Saints teach Pupils scor­ing les­son in a feisty Argyll derby en­counter

The Oban Times - - Sport -

LAST Satur­day’s Argyll derby de­fied the win­ter weather, and was the only Scot­tish Am­a­teur Foot­ball League Pre­mier Divi­sion fix­ture to do so. With the grass at Kin­tyre Park out of ac­tion, the match went ahead on the ex­cel­lent all-weather sur­face at Kinloch Green, which it­self had sur­vived a lib­eral coat­ing of snow on the eve of the match.

Saints took full ad­van­tage of their fel­low ti­tle- chasers’ in­ac­tiv­ity climb­ing to sec­ond place in the ta­ble, one point be­hind lead­ers and reign­ing cham­pi­ons East Kil­bride Am­a­teurs on the back of a hard-fought but ul­ti­mately con­vinc­ing win over their Argyll ri­vals.

De­spite a bright start from Saints with Dene Cas­sells twice send­ing Paul Carmichael rac­ing in be­hind the Pupils de­fence with mea­sured passes from the back, Saints were un­able make an early break­through with the Pupils weath­er­ing the early storm. The home side were work­ing hard to close down their op­po­nents all over the park, dis­rupt­ing Saints’ usual mea­sured build-up and forc­ing them to go long more of­ten than they would have liked.

Frus­tra­tion got the bet­ter of Paul Carmichael in the 13th minute when a lung­ing chal­lenge on speedy young left winger Ryan Deans earned him a tick­ing off from ref­eree Lit­ster who re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to pro­duce a card. From the free kick on the left just in­side the Saints half, Pupils skip­per Keith Mitchell could only find the head of his op­po­site num­ber, Paul Kerr, who eas­ily cleared the dan­ger.

In a more ad­ven­tur­ous spell from the hosts, Liam Ren­ton drew a good save from Thomas McCul­loch low down to his left and Paul Kerr made a vi­tal in­ter­cep­tion to cut out a Ryan Deans cross af­ter the winger had shown Matthew Kelly a clean pair of heels. A turn and shot from the edge of the box by Gary Gru­moli in the 18th minute slipped past Thomas McCul­loch’s left hand post be­fore Saints earned some respite with a cor­ner kick won by Brian Mackay on the Saints left.

At the other end, an ex­cel­lent de­liv­ery right into the heart of the six-yard box was bun­dled goal­ward by Brian Mackay but with­out the power to beat Robert Coffield in the Pupils’ goal, who gath­ered the bounc­ing ball ahead of Mackay and Dene Cas­sells.

In the 22nd minute, Myles McAu­ley and Brian Mackay com­bined to set up a shoot­ing op­por­tu­nity for Ross Mait­land but he couldn’t keep his 22-yard ef­fort down and cleared the cross­bar by two feet.

A 25th-minute run along the edge of the box by Ryan Deans was ended un­fairly by Scott Mait­land, giv­ing Gary Gru­moli a chance to test Thomas McCul­loch from the dead ball. The big Saints keeper read Gru­moli’s in­ten­tions well and made a com­fort­able save be­fore launch­ing a counter-at­tack with Liam Ren­ton do­ing well to edge out Paul Carmichael and usher the ball be­hind for a goal kick.

Saints’ lack of flu­ency con­tin­ued to frus­trate and an­other un­nec­es­sary chal­lenge from Paul Carmichael, this time on Keith Mitchell, earned the Saints’ striker the game’s first yel­low card.

The vis­i­tors took the ae­rial route in the 33-minute with David McArthur send­ing a long straight ball into the Pupils’ box. El­lis Robert­son won the header but couldn’t get any dis­tance on his clear­ance, with Ross Mait­land pick­ing up the loose ball and see­ing a goal-bound shot blocked by a for­est of legs on the six-yard line.

Some­what against the run of play Saints took the lead in the 36th minute. A per­fectly weighted through ball from Brian Mackay sent Paul Carmichael through on goal. Paul rounded keeper Coffield and, from an acute an­gle, sent the ball high into the net past the de­spair­ing dives of Coffield and Lee Al­lan on the goal line.

As you might ex­pect from a lo­cal derby, some of the tack­les were a lit­tle feisty and Jamie Burns was lucky to es­cape a card af­ter cyn­i­cally tak­ing out Matthew Kelly. Saints dou­bled their ad­van­tage just be­fore the half-time whis­tle with eas­ily the best move of the match. Brian Mackay and Craig MacEwan passed their way through the Pupils’ mid­field on the right. With space in front of him, MacEwan raced for­ward and worked a ter­rific one-two with Paul Carmichael. Carmichael’s deft back heel on the cor­ner of the 18-yard box was per­fectly into MacEwan’s path and he curled a de­light­ful fin­ish be­yond Coffield’s right hand and into the net. The two-goal half-time deficit was harsh on the Pupils, who had worked hard but full credit to Saints, whose su­pe­rior qual­ity even­tu­ally cre­ated the open­ings which they ruth­lessly cap­i­talised on.

The home side kicked off the sec­ond half but it was the vis­i­tors who set­tled quick­est and took con­trol of the vi­tal mid­field area.

