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’

The Oban Times - - SPORT -

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.

Pho­tos and match re­port: Derek Black

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.

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