Saints lose out in dra­matic end to Mar­shall Tro­phy fi­nal

The Oban Times - - Sport -

LAST Fri­day night at Fullar­ton Park, Toll­cross, Oban Saints had the Scot­tish Ama­teur Foot­ball League Jimmy Mar­shall Tro­phy snatched from their grasp thanks to a 93rd-minute equaliser and a penalty shootout defeat to Premier Di­vi­sion One Easthall Star. Saints will lament a suc­ces­sion of missed op­por­tu­ni­ties to make safe a game which they dom­i­nated for the most part, how­ever, the dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion of Star to take some­thing from a sea­son which saw them rel­e­gated for the first time in their 26-year his­tory was not to be de­nied.

Af­ter strug­gling for num­bers over the past few weeks, Saints man­ager Alex Craik’s big­gest prob­lem was who to leave out as a full squad re­ported for Saints’ fourth Jimmy Mar­shall Tro­phy fi­nal ap­pear­ance in five sea­sons.

Af­ter the tra­di­tional in­tro­duc­tion of play­ers and match of­fi­cials to Scot­tish Ama­teur Foot­ball League Pres­i­dent Matt Arm­strong, Saints kicked off play­ing into the low sun and were given an im­me­di­ate warn­ing that they were in for a game. Star worked a throw-in from just in­side their own half on the left quickly up to pacy left winger Colin Gil­mour, who cut in­side Matthew Kelly and flashed a low left foot shot across Thomas McCul­loch and inches wide of the Saints keep­ers’ left hand post.

From the goal-kick Saints moved the ball quickly up to Paul Carmicheal wide on the left, who lifted an ex­quis­ite right foot shot into the postage stamp cor­ner past a help­less Don­ald Grant. As­sis­tant ref­eree Steven Wylie was quick to raise his flag and ref­eree Jimmy Lit­ster dis­al­lowed the goal.

Saints con­tin­ued their pur­suit of a quick re­ply to the Easthall Star opener with Craig MacEwan and Paul Carmichael both hav­ing shots blocked by the Star de­fence. Paul’s fifth minute blocked ef­fort won a cor­ner kick on the right from which Fraser Mac­Far­lane picked out the head of Dene Cas­sells nine yards out. Dene’s clas­sic down­ward header bounced just in­side the six-yard box beat­ing Don­ald Grant’s right hand but crash­ing back off the cross­bar to be thumped clear by Alec Gil­mour.

Easthall Star took the lead in the eighth minute from a quick break on the right wing. Daniel Cameron out­mus­cled Myles McAu­ley in mid­field and fired a low ball across the face of goal where Colin Gil­mour nipped in ahead of Matthew Kelly to slam into the net.

The lead lasted just eight min­utes be­fore Saints de­servedly re­stored par­ity through top scorer Craig MacEwan. Craig cut into the box from the left but was halted by a well-timed chal- lenge from Star cen­tral de­fender Mar­tyn Hutchin­son, who would go on to pick up the Man of the Match award for an ac­com­plished de­fen­sive per­for­mance.

Fraser Mac­Far­lane swung in the re­sult­ing cor­ner kick from the left which was headed down by Paul Carmichael in­side the six-yard box with Craig MacEwan re­act­ing quick­est to poke the loose ball into the net from four yards.

An in­jury for Mar­tyn Hutchin­son in the 19th minute caused a lengthy stop­page giv­ing both sets of play­ers an op­por­tu­nity to take on water in what was an ex­tremely warm Glas­gow even­ing.

Star cen­tral mid­fielder An­drew Mal­colm’s long throw-ins pro­vided his team with a use­ful weapon, how­ever, the Saints de­fence re­mained un­trou­bled cop­ing well with the ae­rial dan­ger. On the half hour mark ref­eree Lit­ster de­nied Saints a penalty kick when Star keeper Don­ald Grant ap­peared to have a hold of Craig MacEwan’s right leg when the Saints striker had the goal at his mercy. MacEwan was sent sprawl­ing eight yards from goal but Mr Lit­ster was un­moved and waved play on.

Saints kept up the pres­sure with a quickly-taken Matthew Kelly throw-in on the right to Wil­lie Gem­mell. Wil­lie’s de­liv­ery into the box was glanced on by Myles McAu­ley seven yards out but un­for­tu­nately wide of the keeper’s right hand post.

