Scot­tish Cup semi-fi­nal prepa­ra­tion does not go to plan for slack Saints

The Oban Times - - Sport -

Oban Saints 2 Mother­well This­tle 3 SAFL Premier Di­vi­sion LAST Satur­day Saints warmed up for their im­pend­ing Scot­tish Amateur Cup semi-fi­nal against Colville Park when they wel­comed first-time vis­i­tors Mother­well This­tle to Glen­cruit­ten. With ri­vals East Kil­bride FC Am­a­teurs and Gold­en­hill slip­ping up else­where, Saints had an ideal op­por­tu­nity to make up ground in the Scot­tish Amateur Foot­ball League Premier Di­vi­sion ti­tle race. How­ever, Saints Scot­tish Amateur Cup form sadly de­serted them and saw tamely sur­ren­der­ing the points to their vis­i­tors and giv­ing them a mas­sive boost in their bat­tle to avoid rel­e­ga­tion to Premier Di­vi­sion One.

Craig MacEwan and Wil­lie Gem­mell were un­avail­able, as was the in­jured Paul Kerr, so it was a wel­come sight for man­ager Alex Craik when Matthew Kelly re­ported fit for duty af­ter shak­ing off his re­cent an­kle in­jury.

Else­where, the gaffer sprang a sur­prise by giv­ing Scott Mait­land an at­tack­ing role along­side Don­ald Camp­bell and Ross Mait­land. Scott’s usual left­back berth was filled by Jamie Gra­ham, with David McArthur, skip­per Marc Maccal­lum and Dene Cas­sells mak­ing up the rest of the back four in front of keeper Thomas McCul­loch.

The three-man mid­field of Brian Mackay, Myles McAu­ley and Paul Carmichael com­pleted the start­ing line-up. The re­turn­ing Kelly joined Martin Bonar, Kerr New­big­ging and Dean Smith on the bench.

Saints started well and were re­warded for their early en­deav­ours in the sixth minute. A deep David McArthur free­kick from the halfway line was headed out to the Saints left by This­tle skip­per Stu­art Hunter. Don­ald Camp­bell picked up the loose ball and drove into the box chased by Wil­liam McMaster. Don­ald’s chipped left-foot cross from just short of the bye-line took a de­flec­tion off McMaster which sent it spin­ning away from Paul Ai­ton in the This­tle goal and into the net, giv­ing Saints the lead.

Saints con­tin­ued to move the ball around well and, af­ter a brief stop­page for some treat­ment to the in­jured right an­kle of This­tle full-back David Knight, forced two good open­ings in quick suc­ces­sion. Ross Mait­land steered a right-foot ef­fort from 18 yards to­wards the bot­tom cor­ner but with­out the power nec­es­sary to se­ri­ously trou­ble Paul Ai­ton. Shortly af­ter­wards, the keeper was beaten down to his left when Scott Mait­land latched onto a Don­ald Camp­bell lay- off but, un­for­tu­nately, Scott’s well­struck shot shaved the out­side of the post.

Saints’ good early work was un­done in the 13th minute when, seem­ingly un­der no pres­sure, goal­keeper Thomas McCul­loch mis­placed a hur­ried pass from the edge of his box straight to the feet of This­tle striker Mark Begg, who glee­fully curled the ball past Thomas and into the empty net.

Wor­ry­ingly, the set­back se­verely jolted Saints’ con­fi­dence with passes no longer find­ing their men and This­tle’s good press­ing mak­ing life ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for Saints’ mid­field.

De­spite this, Saints can count them­selves ex­tremely un­for­tu­nate to be de­nied a goalscor­ing op­por­tu­nity by a bad offside de­ci­sion from ref­eree Mr Dick­in­son. Ross Mait­land’s 15th-minute ball over the top sent Don­ald Camp­bell spin­ning in be­hind the This­tle de­fence and through on goal. Don­ald’s run ap­peared to be per­fectly timed but Mr Dick­in­son, with­out the ben­e­fit of an as­sis­tant, blew for offside much to the frus­tra­tion of the Saints’ bench.

Paul Carmichael’s per­se­ver­ance on the left won a 19th-minute cor­ner which Ross Mait­land whipped in right-footed look­ing for Don­ald Camp­bell on the six-yard line. Don­ald beat Christo­pher McEwan in the air and flicked on to Paul Carmichael who couldn’t get the nec­es­sary pur­chase on his header and sent his ef­fort from four yards wide of tar­get.

Thomas McCul­loch went some way to­wards re­deem­ing his pre­vi­ous er­ror when he pro­duced a good save in the 21st minute to deny This­tle striker James Faugh­nan.

In an at­tempt to introduce some much-needed craft to the mid­field, man­ager Alex Craik swapped Don­ald Camp­bell and Paul Carmichael. The change briefly gave Saints some fresh im­pe­tus with Paul Ai­ton pro­duc­ing a good save to his left to hold a Don­ald Camp­bell shot af­ter an over­lap­ping run and cross from Jamie Gra­ham on the left.

A heavy chal­lenge on Paul Carmichael by James Gib­bons gave Saints a dead­ball op­por­tu­nity 25 yards out and slightly left of cen­tre. Ross Mait­land rolled the ball short to Don­ald Camp­bell, who sent a good ef­fort just wide of Paul Ai­ton’s left-hand post.

The vis­i­tors cap­i­talised on a bizarre free-kick award by ref­eree Mr Dick­in­son on the right touch­line mid­way in­side the Saints half. The ball was stopped from go­ing out for a throw-in by a spectator. In­stead of a drop ball, Mr Dick­in­son awarded Mother­well a free kick. Still com­plain­ing about the de­ci­sion, Saints missed sev­eral chances to clear with Colin Gil­lies even­tu­ally forc­ing his way into the box via a lucky break off Dene Cas­sells. With only the keeper to beat, Gil­lies curled a de­light­ful left-foot fin­ish past Thomas McCul­loch’s right post and into the net to give This­tle a 36th-minute lead.

