Com­fort­able win sees Saints reach their sec­ond semi-fi­nal of the sea­son

The Oban Times - - SPORT -

OBAN Saints re­cov­ered from the dis­ap­point­ment of miss­ing out on a trip to Ham­p­den Park in the Scot­tish Am­a­teur Cup fi­nal to book their fifth con­sec­u­tive Jimmy Mar­shall Tro­phy semi-fi­nal ap­pear­ance last Satur­day at Glen­cruit­ten.

Vis­i­tors Port Glas­gow had only just nar­rowly missed out on pro­mo­tion from Premier Divi­sion 2B and were des­per­ate to up­set the cup hold­ers and clinch a semi-fi­nal tie against 2013 win­ners Hillington.

Saints made a bright start, at­tack­ing the rail­way end with Port Glas­gow keeper Stu­art Burns tip­ping over a third­minute Don­ald Campbell shot for the first cor­ner kick of the match.

Last sea­son’s League Divi­sion One win­ners Port Glas­gow looked dan­ger­ous from set-pieces and made good use of right full­back Ryan McCabe’s long throws.

Saints moved swiftly up the park with Port skip­per Paul Stan­ton get­ting in a vi­tal block to deny Don­ald Campbell af­ter some ex­cel­lent build-up play from Craig MacEwan and Scott Mait­land on the left.

A 16th-minute foul on Craig MacEwan by Christo­pher Hughes gave Saints a free-kick 30 yards from goal and left of cen­tre. Wil­lie Gem­mell opted not to shoot and was slightly too heavy with his at­tempted pass for Craig MacEwan run­ning in at the back post, giv­ing Stu­art Burns an easy take.

Two min­utes later Saints care­fully picked their way through the Port back four on the left. Scott Mait­land won a throw-in which he took him­self, find­ing Ross Mait­land in the box. Ross held off the chal­lenge of Paul Stan­ton and laid the ball back to Don­ald Campbell who threaded a de­light­ful ball through for Scott Mait­land. Scott drove into the box and looked to square the ball for Craig MacEwan but sent his pass too close to Stu­art Burns who made a cru­cial in­ter­cep­tion on his six-yard line.

Port Glas­gow threat­ened twice in quick suc­ces­sion on the left with Sean McLaugh­lin pounc­ing on a slack pass from Brian Mackay and draw­ing a good save from Thomas McCul­loch low down to his right. McLaugh­lin then chased down a long ball, beat­ing Marc Maccal­lum near the bye-line be­fore, from a tight an­gle, send­ing in an­other low shot which McCul­loch again held well to his right. In a bit­ter 24th-minute blow the vis­i­tors were de­nied the fur­ther ser­vices of the dan­ger­ous look­ing McLaugh­lin when he was car­ried off with an an­kle in­jury, to be re­placed by Ker­rin Dow.

The home side opened the scor­ing just be­fore the halfhour mark af­ter a good pass­ing move on the right. Brian Mackay fed Ross Mait­land and, with the Port de­fence ap­peal­ing in vain for off­side, Ross clipped a cross onto the six-yard line in the mid­dle of the Port goal­mouth. Craig MacEwan made an ex­cel­lent run to get in front of Ryan McCabe and di­rect a stoop­ing header low into the net past the left hand of Stu­art Burns.

Saints sur­vived a penalty ap­peal in the 34th minute when ref­eree John Stobo, who had a good game, deemed a risky Dene Cas­sells chal­lenge on Ker­rin Dow to be shoul­der to shoul­der.

The wood­work came to the vis­i­tors’ rescue in the 38th minute. Wil­lie Gem­mell found Don­ald Campbell who held the ball up well and sent Craig MacEwan off on a run on the right wing. Craig’s deep cross was pulled down by Brian Mackay on the cor­ner of the six-yard box and, in Den­nis Bergkamp style, flicked over the head of Ryan McCabe and rat­tled left-footed off the keeper’s right hand up­right.

With five first half min­utes re­main­ing, Ross Mait­land beat the Port Glas­gow off­side trap once again but was beaten by the quick re­ac­tions of Stu­art Burns who slid out to gather at the wee man’s feet.

Saints dou­bled their lead in the 41st minute, again cap­i­tal­is­ing on their aerial threat. Craig MacEwan won a cor­ner kick on the left, with Paul Stan­ton mak­ing a good in­ter­cep­tion to take the ball off Craig’s toe as he threat­ened to break in be­hind the Port de­fence. Ross Mait­land’s in-swinger from the left was met by an un­stop­pable Dene Cas­sells header five yards out who had made a de- ter­mined run from deep to win the ball ahead of Port keeper Stu­art Burns to make the half time score 2- 0.

The Port Glas­gow de­fence had been unhappy with some of ref­eree John Stobo’s first-half off­side ver­dicts but looked to be very for­tu­nate to be given the ben­e­fit of a very tight de­ci­sion when a well-weighted di­ag­o­nal pass from Wil­lie Gem­mell picked out Craig MacEwan cut­ting in from the left.

Saints suc­cess­fully broke the Port off­side trap in the 49th minute with Brian Mackay send­ing Don­ald Campbell through and Stu­art Burns pro­duc­ing an­other ex­cel­lent save throw­ing up a strong right hand to deny Don­ald.

