Carmichael on fire as Saints and Vale of Leven share the hon­ours

The Oban Times - - SPORT -

OBAN Saints wel­comed reg­u­lar visi­tors Vale of Leven Juniors back to Oban for a pre­sea­son friendly last Satur­day. To the re­lief of all, the heavy rain which put a damp­ener on last year’s meet­ing was nowhere to be seen and the match went ahead in pleas­ant con­di­tions on an ex­cel­lent Glen­cruit­ten 1 sur­face.

Hol­i­days, in­juries and work com­mit­ments se­verely re­stricted Alex Craik’s op­tions with the gaffer hav­ing to rely on an ex­tremely youth­ful bench to back up an ex­pe­ri­enced start­ing eleven. In goal for Saints was Gra­ham Dou­glas who has re­claimed the num­ber one jer­sey from re­cently re­tired Thomas McCul­loch. An un­tried cen­tral de­fen­sive part­ner­ship of Jamie Gra­ham and David McPhee slot­ted in be­tween full backs Matthew Kelly and Scott Mait­land. The mid­field had an ex­tremely ex­pe­ri­enced look with skip­per for the day Don­ald Camp­bell tak­ing a cen­tral role along­side Wil­lie Gem­mell and, fit again af­ter miss­ing most of last sea­son, Keith Mil­lar. Up front Paul Carmichael led the line flanked by Fraser MacFar­lane and Dean Smith. On the bench were young­sters Ken­neth Black, Jay Cooper, Gavin For­grieve and Sol Smith with the Gaffer nam­ing him­self among the sub­sti­tutes to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the av­er­age age.

The visi­tors, un­der new man­ager Brian Brown, brought a strong 20-man squad with the full in­ten­tion of giv­ing each player at least 45 min­utes of game time.

Saints kicked off at­tack­ing the rail­way end and the first half mo­tored along at a good pace with the visi­tors cre­at­ing the bet­ter of the open­ings in the early ex­changes. Right sid- ed mid­fielder Richard Ste­wart twice headed off-tar­get with An­drew Bid­dulph and Al­lan Macpher­son also send­ing shots over the cross­bar. For­mer Hal­dane United man Macpher­son was re­new­ing ac­quain­tances in the mid­dle of the park with Scot­tish Amateur in­ter­na­tional col­league Don­ald Camp­bell who fizzed a shot wide of the postage stamp cor­ner af­ter good ap­proach play on the Saints left.

Nei­ther keeper was tested un­til the 19th minute when Saints opened the scor­ing af­ter an­other good move on the left. Scott Mait­land played the ball up to Paul Carmichael who held the ball up well and laid it back to Fraser MacFar­lane. The diminu­tive winger found the over­lap­ping Scott Mait­land who threaded a well-weighted ball, send­ing Paul Carmichael through on goal. Vale keeper Robert Tiropoulous ad­vanced to his six-yard line but was beaten from just in­side the 18-yard box by Carmichael who clev­erly tucked a low shot in­side the keeper’s left-hand post.

Mak­ing his first ap­pear­ance in pre-sea­son Dean Smith brought the first save of the match from Robert Tiropoulous who got fin­ger tips to Dean’s shot from the edge of the D to turn the ball over his cross­bar.

The vis­i­tor’s found the net in the 33rd minute with their first ef­fort on tar­get when Ben Craig turned well on the 18-yard line and beat Gra­ham Dou­glas low down to his right.

Four min­utes later Dou­glas pro­duced an ex­cel­lent fin­ger tip save to deny An­drew Bid­dulph af­ter the Vale striker got the bet­ter of Jamie Gra­ham with a neat turn on the edge of the box.

At the other end an Al­lan Macpher­son foul on Matthew Kelly gave Wil­lie Gem­mell a free-kick op­por­tu­nity 22-yards out but the Saints dead ball ex­pert failed to trou­ble Tiropoulous in the Vale goal send­ing his ef­fort high over the cross­bar.

Five min­utes be­fore the in­ter­val Wil­lie’s pin­point pass­ing ac­cu­racy opened up the Vale de­fence for Paul Carmichael who had his progress un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously halted by Tiropoulous at the ex­pense of a penalty kick. The big keeper guessed cor­rectly but was beaten by the pace on Don­ald Camp­bell’s spot kick which fizzed past his left hand into the bot­tom cor­ner of the net.

Tiropoulous de­nied Saints a third goal with an ex­cel­lent fin­ger tip save to deny Don­ald Camp­bell af­ter an­other good move on the left be­fore ref­eree John Stobo blew for half-time.

The visi­tors made whole­sale changes for the sec­ond half with only left-back Stephen Grif­fen and goal­keeper Robert Tiropoulous re- emerg­ing from the pavil­ion af­ter the half-time in­ter­val.

