Saints see stars at night as they crash out of Marshall Cup

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Oban Saints 1
Lochgilphead Red Star 1
Jimmy Marshall Trophy

Red Star won 5-4 on penalties

ON A THOROUGHLY miserable night of wind and rain at Oban High School last Tuesday night Oban Saints produced a performance to match the conditions and tumbled out of the Scottish Amateur Football League Jimmy Marshall Trophy to Argyll rivals Lochgilphead Red Star.
Saints’ proud record of having reached at least the semi-finals stage of the Scottish Amateur Football League’s premier cup competition in each of the last five seasons came to an end when second half substitute Colin Weir fired penalty kick number 14 past Thomas McCulloch to seal a 5 – 4 shootout victory for the visitors.
This, however, is no hard luck tale with the victory deservedly going to Red Star who played the better football on the night and created the better chances.
Injuries to Keith Millar, Myles McAuley and Steven MacLeod forced manager Alex Craik into yet another line-up change with Paul Carmichael returning and Jamie Graham and Kerr Newbigging making their first starting appearances of the season.
Saints lined up with a back three of Jamie Graham, Craig Campbell and Paul Carmichael. In midfield were Matthew Kelly, Kerr Newbigging, captain Donald Campbell, Willie Gemmell and Scott Maitland. Up front were Craig MacEwan and Daniel MacCuish. Work commitments kept Graham Douglas out so Thomas McCulloch helped out between the sticks. The Gaffer once again named himself on the bench alongside Ross Maitland, Steven MacLeod and youngsters Ruaridh Horne and Craig MacMillan.
Prior to kick-off both sets of players and referee Jimmy Litster observed one minute’s silence of remembrance for the crew members who lost their lives when the Tarbert-based Nancy Glen fishing boat recently sank.
Saints kicked off attacking the old Games Park end and playing into the strong wind and driving rain. Kerr Newbigging, making his first starting appearance of the season, had Saints’ first attempt on goal shooting wide of Ben Pollock’s right hand post in the fifth minute. Star responded in the 13th minute with an Ian McGuiness shot, also wide of target, after good work by Kyle Selfridge and Lee McLean.
Saints created their best opening of the first half after 15 minutes but were denied by an excellent double save from Ben Pollock. The new front pairing of Daniel MacCuish and Craig MacEwan linked up well to create a shooting opportunity for skipper Donald Campbell, which Pollock parried. Craig MacEwan was first to the loose ball but, from close range, Pollock made another vital stop to deny Saints’ leading goalscorer.
Former Saint Martin Bonar, who impressed in central midfield, upended former team-mate Willie Gemmell on the edge of the centre-circle in the 17th minute. Saints failed to capitalise on the set-piece opportunity with Gemmell’s free-kick drifting harmlessly behind and were caught cold from Pollock’s goal-kick. Rab Docherty on the Star right sent Lee McLean in behind a square looking Saints back three and the Star youngster made no mistake with a powerful strike across Thomas McCulloch and into the bottom corner to give the visitors the lead.
Matthew Kelly had a 23rd minute chance for an unlikely headed goal but failed to direct his glancing effort from a Willie Gemmell free-kick on target.
Saints continued to huff and puff their way through a disappointing opening period but had a good case for a penalty kick dismissed by referee Litster in the 25th minute. Donald Campbell won a free-kick on the right on the corner of the Star 18-yard box. Willie Gemmell played the ball short to Campbell whose delivery into the box was forced behind for a corner kick. Donald Campbell couldn’t quite get Gemmell’s clever low ball from the corner flag out of his feet on the six-yard line with the loose ball breaking to Paul Carmichael who was sent sprawling in the box under what Mr Litster deemed to be a fair challenge.
In a half of few chances Scott Maitland cut in from the left in the 38th minute but shot harmlessly across Ben Pollock and wide of the far post.
Mr Litster added three minutes for stoppages after head knocks to Aaron Moore and Jamie Graham before blowing for half-time.
Star got the second half underway and made a determined start forcing Thomas McCulloch into action inside 30 seconds. McCulloch was showing no sign of fatigue on just his second start of the season and came to the rescue again just two minutes later to deny Lee McLean a second goal.
An adventurous run on the left wing from Scott Maitland won a 54th minute free kick on the corner of the 18-yard box when he was upended by Martin Bonar. Willie Gemmell curled a delicious effort around the Red Star wall but couldn’t beat an inspired Ben Pollock who threw himself to his left to finger tip the ball behind for a corner kick.
Pollock, however, could do nothing to prevent Kerr Newbigging from opening his Saints goal scoring account when he thumped home Matthew Kelly’s low delivery from the corner flag on the half volley.
The evergreen Ross Maitland entered the fray in the 56th minute replacing young Daniel MacCuish. Maitland was quickly involved placing a corner kick from the left onto the head of Paul Carmichael after another driving run from namesake Scott. Carmichael’s thumping header from four yards out narrowly cleared Ben Pollock’s crossbar as Saints pressed for a second goal.
Ross Maitland was in the thick of the action again in the 67th minute getting in behind the Red Star defence and beating the advancing Pollock, however his unconvincing finish allowed Aaron Moore to get back and clear off the goal-line.
The visitors almost took full advantage of this let-off drawing a spectacular double save from Thomas McCulloch to keep the scores level going into the final 20 minutes.
Jamie Graham’s first half head knock finally forced him off to be replaced at the back by manager Alex Craik who clambered off the substitutes’ bench where survival suits rather than track suits were the order of the day.
As might be expected in a local derby there was one or two tasty challenges as both sides pushed for a winner, however referee Litster remained in control keeping tempers firmly in check.
With the clock ticking down towards a penalty shoot-out Saints squandered one final opportunity for what would have been a scarcely deserved win. Ross Maitland broke free on the right and delivered a perfect cross to the back post where Donald Campbell’s text book downward header bounced over the gloves of Ben Pollock but unfortunately also over the crossbar much to the disbelief of the large crowd who had braved the elements to cheer on their favourites.
With no winning goal forthcoming during the 90 minutes the tie went straight to penalties with Mr Litster selecting the Dalintart end for the shootout.
Paul Carmichael and Ross Maitland successfully converted for Saints with Aaron Moore and Kieran Moore replying in kind for Red Star.
The goalkeepers then intervened with Ben Pollock saving efforts from Kerr Newbigging and Craig MacEwan, and Thomas McCulloch denying Lee McLean and Neil Russell.
Willie Gemmell and Andrew Weir sent the shoot-out into sudden death with emphatic finishes which gave the keepers no chance.
Scott Maitland sent Ben Pollock the wrong way with the first of the sudden death penalties a trick which Ben Forbes immediately repeated to keep Red Star in the tie.
Then came the crucial intervention from Ben Pollock who guessed correctly to block Matthew Kelly’s effort low down to his left and hand the advantage to Red Star.
All Saints hopes now rested on the shoulders of Thomas McCulloch, however, the big man couldn’t repeat his earlier heroics which had kept his side in the tie and was beaten high to his left by a sweetly struck penalty from Colin Weir to win the tie for the visitors.
Besides local bragging rights, the prize for Red Star is a third round away tie at either Rutherglen or Duncanrig FP.
Saints manager Alex Craik said: ‘We have no complaints. Red Star were really up for the game but we never turned up on the night.
‘They were the better team and deserved to go through although we could have nicked it near the end.’
‘Penalty kicks are always a lottery but good luck to Red Star in the competition they are a good side and I fancy them to do well.’