The vis­i­tors had an­other penalty kick ap­peal dis­missed by Mr Lit­ster in the 36th minute. Dene Cas­sells made a strong run out from the back but was dis­pos­sessed mid­way in­side the Star half. With Cas­sells out of po­si­tion Easthall looked to counter but Wil­lie Gem­mell dropped deep to cover and launched an­other Saints at­tack. Wil­lie’s long ball from the back picked out Don­ald Camp­bell wide on the right who sent a cross into the box look­ing for Myles McAu­ley.

Be­fore he could get his head to the ball Myles took a boot to the face which some­how nei­ther the ref­eree or his as­sis­tant Mr Wylie con­sid­ered to be dan­ger­ous play.

Saints kept press­ing and rat­tled the cross­bar for the sec­ond time in the 38th minute. Don­ald Camp­bell’s right foot shot from 18 yards left Don­ald Grant rooted to the spot but came crash­ing back off the bar.

Saints failed to pro­duce the flash of in­spi­ra­tion nec­es­sary to break down the res­o­lute Star de­fence dur­ing the five ad­di­tional min­utes al­lowed by Mr Lit­ster and sur­vived a rare Star foray for­ward when Matthew Kelly slid in to take the ball away from Colin Gil­mour as he raced into the Saints box on the left.

Saints gaffer Alex Craik re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to make any half-time changes con­tent­ing him­self with an ap­peal for an in­creased sense of ur­gency from his start­ing 11.

The long ball was giv­ing the Saints rear­guard se­ri­ous prob- lems and on one oc­ca­sion Daniel Cameron came in from the right wing to round Thomas McCul­loch on the edge of his box and aim a shot on tar­get which Dene Cas­sells some­how man­aged to get back to block the line.

Saints man­ager Alex Craik fi­nally de­cided changes were nec­es­sary to re­gain the ini­tia­tive and with­drew Fraser Mac­Far­lane and Myles McAu­ley in favour of Ross Mait­land and Brian Mackay just be­fore the hour mark.

An in­ci­sive pass through the in­side left chan­nel from Wil­lie Gem­mell sent Scott Mait­land in be­hind the Star de­fence but his tempt­ing low cross along the six-yard line found no tak­ers in navy blue.

Push­ing for­ward in search of an open­ing, Saints con­tin­ued to live dan­ger­ously at the back with Marc Maccal­lum hav­ing to make an im­por­tant block to deny Craig Smith a clear run on goal. An un­for­tu­nate 70th minute slip by Scott Mait­land al­lowed sec­ond half Star sub­sti­tute Ross Camp­bell to run in be­hind and fire in a fierce shot which Thomas McCul­loch did well to parry at his near post. The big Saints stop­per made it a dou­ble save by deny­ing an­other of Star’s sec­ond half sub­sti­tutes, vet­eran striker John McDon­ald.

A flurry of chances came and went for Saints in­clud­ing Don­ald Camp­bell dink­ing a lob over Don­ald Grant which drifted just over the cross­bar, and Craig MacEwan glanc­ing a near-post header from a Ross Mait­land cor­ner kick also over the bar.

Saints fi­nally got their noses in front in the 76th minute when Brian Mackay, Paul Carmichael and Craig MacEwan carved open the Star de­fence for Don­ald Camp­bell to slot a low fin­ish past Don­ald Grant and into the bot­tom cor­ner of the net. Ross Mait­land had an im­me­di­ate op­por­tu­nity to put some day­light be­tween the teams but shot straight at Don­ald Grant when sent clear on the right by Don­ald Camp­bell.

With five min­utes re­main­ing Alex Craik made his fi­nal change send­ing on David McAr- thur to re­place Matthew Kelly at right back.

On the op­po­site flank Scott Mait­land con­tin­ued to sup­port the at­tack and fired an 86th-minute left foot shot from a tight an­gle just over the cross­bar.

Saints looked the more likely to add to the scor­ing and had a great chance to kill the game off in the 90th minute when Don­ald Camp­bell led a break-away from a Dene Cas­sells clear­ing header. Don­ald had Paul Carmichael and Ross Mait­land in sup­port, who worked a one-two, with Ross elect­ing to try and lob the keeper when per­haps a re­turn ball to Paul might have been the bet­ter op­tion.

In the 93rd minute Saints con­ceded a free kick just in­side their own half and 10 yards in from the right hand touch­line.

