Saints are Ar­gyll and Bute Cup win­ners

The Oban Times - - Sport -

AF­TER 200 min­utes of foot­ball in wind, rain and scorch­ing sun­shine Oban Saints emerged vic­to­ri­ous from this year’s Ar­gyll and Bute Cup in Lochgilp­head.

The tour­na­ment was once again ar­ranged by Lochgilp­head Red Star who were ex­cel­lent hosts for the pop­u­lar eight-team event.

Tak­ing part this year were cup hold­ers Dunoon, last year’s run­ners-up Oban Saints, tour­na­ment reg­u­lars Tar­bert, hosts Lochgilp­head Red Star, Glas­gow Is­lay, who were re­turn­ing for a sec­ond year, and debu­tants Neil­ston, Tan­nahill and South Lochaber This­tle.

The day be­gan in rather in­aus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances for Saints when man­ager Alex Craik lost the keys to the minibus spark­ing a fran­tic hunt for the spare set which thank­fully were found in the nick of time.

The 14 avail­able se­nior play­ers were com­ple­mented in a siz­able squad by young­sters Nathan Allan, Ken­neth Black, Gavin For­grieve, Ruairidh Horne and Cameron Kerr.

How­ever a last minute call- off from Craig MacEwan and an early in­jury for Craig Camp­bell left the Gaf­fer to rely far more heav­ily on the five youth team play­ers than he had planned.

As the day pro­gressed any con­cerns that the man­age­ment may have had re­gard­ing the young­sters’ abil­ity to cope in the com­pany of con­sid­er­ably more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers were dis­pelled with all five ex­celling in a va­ri­ety of roles.

Group sec­tions

Saints were drawn in group two on the 3G at Lochgilp­head Joint Cam­pus and kicked off against Dunoon Am­a­teurs to whom they had lost out in last year’s fi­nal. The omens weren’t good when Saints con­ceded a ninth-minute opener to a tidy fin­ish from Dunoon’s Con­nor McC­ly­mont, quickly fol­lowed by Craig Camp­bell’s de­par­ture with a thigh strain.

How­ever Saints ral­lied and lev­eled af­ter 16 min­utes, with Fraser MacFar­lane find­ing the bot­tom cor­ner from a Cameron Kerr cross af­ter the young striker had been played in by Wil­lie Gem­mell.

More in­jury worries ar­rived on the stroke of half-time when Craig Camp­bell’s re­place­ment Daniel Croarkin also suf­fered a thigh strain while mak­ing a timely in­ter­cep­tion to deny Kevin MacKen­zie a clear sight of goal.

For­tu­nately the half-time in­ter­val also co­in­cided with the ar­rival of ex­pe­ri­enced re­in­force­ments Don­ald Camp­bell, Marc Maccal­lum and Scott Mait­land who helped Saints gain the up­per hand in the sec­ond half.

Don­ald Camp­bell saw a lovely turn and shot from the 18-yard line which was saved by the keeper. With just two min­utes re­main­ing Gem­mell threaded a killer pass through to Matthew Kelly who, be­fore the keeper had time to set him­self, fired a low shot into the bot­tom cor­ner from 25 yards giv­ing Saints a win­ning start to the group stage.

Over at Rope­work Park group one opened with the lo­cal derby match be­tween Lochgilp­head Red Star and Tar­bert. The Dook­ers suf­fered a tor­rid 201617 sea­son los­ing all but one of their league matches, so full credit to all in­volved at the club for keep­ing things go­ing in such dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances.

The much de­served change in for­tune for Tar­bert will, how­ever, have to wait a while longer as their Loch Fyne neigh­bours Red Star ran out com­fort­able 3- 0 win­ners through goals from Martin Bonar, Ryan Caskie and Ciaran Mc­phie.

Fol­low­ing the Loch Fy­nesiders onto the well pre­pared if slightly heavy grass park were Glas­gow Is­lay and South Lochaber This­tle where the ex­iled Ileach’s de­feated the Kin­lochleven men by the odd goal in three.

