Saints make fi­nal

The Oban Times - - FRONT PAGE -

OBAN Saints con­firmed their place in the fi­nal of the Jimmy Mar­shall Cup at the week­end with a con­vinc­ing win over ri­vals Hilling­ton.

Hilling­ton 1 Oban Saints 4 Jimmy Mar­shall Cup – semi- fi­nal OBAN Saints reached their fourth Scot­tish Am­a­teur Foot­ball League Jimmy Mar­shall Cup fi­nal in five sea­sons with a 4-1 win at a rain-soaked Pe­nilee Com­mu­nity Cen­tre last Satur­day.

Af­ter a fairly even goal­less first half, Saints turned up the heat on Premier Di­vi­sion One op­po­nents Hilling­ton with Craig MacEwan net­ting a hat-trick to take his tally for the sea­son to 36 goals.

The vic­tory gave Saints some small mea­sure of re­venge for the ag­o­nis­ing 2013 fi­nal penalty shoot- out de­feat at the hands of Hilling­ton at Somervell Park, Cam­bus­lang, and guar­an­tees the Saints faith­ful an­other cup fi­nal day out to look for­ward to.

Hosts Hilling­ton kicked off in heavy rain de­fend­ing the com­mu­nity cen­tre end where, af­ter some early spar­ring, Saints forced the first cor­ner kick of the match in the third minute. Marc Mac­cal­lum played the ball up to Fraser Mac­Far­lane who, in turn, fed Jamie Gra­ham.

Jamie’s over­lap­ping run to the bye-line was halted by Lee Wales at the ex­pense of a cor­ner kick. Craig MacEwan rose through a ruck of play­ers at the back post to head Fraser Mac­Far­lane’s de­liv­ery back across the face of goal with Scott Gold show­ing a good mea­sure of com­po­sure to con­trol the ball and vol­ley clear just short of the goal line.

Matthew Kelly was en­joy­ing his new mid­field role and got on the end of a threaded pass from col­league Myles McAuley in the fifth minute. Matthew made a run into the box but was un­able to get the ball out of his feet and a good chance was lost. An­other run for­ward from Matthew Kelly was halted by a mist­imed tackle from Scott Gold 28 yards from goal.

With Wil­lie Gem­mell miss­ing due to work com­mit­ments, Kerr Newbigging as­sumed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the dead­ball but sent his free-kick 18 inches over Paul McGuire’s cross­bar.

Hilling­ton had the ball in the net in the 18th minute when Gary Wilson stole in be­hind Dene Cas­sells from an­other deep Ross Hamil­ton free-kick but as­sis­tant ref­eree Philip Hogg raised his flag for off­side and ref­eree Robert Doolan dis­al­lowed the goal.

Five min­utes later on the op­po­site touch­line, Mr Doolan’s other as­sis­tant, Derek Mil­ton, raised his flag against Kerr Newbigging to deny Fraser Mac­Far­lane a tap-in at the back post.

The off­side flag was up again in the 28th minute this time against Paul Carmichael who was en­joy­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing phys­i­cal bat­tle with Ross Hamil­ton. Matthew Kelly bat­tled well in the cen­tre cir­cle to win pos­ses­sion and laid off to Kerr Newbigging whose well weighted ball sent Paul rac­ing through on goal but Mr Mil­ton judged that Paul had started his run from an off­side po­si­tion.

A 34th-minute run along the Saints 18-yard line from Wil­liam Mitchell was well matched by Marc Mac­cal­lum, al­low­ing no way through for the Hilling­ton mid­fielder with the Saints skip­per even­tu­ally mak­ing a de­ci­sive chal­lenge to snuff out the dan­ger.

As the half wore on, Saints be­gan to gain the up­per hand in the vi­tal mid­field area but still strug­gled to get in be­hind the home de­fence thanks in no small part to a solid dis­play from young cen­tre half Stu­art Aitken.

The vis­i­tors came within inches of open­ing the scor­ing just be­fore the in­ter­val when Paul Carmichael held off a strong chal­lenge from Ni­cholas Baird and burst through into the box only to be de­nied a goal by the out­stretched left foot of Hilling­ton keeper Paul McGuire which de­flected the big Saints striker’s net bound shot wide of tar­get.

Be­fore the cor­ner kick could be taken Mr Doolan took the name of Ni­cholas Baird for his chal­lenge on Carmichael.

The Oban side had the ben­e­fit of the breeze for the sec­ond half which would steadily in­crease in strength as the half pro­gressed. Much to the re­lief of the hardy band of spec­ta­tors, the rain also eased off for the start of the sec­ond pe­riod which Saints kicked off at­tack­ing the park end.

The sec­ond half was only one minute old when Matthew Kelly had the first strike on goal which was de­flected wide of Paul McGuire’s right-hand post for a cor­ner kick.

Saints were al­ready show­ing signs that they would go on to dom­i­nate al­most the en­tire sec­ond half with Craig MacEwan skin­ning Lee Wales on the Saints right be­fore send­ing a ball into the box which was tan­ta­lis­ingly out of reach for Fraser Mac­Far­lane, al­low­ing Paul McGuire to thump clear.

