Saints set for Scottish Cup

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Oban Saints 5
Westdyce 1
Scottish Amateur Cup – fifth round

Oban Saints had to come from behind at Glencruitten last Saturday against Westdyce of the Aberdeenshire Amateur Football Association Divison Two East before comfortably booking their place in the last 32 of the Scottish Amateur Cup.

Only six minutes were on the clock when Callum Mackay gave the visitors the lead from the penalty spot after a rash challenge from Dene Cassells. The early reverse was exactly what Saints required to wake them from an extremely slow start and spur them on to an eventually convincing win.

Manager Alex Craik had the rare luxury of an almost full squad available for selection but opted to stick closely to the starting eleven that had been victorious in Edinburgh against Salvesen in round four.

The ever present Thomas McCulloch continued in goal with David McArthur coming in to partner Dene Cassells in central defence. Scottish Amateur International Scott Maitland and youngster Matthew Kelly occupied the full back slots. Stand-in captain Paul Kerr was joined in midfield by Myles McAuley and Paul Carmichael with Ross Maitland, Craig MacEwan and Brian Mackay making up the forward line. An extremely strong bench consisting of Martin Bonar, Donald Campbell, Willie Gemmell, Dougal Graham, Jamie Graham, Marc Maccallum and Dean Smith gave the Gaffer plenty of scope if changes to his original game plan were required.

Saints kicked off attacking the Mossfield end in light rain which would continue all afternoon but their early play lacked the urgency required to stamp any kind of authority on the tie. A Ross Maitland free kick straight into the gloves of Westdyce keeper Mark Andrews was all that Saints could muster before the visitors took the lead in the sixth minute.

Barged

David Young got in behind Matthew Kelly on the Westdyce left but the young full back made up good ground as Young entered the box. The combined attentions of Kelly and Dene Cassells should have been enough to see off any danger however Cassells rashly barged into the back of Young and, despite Dene’s protestations that Young had gone down too easily, referee Kevin Nolan, who was well positioned, pointed to the spot. Thomas McCulloch guessed correctly but the penalty kick from Westdyce Skipper Callum Mackay was well struck beating Thomas low down to his right.

The home side gradually began to get their act together taking control of the middle of the park to set up some decent opportunities for an equaliser. A one-two with Craig MacEwan sent Paul Carmichael bursting into the Westdyce box but, with only the keeper to beat, Paul’s snatched effort from sixteen yards trundled wide of the keeper’s right hand post.

More good work through the middle had Brian Mackay through on goal but once again the finish was poor and failed to trouble keeper Andrews.

Saints got back on level terms after 16 minutes from a swift counter attack A right wing cross from Scott Melville was too deep for David Young with Matthew Kelly taking the loose ball and sending it quickly up to Ross Maitland on the halfway line. Craig MacEwan spun in behind Kevin Meldrum and charged up the right wing cutting into the box and inside Robert Duncan and advancing keeper Andrews. Craig picked out Brian Mackay 12 yards out who lifted the ball over Peter McDougall on the goal line and into the roof of the net.

The Oban side maintained the upper hand and took the lead in the 31st minute with Brian Mackay netting his second. A patient build up eventually found Craig MacEwan on the left who squared to Ross Maitland on the eighteen yard line. Ross took aim for the keeper’s bottom left hand corner but Brian Mackay’s deft flick seven yards out wrong footed Andrews with the ball nestling in the opposite corner of the net.

Despite their domination it took until the 35th minute for Saints to force a save from the Westdyce goalkeeper when Myles McAuley and Paul Carmichael linked up well to set up a shooting opportunity for Paul. Once again Paul failed to make good contact allowing Andrews to comfortably beat the ball behind for a corner kick.

Spooned

Next to spurn a very presentable chance was Ross Maitland who missed the target from seven yards out. Scott Maitland made a diagonal run from left to right and beat Kevin Meldrum to pick out Ross in the middle who spooned the ball over the crossbar to the disbelief of the large crowd of spectators.

The first half ended with Dene Cassells heading a Ross Maitland free kick high and wide of target after referee Nolan had penalised a lunging tackle on Craig MacEwan by James Shaw.

The visitors kicked off the second half and were straight into the attack forcing Dene Cassells to make a decent interception to deny David Young a shot on target.

At the other end Peter McDougall made a similar flying intervention to turn a Ross Maitland shot behind for a corner kick.

After five second half minutes a ball over the top from Paul Kerr saw Ross Maitland beat the Westdyce offside trap but not keeper Andrews who came quickly out from his box to make the clearance. It was a heart in mouth moment for the keeper as his clearance landed at the feet of Paul Carmichael however Paul failed to beat Andrews with his shot landing safely in the keeper’s arms.

The home side were almost made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal however James Shaw somehow missed a free header six yards out from a 52nd minute free kick on the left with the relieved Saints defence able to clear the danger.

One minute later at the other end Craig MacEwan was upended 28 yards from goal. Ross Maitland worked the free kick short to Craig who cut in from the left and delivered a good ball for Paul Carmichael who drew a fine save from Andrews diving to his left.

Saints stretched their advantage in the 58th minute when Ross Maitland turned well on the edge of the box and curled an excellent finish into the postage stamp corner which, despite getting fingertips to, Andrews couldn’t keep out.

The home side made it four five minutes later from a Ross Maitland corner kick from the right after Matthew Kelly’s fierce right foot shot had been blocked behind. Craig MacEwan made a terrific run to meet the delivery from Ross eight yards out and sent a looping header over Andrews and Peter McDougall who was guarding the back post.

Saints had their tails up now and were playing some good stuff against the by now dispirited visitors. Only their own over elaboration in the final third and a handful of good saves from Mark Andrews in the Westdyce goal kept the score down.

With fifteen minutes remaining manager Alex Craik fielded the maximum five substitutes replacing Ross Maitland, Paul Carmichael, Myles McAuley, Matthew Kelly and David McArthur with Dean Smith, Willie Gemmell, Donald Campbell, Jamie Graham and Marc Maccallum.  The visitors also made five substitutions but the changes did little to change the pattern of the game.

Donald Campbell marked his return to the squad with a typical piece of individual brilliance in the 85th minute to round off the scoring at 5 – 1 leaving Andrews rooted to the spot with a sweet finish into the top corner from 20 yards.

Saints couldn’t add to their tally in the remaining five minutes plus time added on for stoppages and Mr Nolan, who handled the match well without the need to produce a card, brought proceedings to a close sending Saints through to the sixth round.

Manager Craik was delighted. He said: ‘It was great to get a full squad to choose from and if we can get this commitment from the players every week I’m confident we can mount a serious challenge for the Scottish Cup, Jimmy Marshall Cup and of course the league title.

‘We played some good football, after a shaky start, but once we got in front there was only going to be one winner.

‘The draw for the last 32 is on Friday with a lot of the so-called ‘big guns’ still left in the competition. We don’t fear anybody, but a home draw would be nice.’

It’s back to league business for Saints on Saturday when they travel to take on Argyll rivals Campbeltown Pupils. The game will kick-off at 2pm with referee Jimmy Litster in charge.