While Saints were tak­ing a breather an­other lo­cal derby was played out on the 3G. Scot­tish Am­a­teur Foot­ball League Pre­mier Divi­sion One out­fit Neil­ston saw off Tan­nahill of the Pais­ley and District Am­a­teur Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion Pre­mier Divi­sion by three goals to nil. A first minute opener from David Bran­ni­gan was added to in the sec­ond half by two suc­cess­fully con­verted penalty kicks from Rob­bie Cameron.

The Tan­nahill men were pitched straight back into ac­tion on the 3G against a Saints side who quickly stamped their mark on the game, with Don­ald Camp­bell net­ting a first half hat-trick. Two goals from young Cameron Kerr and an­other from Camp­bell in the sec­ond half sealed a com­fort­able 6- 0 win.

With progress to the semi-fi­nals now as­sured, Saints took ad­van­tage of a two-game break to re-fuel be­fore their fi­nal group match.

Over at the Rope­work Lochgilp­head Red Star booked their place in the semis with a nar­row win over Glas­gow Is­lay cour­tesy of a lone Ciaran Mc­Phie strike. Also on the grass, South Lochaber This­tle and Tar­bert played out the high­est scor­ing match of the day av­er­ag­ing a goal ev­ery four min­utes as the Kin­lochleven men notched seven goals to the Dook­ers’ three.

Im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing their thriller against South Lochaber This­tle, Tar­bert were straight back into ac­tion against Glas­gow Is­lay with the Ileachs run­ning out com­fort­able 3- 0 win­ners to clinch a place in the semi-fi­nals as group one run­ners-up.

The fi­nal group one match at the Rope­work was an en­ter­tain­ing 2-2 draw be­tween al­ready con­firmed group win­ners Lochgilp­head Red Star and third placed South Lochaber This­tle.

Dur­ing Saints two match break Neil­ston con­firmed their place in the semi’s de­feat­ing Scot­tish Am­a­teur Foot­ball League Pre­mier Divi­sion One ri­vals Dunoon by three goals to nil. On tar­get for Neil­ston were Rob­bie Cameron and David Bran­ni­gan with two. With their hopes of a suc­cess­ful de­fence of the cup now over, Dunoon gained the mi­nor con­so­la­tion of fin­ish­ing group two in third place with a 2-1 win over Tan­nahill thanks to goals from Kevin MacKen­zie and Con­nor McC­ly­mont. Craig Jack net­ted for the Pais­ley side.

The fi­nal group two match would then be a de­cider be­tween Saints and Neil­ston to de­cide who would go through as group win­ners. Saints were in pole po­si­tion thanks to a slightly su­pe­rior goal dif­fer­ence and there­fore had only to avoid de­feat to con­firm top spot.

Saints made a shaky start to the group de­cider and had Gra­ham Douglas to thank for a smart save from a sec­ond minute free-kick. The score re­mained 0- 0 at the in­ter­val

Neil­ston be­gan the sec­ond half on top and once again Gra­ham Douglas made a vi­tal save af­ter Saints had con­ceded pos­ses­sion cheaply in the mid­dle of the park. Man­ager Alex Craik de­cided to push for the win and fresh­ened things up by re­plac­ing Cameron Kerr and Matthew Kelly with Don­ald Camp­bell and 14-year - old Gavin For­grieve.

The sub­sti­tutes along with Fraser MacFar­lane and Keith Mil­lar were heav­ily in­volved in the break­through goal in the 33rd minute. A lovely flow­ing move through the mid­field saw Don­ald Camp­bell pick out Keith Mil­lar’s run through the in­side left chan­nel into the box. Mil­lar then de­liv­ered a per­fect cut back for Camp­bell who passed the ball into the bot­tom cor­ner be­yond the de­spair­ing left hand of keeper Ful­ton.

