Saints struggle but still win the points
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.
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.