Saints reach last 16 of Scottish Cup

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Kilbride Thistle 2
Oban Saints 3
Scottish Amateur Cup – 6th round

OBAN Saints bounced back in defiant style from their midweek Scottish Amateur Football League Jimmy Marshall Trophy defeat at the hands of Argyll rivals Lochgilphead Red Star to book their place in the last 16 of the Scottish Amateur Cup at Kilwinning Sports Club last Saturday.
Hosts Kilbride Thistle from West Kilbride had already claimed some significant scalps on an impressive run to the sixth round of the Scottish Amateur Football Association’s blue ribband event and looked sure to pose a major threat to Saints cup aspirations. However, a first-ever goal from 17-year-old Daniel MacCuish ultimately proved to be the difference between the teams as Saints edged out the Ayrshire Amateur Football Association Premier League title hopefuls by the odd goal in five.
Kilbride Thistle kicked off attacking the pavilion end but it was Saints who were first to threaten with a dangerous Willie Gemmell free-kick onto the six-yard line after Daniel MacCuish had been impeded by Blair Grey.
Jack McWilliams nipped in ahead of Donald Campbell and made a vital headed clearance to deny the Saints skipper an early strike on goal.
The hosts won the first corner kick of the match on their left in the seventh minute when Alex Craik headed a long ball over the top behind. Thistle failed to capitalise on the set-piece opportunity with the ball drifting harmlessly out of play on the opposite flank. From the throw-in Saints launched a swift counter with Willie Gemmell and Scott Maitland linking up to send Craig MacEwan away on the left. MacEwan’s dinked effort from edge of the box left Thistle keeper Ryan Harvie rooted to the spot as the ball landed agonisingly on top of the crossbar and bounced behind for a goal kick.
The home side took the lead in the 12th minute from their first meaningful attack of the match.
Striker Ryan Wilson, who remained a handful throughout, got away from Paul Carmichael on the Thistle right and fired a low cross along the six-yard line which skipper and fellow Ayrshire Select member Darren Frye turned in at the back post.
Saints replied just three minutes later after Cameron Rainey had knocked a Myles McAuley throw-in behind for a corner-kick. Willie Gemmell’s in-swinger from the left was glanced on in the six-yard box by Kyle Finnie with Donald Campbell first to react to the loose ball. From a tight angle on the edge of the six-yard box Campbell’s left-foot half-volley was saved by the outstretched left boot of Ryan Harvie at the expense of another corner kick.
From the opposite corner flag Willie Gemmell went deeper looking for Paul Carmichael whose attempted return ball was deflected wide for another corner. Gemmell’s delivery was this time met perfectly by the head of Craig MacEwan who nodded the ball past the stranded Ryan Harvie and into the unguarded net.
Saints number one Graham ‘Sugar’ Douglas produced a smart save to deny Kyle Finnie in the 19th minute from a Ryan Wilson cut-back from the left. From Sugar’s clearance Saints immediately broke up-field with Donald Campbell drawing another good save from Ryan Harvie.
Jake Sillars broke up a promising Saints move in the 22nd minute making a vital interception to prevent Myles McAuley from making his way into the box. Darren Frye then quickly turned defence into attack with another ball up to Ryan Wilson who got away on the right again. Wilson’s cutback sat up well for Kyle Finnie but the supporting midfielder sliced his right foot effort wide of target.
Two minutes later Daniel MacCuish held the ball up well for Myles McAuley to join the attack and pick out Donald Campbell on the left. Unfortunately Campbell’s lofted ball to the back post was fractionally too high for Craig MacEwan who couldn’t direct his header on target. Saints kept pressing forward with Myles McAuley coming close to adding to his fourth and fifth round goals with a left-foot shot which slipped inches wide of Ryan Harvie’s right hand post.
As the first half wore on the two sides continued to serve up an entertaining spectacle for the small crowd who had gathered at the excellent Kilwinning Sports Club facility. Among the interested spectators were exiled Obanites Brian ‘Gleik’ McGleish and Iain ‘Tanno’ MacDonald who had come along to lend their support.
Despite Saints looking reasonably comfortable in possession it was the hosts who came closest to adding to the scoring with another lightning quick counter attack in the 38th minute. Not for the first time Thistle managed to break up a Saints attack midway inside their own half and feed the ball quickly to danger man Ryan Wilson. The pacy striker left Alex Craik trailing in his wake and raced into the box where Graham Douglas made a perfectly timed fingertip interception at Wilson’s feet to push the ball wide. The loose ball was eventually picked up by the supporting Scott Hindmarsh but, with Douglas now safely back in his goal and the Saints defence returning in numbers, Hindmarsh shot tamely into the side netting.