Hilling­ton lost the ser­vices of influential mid­fielder Scott Gold to an an­kle in­jury af­ter just four sec­ond-half min­utes. Gold was re­placed in the mid­dle of the park by Gary Wilson.

Kerr Newbigging’s ball up the right wing for Paul Carmichael saw the Saints man turn Ross Hamil­ton and dig out a cross from the bye-line which just evaded Craig MacEwan at the near post and ended up in the grate­ful hands of Paul McGuire. On the hour mark, Ross Hamil­ton picked up the sec­ond yel­low card of the match when he felled Paul Carmichael wide on the right af­ter a good turn from the Saints striker. From Matthew Kelly’s de­liv­ery onto the six-yard line Craig MacEwan some­how man­aged to di­rect a header to­wards goal de­spite hav­ing Ni­cholas Baird’s arm across his throat. Marc Mac­cal­lum com­ing in be­hind bun­dled the ball over the line and wheeled away in cel­e­bra­tion but his joy was short-lived as Mr Hogg flagged for a hand­ball against the Saints skip­per.

The Saints back four, as­sisted by the strength­en­ing wind, re­mained com­fort­able and on a rare oc­ca­sion when Stu­art Ash­ton got the bet­ter of Scott Mait­land on the Hilling­ton right Marc Mac­cal­lum was quickly across to snuff out the dan­ger.

Mac­cal­lum’s cen­tral de­fen­sive part­ner Dene Cas­sells was in­stru­men­tal in set­ting up Saints open­ing goal in the 67th minute. Dene made a de­ci­sive in­ter­cep­tion on the half­way line and charged for­ward into the Hilling­ton half, play­ing the ball up to Paul Carmichael. With his back to goal, Paul deftly flicked the ball on with the out­side of his right foot to Craig MacEwan who wrong-footed Paul McGuire and stroked the ball into the net to give Saints the lead.

Con­tro­versy sur­rounded Saints’ sec­ond goal in the 74th minute. A wind-as­sisted goal kick from Thomas McCul­loch was ex­pertly brought down on the left by Craig MacEwan and curled high into the net past a rooted-tothe-spot Paul McGuire. Saints cel­e­bra­tions of a won­der­ful goal from Craig were cur­tailed by an off­side flag from Mr Hogg. How­ever, af­ter a brief dis­cus­sion with his as­sis­tant Mr Doolan, who was clearly oth­er­wise minded, pointed to the cen­tre cir­cle award­ing the goal to Saints.

This was the cue for Saints man­ager Alex Craik to make a dou­ble sub­sti­tu­tion, re­plac­ing Matthew Kelly and Fraser Mac­Far­lane with Martin Bonar and Dean Smith.

Both sub­sti­tutes were heav­ily in­volved in Saints’ third goal. With Hilling­ton push­ing for­ward des­per­ately look­ing for a way back into the game, Saints broke for­ward with Dean Smith hold­ing the ball up well and re­leas­ing Martin Bonar on the right wing. Martin’s run was sup­ported by Jamie Gra­ham who popped up in the in­side right chan­nel, tak­ing the ball into the box and squar­ing to Craig MacEwan. Craig’s low shot struck the in­side of the post and bounced into the path of the luck­less Christo­pher Flan­nery who tried to con­trol the ball but only suc­ceeded into turn­ing it into the un­guarded net.

A mis­er­able af­ter­noon for Christo­pher Flan­nery was rounded off with two min­utes of nor­mal time re­main­ing. Paul Carmichael charged through the tir­ing Hilling­ton de­fence once again and was scythed down 28 yards from goal by Flan­nery with ref­eree Doolan reach­ing to his back pocket and pro­duc­ing his red card.

The left of cen­tre po­si­tion of the free-kick would have been ideal for Wil­lie Gem­mell but in his ab­sence Kerr Newbigging grabbed the ball. The in­struc­tions from the side­lines for Kerr to hand the ball to Craig MacEwan were baf­fling as no­body could re­mem­ber Craig ever hav­ing taken a free-kick be­fore. How­ever, the de­ci­sion proved to be an in­spired one.

Craig curled the ball around the wall and past the de­spair­ing left hand of Paul McGuire to seal his hat-trick.

Some of the shine was taken off an ex­cel­lent all-round Saints per­for­mance when they con­ceded a last-minute con­so­la­tion goal af­ter switch­ing off at a hotly dis­puted throw-in. Hilling­ton took full ad­van­tage of a for­tu­itous award, quickly work­ing the ball down the left and into the box for the un­marked Gor­don Phillips. With the Saints de­fence ap­peal­ing in vain for an off­side flag, sec­ond half sub­sti­tute Phillips planted his header low in­side Thomas McCul­loch’s left hand post deny­ing Saints a long sought-af­ter clean sheet. Ref­eree Doolan brought pro­ceed­ings to a close af­ter three added min­utes con­firm­ing Saints place in the fi­nal where their op­po­nents will be ei­ther Easthall Star or Dunoon.

Match re­port and pho­tos: Derek Black

Craig MacEwan is con­grat­u­lated by Kerr Newbigging, Myles McAuley and Paul Carmichael on net­ting his hat-trick.

Fraser MacFalane shields the ball from Nicky Baird.

This header from Martin Bonar goes wide.

The Jimmy Mar­shall Cup.

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