MacEwan nets hat-trick as Saints slam six past sorry Star

‘ We now have to con­cen­trate on a very tough match away to Tar­bolton in the Scot­tish Cup this com­ing week­end’

The Oban Times - - SPORT -

OBAN Saints warmed up for their crunch Scot­tish Am­a­teur Cup sixth-round tie against Tar­bolton Am­a­teurs with an em­phatic 6-1 league win over an un­der­strength Fer­gus­lie Star at Glen­cruit­ten last Saturday.

Saints gaffer Alex Craik also had se­lec­tion prob­lems with Don­ald Camp­bell, Dene Cas­sells, Myles McAu­ley and Marc Mac­cal­lum all miss­ing from the pre­vi­ous week’s line-up due to for­mer player Al­lan Miller’s wed­ding. Also un­avail­able was Jamie Gra­ham. Alex was, how­ever, still able to name a 16-man squad whose per­for­mance on the day will now give him a mas­sive headache as he pon­ders his squad for the trip to Ayr­shire. Thomas McCul­loch con­tin­ued in goal be­hind a new-look cen­tral de­fen­sive pair­ing of David McArthur and Paul Carmichael, with Matthew Kelly and Scott Mait­land oc­cu­py­ing the full­back berths. Wil­lie Gem­mell made his first start since the away de­feat at Drum­chapel Am­a­teurs Colts in Novem­ber, join­ing Brian Mackay and stand-in skip­per Paul Kerr in the mid­dle of the park. Dean Smith and Ross Mait­land were re­stored to the start­ing line-up with the on-fire Craig MacEwan mak­ing up the eleven. On the bench were util­ity man Martin Bonar, veter­ans Alex Craik and Keith Millar, and young­sters Jay Cooper and Fraser MacFar­lane.

The vis­i­tors kicked off in heavy rain, at­tack­ing the Moss­field end, and af­ter some early spar­ring it was Saints who were first to show with Star keeper Ray­mond Brown com­ing off his line to gather a Ross Mait­land cross from the right wing in­tended for Craig MacEwan.

Wil­lie Gem­mell then tested Brown’s han­dling with a low 25yard shot which the keeper fielded safely in the wet con­di­tions. Af­ter 10 min­utes the rain eased off and, as the good crowd’s um­brel­las came down, Saints made the break­through. A well-weighted pass from Wil­lie Gem­mell sent Brian Mackay scur­ry­ing through the inside-left chan­nel. Brian skipped past two chal­lenges, mak­ing his way into the box and cut­ting back to Ross Mait­land, whose ef­fort was blocked at his feet by Ray­mond Brown. The Star keeper hurt his left shoul­der in the process and couldn’t hold the ball, which broke kindly for Dean Smith to roll into the net. There was a three-minute de­lay for treat­ment to Brown’s in­jured left shoul­der be­fore the Star keeper was thank­fully able to con­tinue. Saints dou­bled their ad­van­tage in the 24th minute when David McArthur car­ried the ball a long way out from cen­tral de­fence and sent a deep cross into the Star box look­ing for the head of Craig MacEwan. Craig climbed above Leon Mor­row and David Cun­ning­ham to loop a header out of the reach of Ray­mond Brown and into the bot­tom cor­ner of the net.

From the restart, the vis­i­tors showed some at­tack­ing in­tent with Shaun Kelly driv­ing for­ward on the left and flash­ing a drive across Thomas McCul­loch which the Saints keeper could only palm across his six-yard line.

For­tu­nately for Saints, Scott Mait­land was on hand to mop up the loose ball com­fort­ably with no other Star play­ers up in sup­port.

Saints coun­tered im­me­di­ately with Wil­lie Gem­mell’s through ball forc­ing Ray­mond Brown to scam­per off his line to smother it just inside his 18-yard box ahead of Ross Mait­land.

Gem­mell’s range of pass­ing from mid­field paid div­i­dends in the 33rd minute when he picked out Dean Smith 25 yards from goal. Dean turned away from the close at­ten­tions of Derek McGrory and, from 16 yards, slot­ted the ball past the ad­vanc­ing Ray­mond Brown to put Saints three goals in front.

Three min­utes later the Star keeper de­fied his shoul­der in­jury, leap­ing high to his left to palm away a curl­ing Craig MacEwan ef­fort from 18 yards. The home side ended a dom­i­nant first-half per­for­mance with a David McArthur header over the cross­bar af­ter an­other driv­ing run from Brian Mackay had given Ross Mait­land the chance to send in a cor­ner kick from the right.

Saints started the sec­ond half con­fi­dently but with­out the ur­gency which had caused the vis­it­ing de­fence so many prob­lems in the first half.

