Falkirk’s late equaliser de­nies Saints Scot­tish Cup vic­tory

Big crowd ex­pected for re­play at Glen­cruit­ten on Satur­day

The Oban Times - - SPORT -

Falkirk Com­mu­nity 3 Oban Saints 3 Scot­tish Am­a­teur Cup - 3rd Round

OBAN Saints and Falkirk Com­mu­nity will re­con­vene at Glen­cruit­ten this Satur­day af­ter­noon af­ter a pul­sat­ing 90-plus min­utes of end-to-end ac­tion at Alva Academy failed to sep­a­rate the two evenly-matched sides.

The keenly-con­tested Scot­tish Am­a­teur Cup third round tie ebbed and flowed through­out the af­ter­noon with the home side snatch­ing a dra­matic stop­page time equaliser to force a re­play.

Saints Man­ager Alex Craik’s se­lec­tion prob­lems deep­ened with four play­ers drop­ping out from the squad which de­feated In­ver­clyde on league duty the pre­vi­ous Satur­day, so much so that Marc Maccal­lum in­ter­rupted his sab­bat­i­cal to part­ner the Gaffer at the heart of the de­fence.

With Falkirk FC play­ing at home, the Falkirk Sta­dium was un­avail­able to the Com­mu­nity team there­fore the tie was switched some 20 miles away to Alva Academy, a venue slightly more in keep­ing with the Scot­tish Am­a­teur Cup.

The home side kicked off play­ing into the bright low sun with light­ning quick right winger Grant Plen­der­leith post­ing early no­tice of the threat his pace would pose ac­cel­er­at­ing away from Scott Mait­land in the first minute and send­ing in a deep cross which Steven MacLeod hooked clear.

Scot­tish sprint cham­pion Plen­der­leith was through again in the fifth minute send­ing a shot with the out­side of his right boot wide of the right-hand post of Saints keeper Graham Dou­glas.

Saints weath­ered the early pres­sure from the hosts and threat­ened for the first time in the ninth minute. Shaun MacIver won a free kick on the edge of the cen­tre cir­cle from where Willie Gem­mell found Don­ald Camp­bell on the edge of the box. Camp­bell held the ball up well and slipped it through to Craig MacEwan who shaved the out­side of the right hand post of Falkirk keeper Camp­bell Ged­des.

Shaun MacIver fired wide of the same post two min­utes later af­ter link­ing up well with Don­ald Camp­bell in a move started by a Marc Maccal­lum in­ter­cep­tion of the half-way line.

Saints were left ap­peal­ing in vain in the 13th minute when ref­eree Joseph Todd gave the ben­e­fit of an ex­tremely tight off­side de­ci­sion against Craig MacEwan in favour of the home side. Falkirk Skip­per Jack Stick­ler didn’t wait around to de­bate the mat­ter and sent a long ball up to James Steven­son to which Alex Craik re­acted quickly to snuff out the dan­ger and head the ball back to Graham Dou­glas.

The home side took the lead in the 20th minute from a pas­sage of play typ­i­cal of the end-to-end na­ture of the match.

Craig MacEwan was harshly pe­nalised for a chal­lenge on Robert Dun­can just inside the Saints half. Marc Maccal­lum climbed above Cal­lan Kerr to head the free-kick clear, launch­ing a counter at­tack which saw Shaun MacIver and Don­ald Camp­bell com­bine well for Camp­bell to draw a smart save from Camp­bell Ged­des low down to his right.

Falkirk im­me­di­ately turned de­fence into at­tack with Robert Dun­can send­ing speed­ster Grant Plen­der­leith in be­hind a high Saints back line. Alex Craik read the dan­ger well to get across, un­for­tu­nately, these days his brain moves a lot faster than his legs and Plen­der­leith switched on the af­ter­burn­ers to race away and fire a shot across Graham Dou­glas and into the bot­tom cor­ner.

Back at the other end Keith Mil­lar and Scott Mait­land worked an open­ing on the left with Mait­land’s cross be­ing headed out by Scott Wright to Steven MacLeod, who thumped a right foot shot from 25 yards just over the junc­tion of post and bar.

In the 26th minute Shaun MacIver dropped deep to take the ball from Steven MacLeod and tossed in a tempt­ing cross to the far post which Camp­bell Ged­des did well to punch away un­der pres­sure from Craig MacEwan.

In be­tween times Grant Pren­der­leith raced away again on the right and sent a cut-back to Cal­lan Kerr who, from 10 yards, beat the left hand of Graham Dou­glas but, for­tu­nately for Saints, also the out­side of the post.

Saints drew level in the 29th minute af­ter Scott Wright halted a promis­ing Craig MacEwan run 28 yards from goal. Camp­bell Ged­des in the Falkirk goal got down well to turn Willie Gem­mell’s free-kick round his left hand post for a cor­ner kick.

Shaun MacIver’s de­liv­ery from the right was met per­fectly by Craig MacEwan who got across Robert Dun­can on the six-yard line to power a header past Ged­des and into the net.

Steven MacLeod was the un­lucky re­cip­i­ent of the game’s first yel­low card for his protes­ta­tions at a hotly dis­puted cor­ner kick awarded to the home side.

Calm was re­stored when Ryan Don­nelly sent the cor­ner from the left straight be­hind for a goal kick.

Don­nelly fared bet­ter in the 41st minute get­ting to the bye­line and pick­ing out Paul McCarthy on the cor­ner of the box who shot wide of the far post.

Hav­ing come close ear­lier Steven MacLeod joined the at­tack again in the 42nd minute and had an­other shoot­ing op­por­tu­nity cut­ting in from the right which again nar­rowly failed to hit the tar­get.