Saints were first to threaten with Ross Mait­land win­ning a cor­ner off Grant Grant and send­ing in an­other ex­cel­lent de­liv­ery from the left which Dene Cas­sells climbed well to meet but couldn’t di­rect on tar­get, thump­ing his header 12 inches over the cross­bar.

The Oban side re­mained in con­trol but had to be mind­ful of the threat posed by Pupils on the counter-at­tack.

A slip on the left by Scott Mait­land al­lowed Pupils to launch a di­ag­o­nal ball look­ing for Ryan Deans with David McArthur mak­ing a vi­tal headed in­ter­cep­tion at the ex­pense of a cor­ner kick.

Ross Mait­land kept up the qual­ity of his de­liv­er­ies with an­other great cor­ner in the 59th minute just beg­ging to be headed home. Paul Carmichael was the mis­cre­ant on this oc­ca­sion, glanc­ing his header wide of Coffield’s right-hand post. Pupils were very much still in the match at this stage and the feel­ing on the Saints bench was that a third goal was re­quired to make the game safe. To this end man­ager Alex Craik de­cided to freshen things up by bring­ing on Don­ald Campbell and Marc Maccal­lum to re­place Paul Carmichael and Matthew Kelly.

The Pupils’ ro­bust style cost them cau­tions for Jamie Burns and Lee Al­lan, with the card for Burns ul­ti­mately to prove ex­tremely costly.

With 13 min­utes re­main­ing, Saints made a triple sub­sti­tu­tion bring­ing on Jamie Gra­ham, Wil­lie Gem­mell and Martin Bonar to re­place Scott Mait­land, Myles McAu­ley and Ross Mait­land re­spec­tively. Wil­lie Gem­mell made an in­stant im­pact, badly mist­im­ing a chal­lenge on Jamie Burns be­fore he had a chance to get up to the pace of the match. Mr Lit­ster con­sid­ered the chal­lenge wor­thy of a yel­low card but, un­for­tu­nately for Pupils, he also showed a sec­ond yel­low to Burns for his vi­o­lent re­ac­tion to the chal­lenge from Gem­mell. The red card fi­nally ex­tin­guished any faint hopes Pupils had of get­ting back into the match with Saints threat­en­ing to run riot in the clos­ing stages.

Marc Maccal­lum made his oblig­a­tory once-a-match lung­burst­ing run from the back in the 81st minute, bring­ing a fine save from Robert Coffield, who shov­elled the ball round his left post for a cor­ner kick.

With Ross Mait­land off the field Wil­lie Gem­mell took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the dead ball and didn’t dis­ap­point with a tempt­ing de­liv­ery into the six­yard box which Craig MacEwan and Marc Maccal­lum both went for. Both beat Liam Ren­ton to the ball, which nes­tled in the bot­tom cor­ner past Coffield’s right hand. Skip­per Maccal­lum, whose goals are rare, im­me­di­ately claimed the score with MacEwan coun­ter­ing that he had got the vi­tal touch.

A poll on the Saints of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count later awarded the goal to the skip­per, ul­ti­mately deny­ing Craig the match ball.

Saints kept up the pres­sure on the be­lea­guered Pupils’ de­fence with Martin Bonar keep­ing alive a deep Craig MacEwan cross from the left and flash­ing a left­foot drive nar­rowly wide of the junc­tion of post and bar. In the 87th minute, Paul Kerr chased down a seem­ingly lost cause on the right, keep­ing the ball in play and cut­ting back to Brian Mackay just in­side the box. A tired-look­ing tackle from be­hind by El­lis Robert­son sent Mackay sprawl­ing and had Mr Lit­ster point­ing to the spot. Reg­u­lar penalty taker Don­ald Campbell de­ferred to Craig MacEwan, who slammed the ball high to Coffield’s left to put the vis­i­tors 4- 0 up.

There was no let-up from Saints in the clos­ing min­utes and only some good saves from Coffield and Saints own way­ward fin­ish­ing kept the score­line down be­fore Mr Lit­ster blew for full time.

A spe­cial men­tion for the ref­eree who han­dled a full-blooded en­counter well, get­ting all the big de­ci­sions cor­rect and re­main­ing firmly in con­trol, even when tem­pers briefly threat­ened to boil over.

Man­ager Craik was de­lighted with the re­sult and pe­for­mance of his team. He said: ‘ We knew it was go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult match with Pupils look­ing for re­venge af­ter we beat them ear­lier in the sea­son. Once we set­tled down and started knock­ing the ball about, we played some good stuff and fully de­served the three points.’

Satur­day sees Saints de­fend the Jimmy Mar­shall Cup won last sea­son when they travel to take on Port Glas­gow OBU at Parklea, kick- off 2pm.

Pho­tos Derek Black

Paul Carmichael opens the scor­ing for Saints from an acute an­gle. Match re­port and

The ball is in the back of the Pupils’ net for Saints’ third goal, but who scored it – Craig MacEwan or Marc Maccal­lum? Af­ter lengthy de­lib­er­a­tion the goal was even­tu­ally given to Maccal­lum.

Scott Struthers from Scot­tish Pre­mier League club Hamil­ton Ac­cies was an in­ter­ested spec­ta­tor at the game.

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