Ref­eree Peter Laing, who per­formed well as a late re­place­ment for John Stobo who had to rush away to a Ce­line Dion con­cert, awarded Saints a free-kick on the edge of the D af­ter a foul on Don­ald Camp­bell. Wil­lie Gem­mell’s eye was now in and he curled a de­light­ful fin­ish round the five man Neil­ston wall and past the well beaten goal­keeper to seal Saints progress as group win­ners.

Semi-fi­nals

In the first semi-fi­nal on the grass at the Rope­work Group One win­ners Lochgilp­head Red Star faced Group Two run­ners-up Neil­ston. The tour­na­ment hosts opened the scor­ing on the stroke of half­time with a Kieran Moore free­kick. Neil­ston hit back af­ter the in­ter­val when Red Star keeper Ben Pol­lock could only parry a David Bran­ni­gan free-kick and Michael Green fol­lowed up to bun­dle the ball into the net.

With the prospect of penalty kicks loom­ing Red Star struck a killer blow in the fi­nal minute. Ciaran Mc­Phie had a good ef- fort turned be­hind for a cor­ner kick by Neil­ston keeper Ful­ton. How­ever the Neil­ston de­fence was breached from the cor­ner when Kevin Keen found space at the near post to vol­ley home from close range and send the hosts through to the fi­nal.

Semi-fi­nal two was be­tween group two win­ners Oban Saints and group one run­ners-up Glas­gow Is­lay. Saints were quickly into their stride with Gem­mell test­ing the keeper’s han­dling with a dip­ping shot in­side the first minute. The Glas­gow Is­lay keeper passed that test with fly­ing colours but spilled an iden­ti­cal ef­fort from Gemell just 60 sec­onds later.

Cameron Kerr was quickly onto the loose ball and, de­spite the keeper mak­ing a good save from his ini­tial ef­fort, kept his cool to nod the ball over the line to es­tab­lish an early lead for Saints.

Saints dou­bled their lead af­ter 12 min­utes. Gem­mell picked out Scott Mait­land on the left wing and con­tin­ued his run into the box head­ing Scott’s cross into the path of Cameron Kerr who nod­ded the bounc­ing ball be­yond the keeper and into the net.

Saints Gaf­fer Alex Craik made three changes at half-time with­draw­ing Jamie Gra­ham, Matthew Kelly and Cameron Kerr in favour of David Smith, Gavin For­grieve and Don­ald Camp­bell. Don­ald made an in­stant im­pact latch­ing onto a mea­sured pass from fel­low sub­sti­tute Gavin For­grieve and beat­ing the keeper at his near post from an acute an­gle to ce­ment his po­si­tion as the tour­na­ment’s lead­ing goalscorer.

Fraser MacFar­lane opened up the Glas­gow Is­lay de­fence in the 34th minute send­ing Don­ald Camp­bell through on goal. Don­ald was sent wide of goal but rounded the keeper and sent a cut-back across the face of goal where it was turned into the net by a re­treat­ing de­fender be­fore it could reach Cameron Kerr com­ing in at the back post. Kerr did man­age to seal his hat-trick in the fi­nal minute latch­ing onto a Scott Mait­land pass af­ter more good work from Gavin For­grieve to lash the ball into the roof of the net seal­ing a con­vinc­ing 5- 0 win for Saints

Fi­nal

Only 20 min­utes later than the sched­uled 5pm kick- off time, Lochgilp­head Red Star and Oban Saints lined up in still scorch­ing hot sun­shine for the fi­nal of the 2017 Ar­gyll and Bute Cup.

Ref­eree Pat O’Don­nell was as­sisted by Jimmy Lit­ster and Jim Pear­son who, to­gether with Peter Laing and John Stobo would later re­ceive the grate­ful thanks of tour­na­ment or­gan­iser Douglas Moore at the pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony in the Stag Ho­tel.

Saints cap­tain Marc MacCal­lum had bet­ter luck at the coin toss and elected to shoot up the Rope­work slope in the first half also har­ness­ing the slight wind ad­van­tage.

