Oban Saints pay the penalty
SAFL Premier Division
TWO PERFECTLY executed free kicks and a stoppage time penalty save consigned Saints to a second consecutive away league defeat at Scotstoun Sports Campus last Saturday afternoon.
Hosts Drumchapel Colts quickly cancelled out Paul Carmichael’s fifth-minute opener and completed the turnaround two minutes into the second half before successfully shutting up shop to repel a second-half Saints onslaught.
Injuries once again forced manager Alex Craik to ring the changes, with Jamie Graham and Paul Kerr dropping out from the squad which squeezed past FC Clydebank in the Scottish Amateur Cup the week previously. However, the gaffer was able to add Donald Campbell, Dougal Graham, Paul Carmichael and Scott Maitland to the travelling party.
Saints got proceedings under way playing into the bright low sun and opened the scoring after just five minutes. Paul Carmichael pushed forward from midfield and won a throw in on the right. Dean Smith collected the throw in and fed Brian Mackay, who slipped a perfectly weighted through ball for Paul Carmichael. Paul’s well-timed run left the Colts’ back four appealing in vain for offside and, from a tight angle, the Saints man rifled a shot across keeper Scott Urquhart and in off the inside of the far post.
The home side came roaring back, forcing Thomas McCulloch to tip over a Josh White shot from 25 yards. From the resulting corner, Joseph Preston climbed above David McArthur but sent his header a foot over the crossbar.
Paul Carmichael was harshly penalised for an 11th-minute challenge on Scott Peters just inside the Colts half and, to add insult to injury, referee Mr Kelso then produced the first of a flurry of yellow cards which threatened to ruin a full-blooded but sporting encounter between two fully committed teams.
The free kick was knocked up to the edge of the Saints box by Scott Fitzpatrick, where David McArthur was deemed to have impeded Joseph Preston and also found his way into Mr Kelso’s notebook. Matthew Armstrong lined up the free kick from 26 yards and expertly lifted the ball over the four-man Saints wall and into the bottom corner past Thomas McCulloch’s despairing right hand to level the score at 1-1.
Saints threatened to hit back in the 15th minute from a free kick won by Scott Maitland just inside the Drum half. Willie Gemmell played the ball up to Craig MacEwan on the left of the box. Craig tricked his way past Scott Fitzpatrick and sent a low cross into the danger area where Brian Mackay had made a good run. Unfortunately, Brian’s finish didn’t match the quality of his run and his scuffed effort was easily fielded by Scott Urquhart.
Drumchapel fullbacks Scott Fitzpatrick and Greg Cross were looking to push forward to join the attack at every opportunity with opposite numbers Matthew Kelly and David McArthur only too keen to reciprocate. In the 23rd minute, McArthur was inches away from connecting at the back post with a good deep cross from Kelly on the right.
Joseph Preston became the first of the home side to fall foul of the card-happy referee for a 35th-minute foul on Craig MacEwan. Willie Gemmell again took responsibility for the set-piece but couldn’t pick out either Dene Cassells or Craig MacEwan with a lofted ball to the back post, with Scott Urquhart making a good catch.
As the half wore on, Saints seemed to lose their way, handing the initiative to the home side. Marc Maccallum produced a perfectly timed last- ditch challenge to halt Joseph Preston’s run into the box in the 42nd minute. Mr Kelso dismissed loud penalty claims from the Colts players, instead pointing to the corner flag.
The home side maintained the upper hand right up to the half-time whistle, drawing a fine diving save from Thomas McCulloch in the 44th minute to deny Joseph Preston.
The second half began in disastrous fashion for Saints with a highly controversial decision from referee Kelso at the heart of it. Paul Carmichael was penalised for a shirt tug which only Mr Kelso saw. While the referee was lecturing Donald Campbell and Peter MacCallum on the touchline for disputing his decision, Robert Bell stole a couple of yards which heightened the sense of injustice in the Saints camp. Bell emulated the feat of Matthew Armstrong in the first half and lifted the ball expertly up and over the wall, leaving Thomas McCulloch too much ground to make up to his left and giving the home side the lead. To rub salt into the wound, Saints skipper Marc Maccallum was added to the growing list of cautions for continuing his protestations too long for the referee’s liking.
