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