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LAST Saturday at Parklea Saints began their defence of the Scottish Amateur Football League Jimmy Marshall Trophy in confident style against one of the stalwarts of the Scottish Amateur Football League Port Glasgow Old Boy’s Union AFC.
Port Glasgow OBU celebrated their 110th anniversary in 2016, which is a fantastic achievement, particularly in the current climate of long-established clubs having to fold. True to their motto, Port Glasgow OBU have remained Sure and Steadfast throughout their history and have a long and happy association with the Scottish Amateur Football League.
OBU have admirably chosen not to follow the well worn path to other leagues taken by many long-standing SAFL member clubs including close neighbours Greenock High School Former Pupils and Gourock Athletic, electing instead to stay with the Scottish Amateur Football League and battle on in search of that elusive promotion to the Premier Division.
The one mile stroll from the changing rooms at Parklea bowling club along the banks of the Clyde to the grass park was a pleasant one made all the better when it revealed a good sized grass park bathed in January sunshine.
The hosts kicked off but it was Saints who immediately gained possession, with Craig MacEwan wining a free kick 23 yards out and slightly left of centre. Donald Campbell took responsibility for the dead ball but sent a poor effort into the wall. Donald fared slightly better with the rebound getting his shot on target but with insufficient power to trouble Mark Turner in the OBU goal.
Campbell had another dead ball opportunity in the fifth minute and lofted a good ball into the box however the low sun shining across the park made any high balls from the Saints right difficult to pick out and Paul Carmichael miscued his header high and wide.
Carmichael followed this effort up with a strong run on the left supported by Myles McAuley. A 16-yard shot from Myles was blocked, with Craig MacEwan reacting first to the loose ball and curling an effort towards the postage stamp corner which Mark Turner got his fingertips to at the expense of a corner kick. There was again no joy from Campbell’s delivery from the right with the home defence comfortably clearing the danger.
OBU ventured forward for the first time in the 10th minute, with skipper Iain McEwan getting away from Dene Cassells and sending in a shot from a tight angle which Thomas McCulloch could only parry across the face of his goal. Fortunately for Saints, skipper Marc Maccallum was alive to the danger, getting back to mop up the loose ball ahead of lone OBU striker Kevin Franck.
Myles McAuley had a run through the midfield halted unfairly by Jordan Axeworthy in the 16th minute. Paul Kerr took the free kick quickly rolling the ball to MacEwan who fed Campbell on the right hand corner of the box. Campbell swung in a good cross looking for MacEwan’s run but MacEwan’s header, again made difficult by the low sun, looped wide of target.
The Oban side made the breakthrough which their almost complete domination deserved in the 19th minute. Campbell threaded a pass through the inside right channel for Brian Mackay who raced in behind the high OBU defensive line, around keeper Turner and squared to Carmichael who slid in at the back post to poke the ball into the unguarded net.
Saints doubled their advantage five minutes later when Carmichael gave chase to a long diagonal ball from Dene Cassells, beating Craig Hill in a foot race and picking out Campbell, who timed his run to the back post perfectly before calmly stroking home from six yards.
The OBU defence claimed Campbell had strayed offside however referee Jim McNeil was not interested and turned down their appeals.
The sense of injustice continued from the home side and Jordan Axeworthy found his way into the referee’s note book for an over-the-ball challenge on McAuley just inside the Saints half.
McAuley was in the thick of the action again in the 38th minute providing a cross from the left which Carmichael volleyed home a left footed thunderbolt for Saints third goal. McAuley continued his purple patch creating an opportunity for MacEwan in the 39th minute whose low right foot shot grazed the outside of Turner’s left hand post on it’s way wide.
In the last action of the first half MacEwan was clipped just outside the OBU box and was inches away from connecting with Campbell’s free kick which also found it’s way wide of Turner’s left hand post.
Saints kicked off the second half and immediately resumed where they had left off. MacEwan curled a right foot shot towards the postage stamp corner which Turner at full stretch finger tipped behind for a corner kick. Campbell’s delivery from the corner flag was deep to the back post and was returned on the half volley by Brian Mackay whose shot across the face of the goal flew narrowly wide of the post.
The early second half pressure from Saints bore fruit in the 48th minute when Craig MacEwan thumped a shot off the crossbar and had the presence of mind to gather the rebound, trick his way past two defenders and roll the ball past the OBU keeper from ten yards.
There was to be no respite for the home defence as straight from the re-start MacEwan and Carmichael burst through again. Carmichae’s shot was blocked by Turner but MacEwan was on the spot to curl the loose ball high into the net for Saints fifth goal.
Full credit to the home side who despite being well beaten all over the park never gave up or resorted to violent tactics.
Their commitment to the cause was almost rewarded in the 51st minute when for once they got the better of Saints solid midfield and defence to create an opening for Iain McEwan. The OBU Skipper sent a shot across Thomas McCulloch who had to throw out a strong left hand to turn the ball round the post.
Saints rounded off a rampant 15 minutes with a McAuley shot just wide of target before the on fire MacEwan sealed his hat-trick volleying home a Scott Maitland cross from the left.
Tormentor in chief MacEwan declared on three and was replaced by Ross Maitland on the hour mark with Willie Gemmell and Dean Smith also joining the action to replace Paul Kerr and Brian Mackay respectively.
A long ball over the top in the 65th minute caught out the otherwise untroubled Saints central defensive pairing of Marc Maccallum and Dene Cassells. Dene gave chase to Jordan Axeworthy fouling the OBU midfielder in the process. The free kick gave the home side the chance to test Thomas McCulloch but the uneventful afternoon continued for the big Saints keeper when Axeworthy’s shot trundled harmlessly wide of his left hand post.
As the sun disappeared from the sky both the temperature and the pace of the game dropped. Cassells continued to push forward and combined with Maitland to set up Gemmell for a shot from distance which flew wide of Turner’s left hand post.
In the 71st minute a good pass on the right from David McArthur sent Carmichael racing up the touchline. A terrific cross on the run from Carmichael was met at the near post by a diving header from Dean Smith on the six-yard line which Smith was disappointed to see go well wide.
Gemmell delivered a free kick into the box where Carmichael attempted an overhead kick which unfortunately he couldn’t connect well enough with skying his spectacular effort over the crossbar.
Turner produced three good saves in quick succession to deny Maitland twice and then Smith at the near post at the expense of a corner kick.
The frustration continued for Smith in the 79th minute when he was just behind a tempting cross from the right from David McArthur. Smith’s desperation for a goal led him to snatch a 22-yard shot high and wide when a pass to Maitland looked a far better option.
Carmichael repeated the feat just one minute later to take the missed chances tally comfortably beyond those successfully converted.
There was still time for Turner to produce two more saves firstly leaping high to his left to claw away a Cassells shot and then a considerably more routine stop from a Campbell effort.
Turner’s saves and Saints wayward finishing ensured no further scoring with the six nil win sending Saints through to the third round where they will face a trip to either Arkleston United or Shawlands F.P.
Manager Alex Craik was happy with the performance of his team. He said: ‘We played some good football today. Port OBU weren’t the strongest of opposition but we did what we had to do. If I had any criticism it would be that we need to be more clinical in front of goals.
‘We have a big Scottish Cup 5th round tie away to Tarbolton on February 4 and we can’t afford to be missing good scoring chances against the better teams.’
This Saturday Saints are back on league duty with a home game against Ferguslie Star who beat Saints 5-4 in Paisley earlier in the season so a tough game is anticipated.
The match will be played at Glencruitten with a 2pm kick-off. Referee in charge is John Stobo.