Saints kicked off the second half and were immediately on the attack with Craig MacEwan winning a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Paul Carmichael got his head to Willie Gemmell’s high ball to the back post but could only help it on its way behind for a goal-kick.
Steven MacLeod regained possession for Saints from Ryan Harvie’s long clearance and fed Myles McAuley in the centre circle who sent Matthew Kelly breaking forward. Kelly picked out Craig MacEwan 22 yards from goal who held the ball up well before laying off to Donald Campbell who rifled a terrific first time right foot shot past the despairing left hand of Ryan Harvie to give Saints the lead.
In the 51st minute referee Scott Bunting produced his first yellow card of the afternoon for an extremely late sliding challenge on Alex Craik by Alexander Sommerville inside the centre circle.
The hosts had the ball in the net in the 55th minute, however, Mr Bunting, who handled the match well under the close scrutiny of an Scottish Football Association referee’s assessor, correctly ruled the ‘goal’ out for a foul on Graham Douglas by Ryan Wilson.
A set-piece from Thistle skipper Darren Frye wide on the right almost proved to be Saints undoing as Blair Grey was allowed to steal in unmarked at the back post and turn the ball back along the six-yard box but thankfully just too far in front of the outstretched right boot of Cameron Rainey.
Kyle Finnie joined Alexander Sommerville in the referee’s notebook for another heavy challenge on Daniel MacCuish in the 63d minute.
Putting in another good shift in the busy midfield area Matthew Kelly won a good opportunity for Willie Gemmell to test Ryan Harvie with the dead ball. Gemmell’s effort from 30 yards succeeded in clearing the four-man Thistle wall but unfortunately kept rising and cleared not only the crossbar but also the perimeter fencing.
With just 10 minutes of the 90 remaining Ryan Harvie pulled off the save of the match to deny Craig MacEwan. Scott Maitland and Daniel MacCuish linked up well to feed MacEwan whose attempted lob from 25 yards looked certain to catch the keeper off his line but the big man adjusted his feet well to get back and finger tip the ball over his crossbar.
Myles McAuley picked up Saints first caution of the match in the 81st minute with Ryan Wilson heading the resulting free-kick harmlessly behind.
Thistle goalkeeper Ryan Harvie’s earlier good work was undone in the 83rd minute when his touch let him down dealing with a back pass. Daniel MacCuish was the grateful recipient of Harvie’s beneficence easily beating the keeper and rolling the ball into the empty net to open his Saints goal scoring account.
It was certainly a ‘head in hands’ moment for the big keeper and in no other position on the field can you go from hero to zero with such devastating effect despite an otherwise flawless performance.
Matthew Kelly pushed the patience of Mr Bunting too far when he continued his protests after a forlorn free-kick appeal midway inside the Thistle half. Kelly became the fourth name in the referee’s notebook and to compound the agony a free-kick to the home side immediately followed to heap pressure on the Saints rearguard.
Despite having kept the Thistle danger man under better control in the second half the Saints defence failed to deal with Ryan Wilson’s aerial threat from the set-piece with the tall striker winning a knock-down to second half substitute Scott Bell who lashed the bouncing ball high into the roof of the net to give the home side an 85th minute lifeline.
Daniel MacCuish made way for Kerr Newbigging in the 88th minute moments after Darren Frye had tested Graham Douglas with a dipping volley which the Saints keeper was happy to push over his crossbar.
Joining the action in an unaccustomed striker’s role, Kerr Newbigging almost immediately added to his midweek strike against Lochgilphead Red Star.
After powering away from Blair Grey in the middle of the park, Newbigging also outpaced Glenn Lewis to crash a fierce right foot strike, which had the keeper well beaten, strike off the left hand upright.
While the advantage remained at one goal the prospect of yet another Scottish Amateur Cup replay for the Saints home faithful to savour loomed large.
However, the experience gained from consistently reaching the later stages of the national cup competition was enough for Alex Craik and his charges to see off the youthful challenge of a good Kilbride Thistle side and clinch their place in the last 16.
This Saturday Saints stay on cup action this time in the West of Scotland Cup when they take on Caledonian League side Woodhall Thistle for a place in the last 16.
Kick-off at Glencruitten is 1.30pm with extra time and penalties, if required to see who goes through to the next round.
Referee in charge is the experienced James Gallacher from Dumbarton.