The vis­i­tors were given some en­cour­age­ment in the 48th minute when skip­per An­drew Turner beat two men be­fore lay­ing off to John Syme, who sent his shot wide. Star fol­lowed this up three min­utes later with David Ste­wart beat­ing Scott Mait­land on the right and feed­ing Leon Mor­row for a shot on tar­get which Thomas McCul­loch saved com­fort­ably.

In the 58th minute, Wil­lie Gem­mell made a rare run for­ward from mid­field, rac­ing away from Leon Mor­row and David Cun­ning­ham only for Ray­mond Brown to nar­row the an­gle and spread him­self well to save Wil­lie’s ef­fort from 17 yards. Dis­ap­point­ingly for Ross Mait­land, his sup­port­ing run went un­no­ticed by Wil­lie as a pass from Wil­lie would surely have left Ross a sim­ple tap-in.

Just be­fore the hour mark, An­drew Turner forced Thomas McCul­loch into an­other save af­ter turn­ing away from David McArthur on the edge of the Saints box. With 20 min­utes re­main­ing, the vis­i­tors were re­warded for their per­se­ver­ance when Paul Carmichael brought down An­drew Turner just out­side the Saints box giv­ing Derek McGrory the chance to demon­strate his prow­ess with the dead ball.

McGrory had curled a won­der­ful free kick high past Thomas McCul­loch in the cor­re­spond­ing fix­ture at Seed­hill last Oc­to­ber but this time shot low through a dis­in­te­grat­ing Saints wall and into the bot­tom cor­ner past Thomas McCul­loch’s de­spair­ing right hand. The goal from the vis­i­tors was ex­actly what Saints needed to wake them from their sec­ond­half lethargy and within two min­utes they re­stored their three-goal ad­van­tage. Brian Mackay picked out Craig MacEwan’s run for­ward and from 18 yards the in-form Saints hit man lifted the ball over the on-rush­ing goal­keeper and into the bot­tom cor­ner of the net.

Man­ager Alex Craik elected not to join the ac­tion him­self but used all four of his other op­tions from the bench. Martin Bonar and Keith Millar re­placed Matthew Kelly and Wil­lie Gem­mell, while Dean Smith and Ross Mait­land made way for Jay Cooper and Fraser MacFar­lane.

In be­tween times, Dean was de­nied the chance of a hat-trick by a tight but cor­rect off­side de­ci­sion by ref­eree John Stobo, who ac­quit­ted him­self well through­out. Saints have been guilty of not con­vert­ing enough chances in re­cent weeks so man­ager Alex Craik will have been de­lighted to see his charges notch two fur­ther goals in time added on for stop­pages. Craig MacEwan cut into the right hand side of the box, turn­ing Derek McGrory inside out be­fore lay­ing off to renowned goal snif­fer Martin Bonar who calmly stroked the ball into the net from eight yards.

Two min­utes later Craig MacEwan put the ic­ing on the cake of an ex­cel­lent team per­for­mance, round­ing off an in­spired per­sonal per­for­mance with his sec­ond hat-trick in as many weeks. Brian Mackay demon­strated phe­nom­e­nal en­ergy re­serves to drive for­ward from mid­way inside his own half. Leav­ing the Star mid­field in his wake, Brian hur­dled a cyn­i­cal chal­lenge from Derek McGrory be­fore set­ting up Craig MacEwan for a sweet left-foot fin­ish past the help­less Ray­mond Brown. Craig may yet ask the du­bi­ous goals panel to have an­other look at the goal against Camp­bel­town Pupils con­tro­ver­sially awarded to Marc Mac­cal­lum which would have earned him three con­sec­u­tive hat-tricks.

Mr Stobo cau­tioned Derek McGrory for the chal­lenge on Brian Mackay, ad­ding his name to that of Gary Gorm­ley which he had taken ear­lier for dis­sent.

The vis­i­tors were spared any fur­ther pun­ish­ment with the ref­eree blow­ing for full-time and a con­vinc­ing home win which sends Saints to the top of the Scot­tish Am­a­teur Football League Premier Di­vi­sion. Man­ager Alex Craik was de­lighted at the per­for­mance. He said: ‘We played some great football and scored six goals into the bar­gain against a team that beat us ear­lier in the sea­son. The win puts us top of the league so the aim is to stay there till the end of the sea­son.

‘We now have to try to em­u­late last sea­son’s Scot­tish Cup run but we face a tough test on Saturday away to Ayr­shire Premier Di­vi­sion side Tar­bolton.

‘A win would put us into the last 16 of the com­pe­ti­tion.’

Match re­port and photos: Derek Black

Craig MacEwan is con­grat­u­lated onis hat-trick bu Paul Carmichael, Brian Mackay, Martin Bonar and David McArthur.

Martin Bonar strokes home Saints fifth goal.

Paul Carmichael turned in a first class dis­play at cen­tre half.

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