The sec­ond half be­gan in dis­as­trous fash­ion for Saints who con­ceded twice in­side three min­utes. A 46th minute cor­ner kick from the right was met by Greg Ross who squeezed a header be­tween Gra­ham Dou­glas and Scott Mait­land at the front post. Barely 60 sec­onds later the visi­tors took the lead for the first time when a cross from the Vale right evaded Matthew Kelly al­low­ing Rob­bie Dolan a shot on goal. Gra­ham Dou­glas nar­rowed the an­gle well but could only parry Dolan’s ef­fort into the path of An­drew Clark who had the sim­plest of tasks in rolling the ball into the un­guarded net.

To com­pound the mis­ery for Saints Don­ald Camp­bell ag­gra­vated the groin strain picked up in the D&K Laf­ferty tour­na­ment and had to leave the field for what looks likely to be an ex­tended spell on the side­lines. Don­ald’s re­place­ment was young Ken­neth Black who slot­ted in at left back with Scott Mait­land mov­ing into mid­field.

Af­ter a rocky start Saints stead­ied the ship against the rein­vig­o­rated visi­tors and drew level in the 55th minute. Paul Carmichael, who was on fire all af­ter­noon, con­trolled a long ball from Wil­lie Gem­mell and held off the chal­lenge of Adam Mon­aghan be­fore pick­ing out Scott Mait­land’s back post run. Robert Tiropoulous came off his line to in­ter­cept Scott’s run and did well to turn the ball be­hind for a cor­ner kick. Fraser MacFar­lane de­liv­ered an ex­cel­lent cross from the right which was met per­fectly on the penalty spot by Paul Carmichael who pow­ered a sen­sa­tional header into the top cor­ner much to the de­light of the Saints bench.

The re­main­der of the sec­ond half ebbed and flowed with­out too many clear cut chances. Scott Mait­land had a goal bound shot de­flected wide for a cor­ner af­ter good work on the right by Matthew Kelly and Fraser MacFar­lane be­fore Gra­ham Dou­glas tipped over a 25-yard ef­fort from An­drew Clark.

Be­fore the cor­ner kick could be taken gaffer Alex Craik with­drew Fraser MacFar­lane and Dean Smith re­plac­ing them with two more of Saints’ promis­ing young­sters Jay Cooper and Gavin For­grieve. The per­son­nel change also brought about a change of for­ma­tion to a 3-5-2 with Wil­lie Gem­mell drop­ping into the back three along­side Jamie Gra­ham and David McPhee.

The new look Saints de­fence coped well with Vale’s twin strike force with new boy McPhee com­fort­able along­side the ex­pe­ri­enced Gem­mell and Gra­ham. In the mid­field old head Keith Mil­lar mar­shalled young­sters Ken­neth Black and Gavin For­grieve who will have ben­e­fited greatly from play­ing against such ex­pe­ri­enced op­po­si­tion. Saints made their fi­nal change with 15 min­utes re­main­ing, giv­ing a de­but to young Sol Smith who re­placed Matthew Kelly on the right of the five man mid­field.

Vale cen­tral mid­fielder David McNaught fired a 25-yard ef­fort over the cross­bar af­ter a good 83rd minute pass­ing move had opened up the Saints’ de­fence.

With one minute of the 90 re­main­ing ref­eree Mr Stobo strangely pe­nalised Sol Smith for a foul on Rob­bie Dolan wide on the Vale left. The award mys­ti­fied the Saints play­ers whose in­credulity would have quickly turned to anger had Gra­ham Dou­glas not pro­duced the save of the match to deny Mark But­ler from close range. But­ler’s cush­ioned ef­fort from the six-yard line had Sugar at full stretch to push the ball wide. But­ler could scarcely be­lieve his luck but pur­sued the ball and played it back across goal where the com­bined ef­forts of Wil­lie Gem­mell, Jamie Gra­ham and Keith Mil­lar kept the ball away from the wait­ing An­drew Clark be­fore Sugar fi­nally pounced to smother the ball and calm the nerves.

Mr Stobo brought a sport­ing con­test to an end with hon­ours even and both sides sat­is­fied with a good work­out.

Man­ager Alex Craik was happy with the per­for­mance but needs to get more of his ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers back in ac­tion. He said: ‘The league starts in three weeks and some of our se­nior play­ers haven’t kicked a ball yet.

‘We need to get them back to match fit­ness quickly oth­er­wise we could strug­gle at the start of the sea­son.’

Saints con­tinue their pre-sea­son sched­ule with train­ing on Mon­day and Wed­nes­day be­fore the visit of South Lochaber This­tle next Satur­day. Kick- off will be 2pm on the rugby pitch. Ref­eree: John Scott.

Match re­port and pho­to­graphs: Derek Black

Paul Carmichael, who put in a tire­less per­for­mance for Saints all af­ter­noon, opened the scor­ing with a well-taken goal.

Saints keeper Gra­ham Dou­glas makes a fine save late on in the game.

Jamie Gra­ham turns away from Ryan Kerr.

Dean Smith.

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