Saints strug­gle but still win the points

The Oban Times - - SPORT -

AN EARLY morn­ing pitch in­spec­tion last Satur­day found Glen­cruit­ten to be frozen solid and, de­spite the bright sun­shine, there was no im­prove­ment in the sur­face by one o’clock which left ref­eree John Stobo no aler­na­tive but to de­clare the pitch un­playable. For­tu­nately, the club had also booked the 3G pitch at Oban High School as a back-up and the venue was switched at the eleventh hour.

First-time vis­i­tors Drum­chapel Colts ar­rived with just nine sur­vivors from the 2-1 de­feat in­flicted on Saints in the re­v­erse Scot­tish Amateur Football League Pre­mier Di­vi­sion fix­ture at Scot­stoun last Novem­ber.

The vis­i­tors kicked off at­tack­ing the Glen­cruit­ten end with the low sun at their backs and im­me­di­ately put the Saints de­fence un­der pres­sure. Scott Mait­land conceded a free kick on the Colts right, level with the 18-yard line. Scott Peters took over dead-ball du­ties from the ab­sent Matthew Arm­strong and sent in a dan­ger­ous cross which Thomas McCul­loch com­pletely lost in the bright sun­shine.

For­tu­nately, for the big Saints keeper, Josh White com­ing in at the back post was un­able to find the tar­get, send­ing his header high over the cross­bar.

With Saints yet to set­tle, an over-hit pass back from Marc Maccal­lum gave the de­fence an­other cor­ner kick to con­tend with, which this time they dealt with com­fort­ably.

The shaky start from the hosts con­tin­ued into the sev­enth minute with Marc Maccal­lum re­lieved to see Wil­lie Gem­mell mak­ing a good cov­er­ing in­ter­cep­tion to foil Kerr Hunter af­ter the Saints skip­per had missed a clear­ing header.

The pres­sure on the Saints goal con­tin­ued with a free kick conceded by Dene Cas­sells be­ing headed be­hind for an­other cor­ner from the Colts right.

Af­ter 10 min­utes, Saints fi­nally re­alised the game had only been moved to an­other venue, not post­poned al­to­gether, and started to play their way into the match.

Ross Mait­land’s free kick from the right drifted too close to Colts goal­keeper Scott Urquhart be­fore Don­ald Camp­bell had a low right foot shot saved.

At the other end, a long-range free kick from Scott Peters trun­dled harm­lessly wide be­fore a Dene Cas­sells foul on Stu­art Hay gave Peters an­other chance to put the ball into the dan­ger area. Brian Mackay in­ter­cepted the long ball from Peters on the 18-yard line and launched a swift counter-at­tack with Myles McAu­ley.

Myles made good progress up the left wing be­fore send­ing in a test­ing cross look­ing for Craig MacEwan only for Scott Urquhart to come off his line to claim the cross ahead of Craig.

On the half-hour mark, Saints came within inches of open­ing the scor­ing when a late run into the box saw Brian Mackay poke a low left wing cross from Scott Mait­land wide of the near post.

A 34th minute mea­sured build-up from Saints found Craig MacEwan in space on the 18-yard line with his net­bound shot be­ing cut out at the ex­pense of a cor­ner by an ex­cel­lent slid­ing in­ter­cep­tion from Colts cen­tral de­fender Stu­art Con­nelly.

Ross Mait­land’s de­liv­ery from the right picked out a clever near-post run from Craig MacEwan who, from nine yards, ex­pertly hooked the ball over the out­stretched arm of Scott Urquhart and the head of Matthew White on the goalline and into the postage stamp cor­ner of the net to make the score 1- 0.

The open­ing goal from Craig con­tin­ued his hot streak, tak­ing his tally to 12 in six games since the fes­tive break.

Saints ended the first half on top with Wil­lie Gem­mell hav­ing a dan­ger­ous free-kick into the box punched clear by Scott Urquhart and Marc Maccal­lum hav­ing his oblig­a­tory once a match charge for­ward un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously halted by Stu­art Con­nelly.

The change of ends gave Saints the ad­van­tage of hav­ing the low sun at their backs but once again it was the vis­i­tors who started the stronger. Scott Macarthur made a good run up the left wing and sent a dan­ger­ous ball into the six-yard box which Myles McAu­ley did well to cut out and clear.

Saints even­tu­ally got their sec­ond half started with a slide-rule pass through the in­side right chan­nel from Wil­lie Gem­mell send­ing Ross Mait­land through on goal where only a vi­tal in­ter­cep­tion from Scott Peters pre­vented Ross from test­ing Scott Urquhart. From the re­sult­ing cor­ner kick, Craig MacEwan climbed well but sent his header high over the cross­bar.