In­side the open­ing minute Saints were de­nied what ap­peared to be a de­cent penalty shout when Fraser MacFar­lane was up­ended in the Red Star Box. Mr O’Don­nell how­ever de­cided the tackle was fair and in­stead awarded a cor­ner kick much to the cha­grin of the Saints bench. The cor­ner kick came to noth­ing as was the case two min­utes later af­ter Ben Pol­lock had turned a Matthew Kelly shot around his right hand post. Pol­lock again saved well af­ter four min­utes when Don­ald Camp­bell con­nected at the back post with a Kerr cross from the right.

Red Star made their first foray for­ward in the sev­enth minute win­ning a cor­ner kick on the right which Saints keeper Gra­ham Douglas held well un­der pres­sure.

Af­ter the bright start from Saints the hosts stepped things up a gear mak­ing good use of long throw-ins to heap pres­sure on the Saints de­fence which re­fused to buckle.

On the quar­ter hour mark Fraser MacFar­lane skipped away from his marker on the Saints right and sent a tan­ta­lis­ing low ball across the six-yard box ag­o­nis­ingly out of reach for Scott Mait­land racing in at the back post.

Red Star came close be­fore the half-time in­ter­val twice send­ing shots wide of the post hand­ing the ini­tia­tive to Saints who would have the ben­e­fit of the slope in the sec­ond half.

Man­ager Alex Craik brought on Gavin For­grieve to re­place Fraser MacFar­lane for the start of the sec­ond half with Cameron Kerr mov­ing for­ward to join Don­ald Camp­bell in at­tack.

The two quickly com­bined from a Wil­lie Gem­mell pass with Kerr di­rect­ing Camp­bell’s cut-back on tar­get only to see his ef­fort well saved by Ben Pol­lock.

Op­po­site num­ber Gra­ham Douglas pro­duced an­other fine save to deny Kieran Moore be­fore Saints dealt Red Star a killer blow in the 25th minute.

Don­ald Camp­bell threaded a pass through the in­side right chan­nel for Matthew Kelly who ri­fled a shot into the bot­tom cor­ner past Ben Pol­lock’s left hand.

With 15 min­utes re­main­ing there was still plenty of time re­main­ing for Red Star to con­jure an equaliser but try as they might they couldn’t find a way through a res­o­lute Saints de­fence.

Foot­ball

Twice Red Star sent free-kicks from dan­ger­ous po­si­tions crash­ing into the Saints wall with their prin­ci­pal set piece men­ace com­ing from long throws which Wil­lie Gem­mell and Jamie Gra­ham in par­tic­u­lar did well to re­pel.

In the dy­ing sec­onds Red Star were al­most re­warded for their per­se­ver­ance, how­ever Gra­ham Douglas was in no mood to see his soli­tary goal against tally added to and pulled off a stun­ning point blank save to deny Keiran Moore with vir­tu­ally the last kick of the reg­u­la­tion 40 min­utes.

Mr O’Don­nell al­lowed a gen­er­ous amount of added time which Saints saw out com­fort­ably to win the Ar­gyll and Bute Cup for the 12th time.

De­spite the tour­na­ment be­ing prin­ci­pally about prepa­ra­tion for the sea­son ahead, Saints man­ager Alex Craik will be de­lighted to have se­cured the sil­ver­ware and in par­tic­u­lar the per­for­mance of the young­sters in the squad.

Saints be­gin their Scot­tish Am­a­teur Foot­ball League Pre­mier Divi­sion cam­paign away at Hilling­ton this Satur­day fol­lowed by a home fix­ture against Mother­well This­tle.

Oban Saints pic­tured af­ter de­feat­ing Lochgilp­head Red Star in the fi­nal of the Ar­gyll & Bute Cup.

Saints goal­keeper Gra­ham Douglas comes to col­lect a cor­ner dur­ing the fi­nal against Red Star.

Four of the Saints teenagers who im­pressed dur­ing the tour­na­ment – Kenny Black, Nathan Allan, Cammy Kerr and Ruar­idh Horne.

Matty Kelly cel­e­brates scor­ing the win­ning goal in the fi­nal.

Man­ager Alex Craik with the Ar­gyll and Bute Cup.

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