Keeper Don­ald Grant ran for­ward to add his height in the Saints box for Mar­tyn Hutchin­son’s de­liv­ery but it was late re­place­ment Glen Gil­mour who got his head to the ball ahead of Marc Maccal­lum and sent a loop­ing header out of Thomas McCul­loch’s reach and into the net for a dra­matic last gasp equaliser.

The Star play­ers nat­u­rally cel­e­brated wildly but had goal­keeper Don­ald Grant to thank for keep­ing his com­po­sure and re­main­ing close to his line for the re-start to safely clutch Wil­lie Gem­mell’s per­fectly ex­e­cuted lob from the half­way line just un­der­neath his cross­bar.

Mr Lit­ster brought the match to a close sig­nalling the need for a penalty shoot- out to de­cide the win­ners.

Hav­ing won three penalty shoot- outs since their last defeat against Hilling­ton in the 2013 Jimmy Mar­shall Tro­phy fi­nal Saints had ev­ery rea­son to feel con­fi­dent, how­ever luck was to desert them this time around. Vet­eran Ross Mait­land ac­cepted the un­en­vi­able task of tak­ing the first penalty but will most cer­tainly not want to in­clude this par­tic­u­lar episode in his mem­oirs when he fi­nally hangs up his boots at the end of this sea­son. Af­ter suc­cess­fully dump­ing Star goal­keeper Don- ald Grant on his back­side Ross sent his ef­fort two feet wide of the post to get Saints off to the worst pos­si­ble start. Man of the match Mar­tyn Hutchin­son had some of the shine taken off his own ex­cel­lent per­for­mance when Thomas McCul­loch dived to his right to save the first Star penalty and quickly even the score.

Sec­ond half Saints sub­sti­tute David McArthur left Don­ald Grant rooted to the spot to notch the first suc­cess­ful kick but Colin Gil­mour im­me­di­ately re­stored par­ity send­ing Thomas McCul­loch the wrong way in the process.

Don­ald Grant guessed cor­rectly for Wil­lie Gem­mell’s ef­fort but was beaten by pace as the ball crashed into the top cor­ner past his left hand. Ross Camp­bell went to the op­po­site side where Thomas McCul­loch made his sec­ond save to hand the ini­tia­tive to Saints.

This sea­son’s top scorer Craig MacEwan also went to the keeper’s right where Don­ald Grant pro­duced the first of his vi­tal saves. Late sub­sti­tute Craig Ste­wart ar­rowed his ef­fort low and just in­side Thomas McCul­loch’s right hand post with too much pace and ac­cu­racy for the keeper who guessed cor­rectly.

All square at two suc­cess­ful kicks each the shoot- out now ef­fec­tively en­tered sud­den death where Star drew first blood when Don­ald Grant threw him­self to his right to stop Don­ald Camp­bell’s ef­fort. The pres­sure was now all on Star left-back Dean Scott who re­tained his com­po­sure to tuck the ball low into the bot­tom cor­ner past Thomas McCul­loch’s de­spair­ing left hand and seal a fa­mous vic­tory for Easthall Star.

De­spite fall­ing well short of the stan­dards set in their march to a sec­ond suc­ces­sive Scot­tish Ama­teur Cup semi-fi­nal just six weeks ago, Saints will be deeply dis­ap­pointed not to win a match which they dom­i­nated al­most en­tirely. Full credit must go to a de­ter­mined Easthall Star side who dug deep to force a last gasp equaliser and held their nerves to pre­vail in the penalty shootout.

Scot­tish Ama­teur Foot­ball League Pres­i­dent Matt Arm­strong pre­sented firstly Mar­tyn Hutchin­son with his Man of the Match award, both sets of play­ers with their re­spec­tive win­ners and run­ners-up medals and fi­nally Easthall Star Cap­tain Alec Gil­mour with the Jimmy Mar­shall Tro­phy.

Oban Saints would like to ex­press their sin­cere thanks to all those who sent mes­sages of sup­port and es­pe­cially to the hardy band of sup­port­ers who made the 200-plus mile round trip to Glas­gow’s east end to lend their sup­port in per­son.

Match re­port and pho­tos: Derek Black Craig MacEwan, No 8, stabs the ball home from close range to make the score 1-1.

Dene Cas­sells can only watch as his ef­fort comes back off the cross­bar.

Craig MacEwan has his right leg pulled back by Easthall keeper Don­ald Grant but no penalty was given.

Don­ald Camp­bell is con­grat­u­lated af­ter giv­ing Saints a 2-1 lead.

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