Saints ral­lied briefly af­ter this sec­ond cheaply con­ceded goal with Don­ald Camp­bell mak­ing a good run into the box to meet a deep Scott Mait­land cross from the right on the penalty spot. Don­ald climbed well to out-jump James Gib­bons but sent his header inches wide of Paul Ai­ton’s left post.

With five first-half min­utes re­main­ing, Paul Ai­ton pro­duced the save of the match to deny Don­ald Camp­bell. Jamie Gra­ham made a good run on the left and cut back to Don­ald, who con­trolled on his right foot and from 12 yards fired a left­foot shot to­wards the postage stamp cor­ner which Ai­ton at full stretch fin­ger tipped over his cross­bar.

An er­ror-strewn first half from Saints ended with an­other mis­placed pass be­ing col­lected by Colin Gil­lies, who cut in from the right and curled an ef­fort from 25 yards over the cross­bar.

At­tack­ing the Moss­field end in the sec­ond half, Saints looked ea­ger to put a poor first 45 be­hind them and started brightly. Paul Carmichael cut in from the left and curled a 47th-minute shot just over the junc­tion of post and bar.

Saints came for­ward again on the right in the 51st minute, with Scott Mait­land and David McArthur comb­ing to win a throw-in. David took the throw and picked out Scott with his back to goal 16 yards out. Scott’s over­head kick brought an­other fine save from Paul Ai­ton div­ing to his left to clutch Scott’s spec­tac­u­lar ef­fort.

Ai­ton quickly launched the ball up­field where Christo­pher McEwan beat David McArthur rather too eas­ily on the cor­ner of the Saints’ 18-yard box. McEwan made for the bye-line pur­sued by McArthur and cut back for the un­marked Mark Begg whose good left-foot fin­ish made it 3-1 for the vis­i­tors.

Try­ing to find some in­spi­ra­tion for his shell-shocked troops, man­ager Craik turned to his bench, send­ing on Matthew Kelly and Dean Smith to re­place Jamie Gra­ham and Ross Mait­land. While Saints were ad­just­ing to the po­si­tional changes This­tle sent an­other ball over the top where Marc Maccal­lum had to make a vi­tal in­ter­cep­tion to deny sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute Antony Mitchell.

On the hour mark, a driv­ing run by Myles McAu­ley opened up a shoot­ing op­por­tu­nity for the Saints mid­fielder. This­tle cap­tain Stu­art Hunter blocked McAu­ley’s shot with his chest and then brought down Myles down on the edge of the D be­fore he could get an­other shot away. Don­ald Camp­bell once again took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the dead­ball but couldn’t find a way past the four-man This­tle wall.

Saints forced their way back into the match in the 65th minute when Matthew Kelly and Dean Smith linked up to cre­ate an open­ing for Paul Carmichael. Matthew closed down and dis­pos­sessed sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute Daniel Young on the halfway line and raced for­ward on the right. Matthew picked out Dean Smith’s run into the box but the re­treat­ing This­tle de­fence pre­vented Dean from getting a shot away. In­stead, he found Paul Carmichael eight yards out who turned and lashed a right-foot shot into the postage stamp cor­ner giv­ing Paul Ai­ton in the This­tle goal no chance.

Man­ager Alex Craik made his fi­nal changes be­fore the restart, re­plac­ing David McArthur and Myles McAu­ley with Martin Bonar and Kerr New­big­ging. Matthew Kelly and Martin Bonar com­bined well on the right in the 69th minute but from the cor­ner of the 18-yard line Martin took on a dif­fi­cult shot which curled high over the cross­bar when a cross to Paul Carmichael at the back post looked to be the bet­ter op­tion.

Two cor­ners in quick suc­ces­sion from the Saints’ left were dropped into the six-yard box by Don­ald Camp­bell but keeper Paul Ai­ton showed ex­cel­lent han­dling un­der pres­sure to take the heat off his de­fence.

Saints had the ball in the net again in the 83rd minute when Paul Carmichael turned home a Dean Smith through ball but Mr Dick­in­son cor­rectly ruled Paul to be in an offside po­si­tion.

In the first of five added min­utes, Colin Gil­lies cleared a Don­ald Camp­bell shot off his own goal-line af­ter a Matthew Kelly cor­ner from the Saints right.

This turned out to be Saints’ last chance of a dis­ap­point­ing af­ter­noon as Mother­well This­tle played out the fi­nal min­utes in rel­a­tive com­fort to claim the points and do­ing their survival hopes no harm at all. Full credit to This­tle who worked hard all af­ter­noon and took their chances well to run out de­served win­ners.

Saints must now lift them­selves for their big­gest match of the sea­son this com­ing Satur­day when they travel to New Dou­glas Park, Hamil­ton, to face the might of Colville Park in the Scot­tish Amateur Cup semi-fi­nal.

Man­ager Alex Craik was not happy with this team’s per­fo­mance. He said: ‘This was our worst per­for­mance for a long time.

‘There was a lack of en­ergy about ev­ery­thing we did. Our pass­ing and work rate were poor and the run­ning of the ball was non- ex­is­tent.

‘If we play like that against Colville Park on Satur­day, we will be in for a very dif­fi­cult 90 min­utes.’

Pho­tos and match re­port: Derek Black

Don­ald Camp­bell goes close with a header dur­ing last Satur­day’s game against Mother­well This­tle.

Paul Carmichael, on ground far left, nets Saints’ sec­ond goal.

Matthew Kelly.

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