Wounded by this reverse, Saints finally took the game by the scruff of the neck and piled forward in search of an equaliser. Scott Maitland rifled in a shot from 25 yards which was blocked behind for a corner kick. Matthew Kelly’s delivery from the right was cleared but only as far as Brian Mackay, who returned the ball to the danger area where Paul Carmichael’s knock- down was met by Dean Smith, whose net-bound effort was blocked by Sunil Chatterjee.
Smith tried again in the 56th minute, slicing a spectacular attempted bicycle kick from a Craig MacEwan right-wing cross off target. This proved to be Dean’s last involvement as he and David McArthur made way for Donald Campbell and Dougal Graham.
Saints kept up the pressure on the Colts defence and had two penalty kick appeals in quick succession dismissed by Mr Kelso. First, Paul Carmichael appeared to be felled from behind, giving the referee a very close decision to make. Secondly, Donald Campbell went down too easily in the referee’s opinion, earning the Saints’ substitute a yellow card for simulation.
The Colts were defending in depth with only Joseph Preston left up front to fight for the long ball from the back. In the 66th minute, Matthew Kelly intercepted one such long ball with a well-timed header to launch another Saints attack. Donald Campbell, Willie Gemmell and Craig MacEwan combined well for Craig to pick out Paul Carmichael’s run into the box. Paul held off a challenge from Greg Cross and from six yards left Scott Urquhart rooted to the spot only to see his first-time effort slip agonisingly wide of the keeper’s right hand post.
The Saints onslaught continued with a back-pedalling Urquhart showing safe hands to gather a looping Willie Gemmell effort under his crossbar.
In the 77th minute, Dene Cassells flashed a header over the Colts’ crossbar from a Willie Gemmell free kick after Craig MacEwan had been fouled 10 yards inside the Colts half. A driving run into the box from Donald Campbell in the 78th minute was met by a vital interception by Sunil Chaterjee at the expense of a corner kick.
Before the action could restart, manager Alex Craik made his third and final change, bringing on Ross Maitland to replace Brian Mackay. The first involvement for Ross was to take the corner kick from the right but his delivery was headed clear at the near post by Greg Cross.
Ross fared better with a cross on the run one minute later, picking out Paul Carmichael in the middle whose header flew wide of the keeper’s left-hand post. The wee man was in the thick of the action again in the 81st minute, having a header from a Willie Gemmell free kick tipped over the crossbar by Scott Urquhart.
Kicking the ball away at a throw-in and talking back to the referee at a free kick saw Sunil Chaterjee and Josh White join the ever- expanding list of cautions in the 84th and 85th minutes respectively.
Ross Maitland once again got the better of Greg Cross on the right wing and sent in an inviting ball for Donald Campbell who saw his effort from 10 yards well saved by Scott Urquhart.
With so many yellow cards in the game, it was perhaps inevitable that somebody would see red and that dubious honour fell to Joseph Preston for, in Mr Kelso’s opinion, a second yellow card offence in the 88th minute.
Saints continued their bombardment of the home goal into the four added minutes and looked to have secured the slice of luck they required to break down the stuffy Drum defence when Donald Campbell was pulled back in the process of shooting in the box. Mr Kelso immediately pointed to the penalty spot and took the name of Scott Urquhart for vehemently disputing the decision.
The Drum ’keeper, however, regained his composure to make an excellent diving save to his right to keep out Donald Campbell’s spot kick and deny Saints a deserved share of the points.
Manager Craik was bitterly disappointed with the result. He said: ‘It was a cracking game against a good side. The first half was pretty even but we dominated for long spells in the second half, but failed to capitalise on three or four good chances.’
Saints were due to take on Auchinleck Boswell at Glencruitten in the West of Scotland Cup on Saturday but the Ayrshire side have scratched from the competition, so unfortunately the Oban lads will not have a game this weekend.
Paul Carmichael, No 6, wheels away after putting Saints in front against Drumchapel Colts at Scotstoun Sports Campus last Saturday.
Saints keeper Thomas McCulloch is well beaten by Robert Bell’s free kick.
Drumchapel keeper Scott Urquhart saves Donald Campbell’s last-minute penalty.