Heartbreak for Saints as they lose out to late goal against league champions
SAFL Premier Division
REIGNING Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division Champions St Joseph’s extended their Glencruitten winning streak to four games in a five-goal thriller last Saturday.
Just as they had in their 4 - 2 win at William Street at the tail end of last season, Saints recovered from a two-goal deficit to haul themselves back into contention, however, this time it was the Duntocher men who had the added desire to force the winner.
With manager Alex Craik at a wedding, coaches Jamie Graham, Peter MacCallum and secretary David Buchanan were in charge of team affairs.
The instructions from the gaffer were to stick closely to the previous week’s winning line-up adding only the returning Scott Maitland and David McPhee. However, a late calloff from Shaun MacIver meant an earlier than planned outing for recovering injury victim Paul Carmichael.
Saints kicked off attacking the railway end but it was the visitors who looked hungrier giving the home side no time on the ball. Martin McComish’s late challenge on Ally McKerracher gave Willie Gemmell an early chance to put the ball in the danger area but Willie’s delivery was too long for Craig Campbell at the far post. McComish tested the patience of referee Peter Laing again in the second minute with another heavy challenge on McKerracher with Mr Laing happy just to have a quiet word with McComish.
Saints had the first effort on target in the ninth minute from the head of David McPhee. McPhee’s central defensive partner Craig Campbell won an important interception midway inside the Saints half and launched the ball forward for Paul Carmichael who won a corner kick on the right. David McPhee beat Ryan Halpin to Willie Gemmell’s delivery but his effort was straight at Sean Gibbons who made a comfortable save.
A fantastic block by Fraser Murray prevented Ally McKerracher from testing the keeper in the 15th minute after a good move on the right involving Matthew Kelly and Paul Carmichael. The same three linked up again three minutes later with McKerracher this time claiming that his shot was blocked by the hand of Kearn Docherty but Mr Laing dismissed the Saints appeals for a penalty kick.
Daniel McKenna clipped a decent effort over the crossbar before St Joseph’s new signing from local rivals Goldenhill opened the scoring for the visitors. From a harmless looking ball from Craig Cameron deep inside his own half the Saints rearguard was opened up far too easily with McKenna running through to slot the ball past the hopelessly exposed Graham Douglas.
Referee Laing drew the ire of the Saints bench for an extremely tight offside call against Paul Carmichael in the 26th minute before a tame shot from Ally McKerracher 60 seconds later slipped harmlessly wide of target.
Graham Douglas came to the rescue in the 29th minute throwing himself to his right to tip a Ryan Halpin shot round the post for a corner kick.
Before the restart Daniel Croarkin, who was suffering from stomach cramps, was replaced by Myles McAuley making his first appearance of the season. Myles took up a position in midfield with Scott Maitland dropping back to fill the left-back role vacated by Croarkin.
Saints threatened in the 38th minute. From deep inside his own half on the left Myles McAuley linked up well with Craig MacEwan to send Ally McKerracher tearing towards the bye-line. Ally outpaced Craig Cameron to fire in a left foot cross which was inches beyond the outstretched boot of Paul Carmichael racing in at the far post.
With five first half minutes remaining Saints captain Craig MacEwan superbly chested down a high ball just inside the left touchline and was hauled back by his well-beaten opposite number Craig Cameron. To the amazement of both sets of players Mr Laing penalised MacEwan for hand-ball with the protests from the irate Saints players continuing for several minutes.
The second half began in disastrous fashion for Saints conceding a second goal just two minutes after the restart. Paul Carmichael won a freekick on the edge of the St Joe’s box which Cameron Harkins saw out for a goal kick. From Sean Gibbons’ goal kick Harkins raced to the other end and delivered a cross from the left wing which Daniel McKenna headed back across goal for Ryan Halpin to dive in and head past Graham Douglas.
Paul Carmichael’s perseverance on the edge of the D created an opening for Craig MacEwan with the Saints skipper drawing a smart save from Sean Gibbons at his near post.
Saints hauled themselves back into contention in the 56th minute when Craig MacEwan controlled a Willie Gemmell long ball wide on the right and picked out Paul Carmichael sliding in at the back post to poke the ball past Sean Gibbons.
The visitors almost immediately restored their two-goal advantage with only the outstretched left foot of Graham Douglas denying Daniel McKenna from the restart.
With 15 minutes remaining Ally McKerracher, who still looks a little short of full match fitness, was replaced by Steven MacLeod. The change of personnel also brought another positional switch with Matthew Kelly moving into midfield and Steven MacLeod taking Matthew’s right-back berth.
In his new advanced role Kelly had a big hand in Saints’ 80th minute equaliser. Linking up well with Scott Maitland on the left, Kelly forced his way to the edge of the St Joe’s box. The ball broke to Craig MacEwan, who produced an exquisite turn to escape the attentions of Craig Cameron and Fraser Murray and stroked the ball into the bottom corner past the left hand of Sean Gibbons to make the score 2-2 – game on.
St Joe’s made an 83rd minute change with Stephen Dallas replacing Ally Graham in attack before Mr Laing made another controversial decision which this time benefited the home side. Keith Millar and Stephen Dallas had a coming-together in the Saints box and, much to the relief of all in navy blue, the decision which could have gone either way was given in Millar’s favour. The sense of relief for Saints unfortunately evaporated after 88 minutes when Scott Smith was given too much time and space to carry the ball from midfield into the Saints box. The combined efforts of David McPhee and Steven MacLeod couldn’t stop Smith from getting a left foot shot away which squirmed under the advancing Graham Douglas and nestled in the bottom corner much to the delight of the St Joe’s contingent.
Mr Laing allowed a full five minutes of stoppage time, but try as they might Saints were unable to threaten the St Joe’s goal giving the visitors the full three points and a happy bus journey back to Duntocher.
Secretary David Buchanan said: ‘We never got into our stride in the first half and when St Joe’s scored their second goal we looked to be in big trouble but credit to the lads they dug in and we managed to play some good football to get back on level terms but to lose the goal so close to the end was devastating.’
Saints are back at Glencruitten on Saturday when they play Cambusnethan Talbot Community in the second round of the West of Scotland Cup. Kick-off is 2pm with referee Jimmy Litster in charge.
Saints central defender David McPhee gets his header on target but it was well saved by Sean Gibbons.
Myles McAuley made a welcome return to the Saints squad.
Paul Carmichael slides in to knock the ball past St Joseph’s keeper Sean Gibbons to make the score 2-1.