn’t generate the power to beat Lewis Wood, who made a simple catch.
Saints continued to ask most of the first-half questions but remained unable to put the Bankies goal under serious threat.
Saints made the breakthrough in the 38th minute when David McArthur made a good interception on the halfway line, launching a swift Saints counter attack. McArthur played the ball up to Craig MacEwan on the right, who held the ball up well before rolling it back to Brian Mackay. Mackay then threaded a defence-splitting pass for Dean Smith who ran in behind the Bankies defence to slot the ball past the exposed Lewis Wood.
Saints survived one further scare before ending the half one goal to the good. Andrew Campbell robbed Marc Maccallum on the left and raced in to fire in a dangerous low ball across the face of goal which Dene Cassells did well to cut out before it could reach Allan Sillars.
Jamie Graham found himself unable to continue and was replaced for the start of the second half by Matthew Kelly, who took up the right back berth which he had filled so well against Petershall Villa two weeks previously. David McArthur moved across to fill the left back slot vacated by Jamie.
Ross Maitland thought he had doubled the Saints lead in the 46th minute when his deflected shot from 20 yards left Lewis Wood hopelessly wrong-footed but the ball slipped inches wide of the base of Wood’s left hand post.
In the 52nd minute, Kevin McInally easily tricked his way past David McArthur and only an excellent save from Thomas McCulloch, diving full length to his right, preserved the Saints lead.
The home side had their tails up now and had a disjointed Saints pinned back in their own half. A measured pass from Gavin Mcqueen sent Allan Sillars through on goal, pursued by Dene Cassells who was relieved to see Thomas McCulloch sliding out to smother the ball at the feet of the Bankies striker.
Failure to clear their lines properly heaped more pressure on the Saints defence in the 67th minute with a weak headed clearance from Ross Maitland landing at the feet of Mark Bird, who failed to test Thomas McCulloch, sending a snatched effort wide of target.
With manager Alex Craik threatening to burst a blood vessel on the touchline, Saints finally started to get back into the game and launched a swift counter-attack from a Dene Cassells interception on the halfway line. Brian Mackay raced forward and had his net-bound effort turned behind by a timely block from Kyle Cruickshank.
Craig MacEwan and Dean Smith carved out a 74th-minute chance with Dean’s cut back from the deadball line agonisingly out of reach for Craig racing in at the near post.
Ross Maitland was extremely unfortunate to be given offside from what appeared to be a perfectly-timed run to beat the Bankies offside trap. Willie Gemmell continued his protests too long for Mr Auld’s liking, earning him the only yellow card of the match.
With 10 minutes remaining, manager Craik made his second change, introducing Fraser MacFarlane to replace Dean Smith. This proved to be an inspired decision by the Saints gaffer as young Fraser pounced on a loose ball in the Bankies box in the 83rd minute to fire Saints into a two-goal lead. A frantic few minutes ensued as the game entered its closing stages.
Allan Sillars threatened to burst into the Saints box but was halted by an excellent sliding challenge from Marc Maccallum at the expense of a corner. Kevin McInally and Andrew Campbell worked a quick short corner kick routine which caught the Saints defence completely unawares with Campbell advancing along the goal line and cutting the ball back to Ross Hollinsworth, who hooked the ball into the net past the bemused Thomas McCulloch to make the score 2-1.
From the restart, Willie Gemmell spotted Lewis Wood off his goal line and attempted to lob the keeper from the halfway line, only narrowly failing to hit the target.
Saints kept the pressure on from Wood’s goalkick with Brian Mackay drawing a desperate tackle from Kyle Cruickshank to prevent the Saints man from breaking through on goal. Willie Gemmell lined up the free kick 20 yards from goal and slightly left of centre. Unable to find the target with any of his previous efforts from open play, Willie made absolutely no mistake with the deadball, placing it perfectly into the postage stamp corner beyond the despairing dive of Lewis Wood.
Manager Alex Craik then joined the action replacing Brian Mackay in his third and final change. The gaffer took up an unfamiliar position in the Saints midfield to help his charges see out the final two minutes plus the additional three allowed by referee Auld.
Saints survived one final scare when Gavin Mcqueen skipped past Alex Craik and sent a looping shot over the head of Thomas McCulloch onto the top of the crossbar and behind for a goalkick. Mr Auld, who had a good game made easy by both sets of players, decided he had seen enough and blew for full-time.
While lacking the fluency of the previous weekend’s win over reigning Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division champions East Kilbride FC, the Oban lads worked hard for this victory over an improving FC Clydebank side who can now concentrate fully on their Central Scottish Amateur Football League Divsion 1A campaign.
Manager Alex Craik was delighted with the result but not with the performance of his team. He said: ‘To be brutally honest, we were pretty poor today. There seemed to be a lack of urgency about the team. It looked like we were playing a pre-season friendly. We can’t be turning in performances like that against better opposition or we would get absolutely murdered.’
The manager will be hoping to have more players back for this Saturday’s game which is a return to league business with a first trip to face Drumchapel Amateurs Colts at Glenhead Park, Duntocher.
Matty Kelly and Willie Gemmell congratulate Fraser MacFarlane after he scored Saints second goal in last Saturday’s Scottish Cup tie against FC Clydebank.
Brian Mackay takes on Clydebank’s Kevin McInally.