Down­pour

As Mr Todd blew the half-time whis­tle the pre­vi­ously sunny af­ter­noon gave way to a hail down­pour when an omi­nous look­ing black cloud opened up send­ing both camps scam­per­ing for the shel­ter of the chang­ing rooms.

The tim­ing of the half-time in­ter­val was per­fect as the heavy shower passed over for the bright low sun to re­turn for the start of the se­cond half.

Saints made an en­cour­ag­ing start to the se­cond 45 forc­ing a cor­ner on the left in the first minute through Don­ald Camp­bell and Scott Mait­land.

Craig MacEwan and Don­ald Camp­bell both had half chances snuffed out be­fore Falkirk re­sponded win­ning their first cor­ner kick of the se­cond half in the 52nd minute.

Cen­tral de­fender Scott Wright climbed above Alex Craik to send a header wide of Graham Dou­glas and his right hand upright.

The home side once again used their pace in the wide ar­eas to good ad­van­tage in the 54th minute with Ryan Don­nelly send­ing in a deep cross from the left which Grant Plen­der­leith on the full vol­ley sliced out for a throw-in. On the hour mark Don­ald Camp­bell had his heels clipped by Cal­lan Kerr 10 yards inside the Falkirk half. Willie Gem­mell played the free-kick up to Camp­bell on the edge of the box who found space for a shot which fizzed across the face of goal and wide of the right hand post of Camp­bell Ged­des.

Two min­utes later the Saints front three linked up well play­ing their way up to the edge of the Falkirk box where Scott Wright un­fairly halted Craig MacEwan’s progress earn­ing him­self a yel­low card in the process. From the free-kick Willie Gem­mell looked to test the keeper again un­for­tu­nately his ef­fort over the wall from 19 yards wouldn’t come down quickly enough and cleared the cross­bar by some dis­tance.

Saints kept up the pres­sure with Camp­bell Ged­des hav­ing to slide out to deny Don­ald Camp­bell with his legs and Craig MacEwan re­act­ing first to the loose ball but send­ing it over the cross­bar un­der pres­sure from Jack Stick­ler.

Whether the re­turn of Marc Maccal­lum af­ter a 10-week ab­sence proves to be any more than a tem­po­rary ar­range­ment re­mains to be seen, how­ever, the value of his pres­ence along­side the Gaffer in cen­tral de­fence was never more ev­i­dent than in the 66th minute when a slid­ing last ditch tackle foiled Grant Plen­der­leith when in be­hind Scott Mait­land.

Un­for­tu­nately there was to be no sav­ing tackle two min­utes later when Plen­der­leith pounced on a mis­placed pass and sent James Steven­son rac­ing into the area to slam a low shot past Graham Dou­glas and re­store the lead for the home side.

Saints set about re­dress­ing the bal­ance for a se­cond time with Craig MacEwan back-head­ing a Willie Gem­mell cross over the cross bar and Shaun MacIver find­ing him­self crowded out on the edge of the box when at­tempt­ing to force his way through the mid­dle of the Falkirk de­fence. The se­cond Saints equaliser came in the 74th minute with Willie Gem­mell claim­ing the as­sist with a pre­ci­sion through ball to open up the Falkirk de­fence. Don­ald Camp­bell timed his run onto Gem­mell’s pass to per­fec­tion and from 10 yards slot­ted the ball un­der the left arm of Camp­bell Ged­des and into the net.

With 15 min­utes re­main­ing Falkirk made the only change of the match in­tro­duc­ing Blair Lock­hart to re­place Cal­lan Kerr in at­tack.

Saints took the lead for the first time in the 78th minute with a move started deep in his own half by Alex Craik. The Gaffer picked out Keith Mil­lar in the cen­tre cir­cle who, sup­ported by Myles McAu­ley, raced for­ward hold­ing off sev­eral chal­lenges be­fore feed­ing Craig MacEwan 25 yards out. With a pass and fin­ish al­most iden­ti­cal to the se­cond goal, MacEwan split the Falkirk de­fence for Don­ald Camp­bell to slot the ball un­der­neath the keeper and put Saints into pole po­si­tion.

Shaun MacIver and Scott Mait­land both found their way into Mr Todd’s note­book for mist­imed chal­lenges on Falkirk full back Bray­den Docherty as the home side pressed hard for an equaliser.

Saints were happy to see Scott Wright and Blair Lock­hart head­ers fly over the cross­bar as Grant Plen­der­leith tossed dan­ger­ous crosses onto the six -yard line.

The sense of re­lief, how­ever, turned to de­spair as Plen­der­leith snatched a draw in the se­cond of four min­utes added on by ref­eree Todd. The speedy right winger sent in an­other cross from the cor­ner of the 18-yard box this time into the ‘cor­ri­dor of un­cer­tainty’ be­tween de­fend­ers and goal­keeper. The cross eluded Alex Craik and Blair Lock­hart and bounced past a stranded Graham Dou­glas into the un­guarded net en­sur­ing that both teams go into the hat for Wed­nes­day’s fourth round draw.

Man­ager Alex Craik said: ‘It was a ter­rific game, Falkirk are a good side. We would have taken a draw be­fore the game but to lose the equaliser in added on time was a sick­ner.

‘How­ever, we have home ad­van­tage now and hope­fully we’ll get a good crowd of sup­port­ers and have a few more play­ers avail­able.

‘We haven’t had a set­tled squad all sea­son, be­ing forced to make changes ev­ery week which is no good at this level of foot­ball you must have con­ti­nu­ity.’

Match re­port and photos: Dereke Black

Craig MacEwan heads home to make the score 1-1.

Don­ald Camp­bell slots the ball past Camp­bell Ged­des to make it 3-2 for Saints.

Willie Gem­mell pushes foward tracked by Cal­lan Kerr.

Marc Maccal­lum made a re­turn to help out a Saints squad who were down to the bare bones.

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