Hard-fought win for Saints in pre-season friendly

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Oban Saints and close neighbours Lochgilphead Red Star warmed up for the Argyll and Bute Cup tournament with a keenly contested friendly at Glencruitten last Wednesday evening.

Despite not firing on all cylinders, Saints raced into an early lead notching three goals inside the opening 30 minutes.

A lofted 10th minute Willie Gemmell free-kick from the Saints picked out the back post run of Paul Carmichael who from four yards headed back across Ben Pollock in the Red Star goal and into the bottom corner of the net.

Two minutes later a smart turn in the box gave last season’s top scorer Craig MacEwan the space to crash a left foot shot into the roof of the net and double the home side’s advantage.

Saints also came close through Paul Carmichael, Gemmell, Fraser MacFarlane and Dean Smith before MacEwan doubled his tally for the evening.

A Matthew Kelly free-kick from the Saints right on the half hour mark was flicked on by Carmichael to MacEwan on the left of the box who rifled a similar finish to his earlier strike past keeper Pollock to make the half time score 3-0.

Red Star started the second half the more positive of the two and within five minutes of the re-start hauled themselves back into contention with a smart Ciaran McPhie finish after good work on the right by Rab Docherty.

The revitalised visitors appeared a far better proposition now, with Saints struggling to shake off the lethargy which had set in towards the end of the first half.

In the 55th minute Marc Maccallum and Carmichael made way for Craig Campbell, who was making a welcome return after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, and young Keir MacLean making his debut for the senior Saints team.

Saints Gaffer Alex Craik handed debuts to Cameron Kerr, another of Saints promising youngsters, and former Saints youth player David Smith who returns to club to make a long overdue senior debut. Making way for the new arrivals were Willie Gemmell and Dean Smith.

The hosts were still adjusting to the changes when Red Star carved out another opportunity on the left which this time they converted, with McPhie sliding in at the near post to knock the ball past Graham Douglas.

The prospect of losing a three-goal lead to their closest neighbours finally generated a positive response from Saints who struck again in the 75th minute.

Scott Maitland’s tenacity won back possession deep inside the Red Star half and wide on the right. Maitland linked up well with MacEwan and Keir MacLean, and swung in a cross towards the back post. The unmarked Fraser MacFarlane headed back across the face of goal for MacLean to nod home a debut goal from one yard out to make the final score 4-2 for the Oban side.