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’
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.’
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.