Don­ald was not to be de­nied, how­ever, and five min­utes later got the goal his all round play de­served. With Port Glas­gow ap­peal­ing for a throw-in, Marc Maccal­lum kept alive a ball on the Saints right and sent Matthew Kelly on a run up the wing. Matthew picked out Don­ald Campbell in the box who made no mis­take, wrong-foot­ing Stu­art Burns from 12 yards and rolling the ball into the bot­tom cor­ner for Saints’ third.

The vis­i­tors coun­tered al­most im­me­di­ately from a free-kick cheaply con­ceded by Marc Maccal­lum 28 yards from the Saints goal. Robert Cald­well made a clever run to draw Matthew Kelly from the end of a five-man Saints wall, open­ing up the tar­get for An­drew Han­nah. The former Greenock Mor­ton half-time re­place­ment ex­ploited the gap by curl­ing the ball into the bot­tom cor­ner of the net past Thomas McCul­loch’s de­spair­ing right hand giv­ing the vis­i­tors re­newed hope.

Wil­lie Gem­mell con­tin­ued his ex­cel­lent run of form in mid­field, rolling back the years with a danc­ing spin and turn away from two op­po­nents to put Craig MacEwan through. Un­for­tu­nately, Craig was crowded out by the com­bined ef­forts of Paul Stan­ton and Christo­pher Hughes.

Ross Mait­land won a free-kick 30 yards out giv­ing Saints dead­ball ex­pert Wil­lie Gem­mell a chance to em­u­late An­drew Han­nah’s ear­lier ef­fort. Wil­lie, how­ever, elected to go short to Ross Mait­land who gave a re­turn pass to Wil­lie who in turn tried to pick out Craig MacEwan’s run to the back post. Wil­lie’s ball was over-hit but Stu­art Burns still had to watch it care­fully as it drifted just over his cross­bar.

Port Glas­gow made an­other change in the 67th minute, re­plac­ing Ryan McCabe with Stephen Blaney and, with their over­all con­trol of the match slip­ping slightly, Saints made a po­si­tional change, drop­ping Don­ald Campbell back into mid­field and push­ing Brian Mackay for­ward. Com­ing from his new deeper po­si­tion Don­ald scooped a 22-yard ef­fort from a Myles McAu­ley cut-back well over the cross­bar in the 71st minute.

With 15 min­utes re­main­ing, the vis­i­tors brought on more fresh legs, re­plac­ing Christo­pher Hughes with Kevin Thomp­son. In an ad­vanced role, Thomp­son showed per­se­ver­ance to force Dene Cas­sells into con­ced­ing a throw-in level with Saints six-yard line wide on the right. Saints dealt with the long throw com­fort­ably and cleared the dan­ger.

Saints man­ager Alex Craik in­tro­duced Jamie Graham and Fraser MacFarlane to re­place Brian Mackay and Ross Mait­land. The change also brought about a tac­ti­cal reshuf­fle to three at the back with Jamie Graham slot­ting in along­side Marc Maccal­lum and Dene Cas­sells.

The Saints sub­sti­tutes com­bined al­most im­me­di­ately with Fraser lay­ing off to Jamie break­ing for­ward on the right af­ter Thomas McCul­loch had come through a ruck of play­ers to punch clear a Con­nor Dow free-kick. Un­for­tu­nately, Jamie’s low cross on the run look­ing for Fraser in the mid­dle was too close to keeper Stu­art Burns who slid out to col­lect.

Jamie Graham was in­volved on the right once again link­ing up with Don­ald Campbell in the 84th minute to force a cor­ner kick. Tak­ing over cor­ner kick du­ties from the de­parted Ross Mait­land, Fraser MacFarlane went deep to the back post with the ball break­ing back across to the right of the box where Marc Maccal­lum hooked the ball left footed on tar­get but straight at Stu­art Burns.

Af­ter suc­cess­fully weath­er­ing Port Glas­gow’s spir­ited at­tempt at a come­back, Saints were now look­ing the more likely to add to the scor­ing.

Wil­lie Gem­mell linked up on the left with Fraser MacFarlane to cre­ate an open­ing for Don­ald Campbell, who was de­nied from an acute an­gle by an­other fine Stu­art Burns save.

Saints kept the pres­sure on, build­ing again on the right wing in the 87th minute through Jamie Graham and Matthew Kelly. Jamie fed Craig MacEwan who jinked his way into the box and threaded a pass be­tween Paul Stan­ton and Con­nor Dow for Fraser MacFarlane who poked the ball past the ad­vanc­ing Stu­art Burns and into the bot­tom cor­ner to round off the scor­ing.

With the tie now safe, gaffer Alex Craik made his fi­nal change, re­plac­ing Craig MacEwan with Martin Bonar. With the vis­i­tors, who had worked hard all day, now com­pletely out of steam Saints saw out the clos­ing min­utes com­fort­ably to clinch a semi-fi­nal trip to face Hillington on Satur­day May 13.

Next up for Saints is a re­turn to league busi­ness when they travel to Lochinch to face Shaw­lands who cur­rently sit level with Saints on 19 points but with three more games played.

Pho­tos and match re­port: Derek Black

Dene Cas­sells cel­e­brates scor­ing Saints’ sec­ond goal.

Port Glas­gow goal­keeper Stu­art Burns saves from Ross Mait­land.

Matty Kelly and Don­ald Campbell con­grat­u­late Fraser MacFarlane on his goal.

Jamie Graham clears the ball from Ker­rin Dow.

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