In the 53rd minute, Myles McAu­ley repli­cated Gem­mell’s pre­cise pass with Don­ald Camp­bell this time on the end of it. Scott Peters once again made an im­por­tant block be­fore tem­pers mo­men­tar­ily boiled over be­tween the two. Mr Stobo swiftly put a lid on things, restor­ing or­der with a yel­low card for both the Colts cen­tral de­fender and the Saints cen­tre for­ward.

On the hour mark, Thomas McCul­loch was forced into ac­tion at the other end. From the cor­ner flag Matthew White’s low in-swinger into the six-yard box had McCul­loch div­ing full length to punch clear at his near post. As Drum­chapel kept up the pres­sure, Dene Cas­sells and Wil­lie Gem­mell com­bined to snuff out the dan­ger as Kerr Hunter threat­ened to pounce on a loose ball six yards out.

The vis­i­tors were very much still in the game at this point and Saints man­ager Alex Craik de­cided on a change to freshen things up. Ross Mait­land made way for Paul Carmichael but it was the vis­i­tors who were to reg­is­ter next on the score sheet.

Don­ald Camp­bell won the ball in mid­field and quickly fed Myles McAu­ley who, in turn, picked out the run of Craig MacEwan. Craig pulled away from Scott Peters but from 22 yards was un­able to gen­er­ate the power in his shot to trou­ble Scott Urquhart.

The Scot­tish Amateur Football League Select goal­keeper launched the ball up­field with Matthew White forc­ing Thomas McCul­loch into a smart save low down to his right.

Saints failed to heed the warn­ing and in the 69th minute the vis­i­tors drew level. Stu­art Hay sent Daniel Smith away on the right wing, with the sec­ond half sub­sti­tute fizzing a low cross along the six-yard line for Matthew White to tuck away at the back post.

Three min­utes later, Saints had to rely on an in­stinc­tive save from Thomas McCul­loch to pre­vent the dan­ger­ous White from turn­ing the score­line on its head.

With 15 min­utes re­main­ing, Saints made their fi­nal change, bring­ing on Matthew Kelly to re­place Wil­lie Gem­mell and be­gan to en­joy a bet­ter spell.

David McArthur, Paul Carmichael, Don­ald Camp­bell and Craig MacEwan all had ef­forts on goal but their in­abil­ity to hit the tar­get kept the out­come of the match hang­ing in the bal­ance.

The in­tro­duc­tion of young Kelly would prove cru­cial and his 78th minute shot from close range forced Scott Urquhart into a save at his near post.

With time ebbing away Paul Carmichael made a driv­ing run at the heart of the Colts de­fence, evad­ing a des­per­ate lung­ing chal­lenge from Scott Mitchell. Scott Peters even­tu­ally halted Paul’s progress on the 18-yard line, with Matthew Kelly lash­ing the loose ball into the bot­tom cor­ner of the Colts net, leav­ing Scott Urquhart rooted to the spot.

With the lead suc­cess­fully re­stored, Saints were af­forded sev­eral other op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­tend their ad­van­tage as the vis­i­tors re­fused to lie down and pushed for­ward in search of a sec­ond equaliser.

Mr Stobo, who had a good game, added five min­utes for stop­pages but Saints seemed to want to try to walk the ball into the Colts net and found ev­ery move snuffed out on the 18-yard line.

The vis­i­tors re­mained a threat to the end with goal­keeper and cap­tain for the day Scott Urquhart push­ing for­ward to join the at­tack at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

Mr Stobo even­tu­ally de­cided he had seen enough and blew for full-time with Saints just edg­ing a game which could have gone ei­ther way. The win keeps Saints in touch with league lead­ers Gold­en­hill and leaves a good Drum­chapel Colts side harshly rooted to the foot of the ta­ble.

Man­ager Alex Craik was a re­lieved man at the end of the 90 min­utes. He said: ‘We never re­ally got go­ing to­day against a good Colts side. How­ever, we man­aged to dig out a re­sult which keeps us in sec­ond place, two points be­hind Gold­en­hill, but with a game in hand.’

Saints stay on league duty this Satur­day when they travel to Greenock to take on In­ver­clyde. The game will take place at Rankin Park, with a 2pm kick- off.

Match re­port and pho­tos: Derek Black

Craig MacEwan, far left, gets on the end of a Ross Mait­land cor­ner to open the scor­ing for Saints last Satur­day.

Don­ald Camp­bell is crowded out by Scott Peters and Stu­art Con­nelly.

Matthew Kelly is con­grat­u­lated by Myles McAu­ley af­ter the young­ster had net­ted the win­ner.

Don­ald Camp­bell seems to have grown an­other hand.

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