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There were only five fixtures on the Scottish Amateur Football League card last Saturday as the Joe Paterson Memorial Trophy match between the Argyll and League selects took centre stage at Cil Andreis Park, Tarbert.
Named in memory of eminent amateur football administrator Joe Paterson, who was match secretary from 1953-1980 and instrumental in convincing the Scottish Amateur Football League to admit clubs from Argyll, the annual challenge match between the Scottish Amateur Football League Select and an Argyll Select has been one of the highlights of the season since 1982.
The League Select’s day began in inauspicious circumstances when mechanical problems with the team bus made them late in leaving. However, much to the relief of the large crowd which had gathered in the sunshine, the travelling party eventually made it through to Tarbert with only a 30-minute delay to the scheduled 1pm kick-off.
Prior to kick-off, League president Matt Armstrong led the players and match officials in a one-minute round of applause in memory of Tarbert stalwart Duncan ‘TT’ MacDougall who, along with crew member Prezemek Krawczyk, was killed in January in the sinking of the Nancy Glen fishing boat, a tragedy from which the close-knit Tarbert community is still recovering.
Unfortunately, the bad start to the day for the League quickly transferred onto the field of play and they found themselves three goals down after just eight minutes. The League defence, and in particular the normally very dependable St Joseph’s keeper Scott Urquhart, had an extremely shaky start, gifting simple tap-ins for prolific Lochgilphead Red Star striker Keiran Moore in the second and sixth minutes before Keiran’s older brother, Arron, added a third two minutes later.
After the nightmare start, the League Select eventually settled into the game with the central midfield partnership of Scott Gold and Scott Smith enjoying a good battle with their Argyll counterparts, Donald Campbell and Arron Moore.
Impressive St Joseph’s FP midfielder Smith came close for the League, clipping the top of the Argyll crossbar with a good ninth-minute dipping effort from 25 yards.
Argyll goalkeeper Graham Douglas was forced into action in the 15th minute and made a comfortable save from a Cameron Harkins free kick after Argyll captain Fraser Talbot had felled League striker David Edwards.
The League defence regained some of its composure with goalkeeper Scott Urquhart looking assured in claiming a 16th-minute Martin McCallum free kick from wide on the Argyll right under pressure from Nikki MacDougall, and skipper Keiran Greene making an excellent sliding interception to prevent the Duncan MacDougall man of the match-winning Keiran Moore from bursting through 60 seconds later.
At the other end, Argyll left-back Keith Mitchell was also on his toes to see off a promising run from young League striker Shaun McCafferty. After mopping up the threat from McCafferty, Argyll broke quickly on the right through Ryan Deans and Keiran Moore with Moore teeing up Donald Campbell on the corner of the box for a curling effort just over the crossbar.
Oban Saints team-mates Donald Campbell and Scott Maitland combined on the Argyll left with Campbell holding off the challenge of League right-back Daniel Smith to set up Keiran Moore for a 32nd-minute shot which flew inches wide of Scott Urquhart’s left-hand post.
The Argyll defence dealt comfortably with a deep Stuart Ashton corner kick from the League left in the 42nd minute allowing Donald Campbell to send a good ball over the top for Keiran Moore to chase. Fortunately for the League, Scott Gold was alive to the danger and got back well to deny the Argyll striker a one-on-one with Scott Urquhart.
An excellent first half for Argyll ended with Martin McCallum overlapping fellow Campbeltown Pupils man Ryan Deans on the right and firing in a dangerous low cross which Leon Morrow did well to cut out at the front post.
The League Select, who had battled back well after a poor start, came out strongly at the start of the second half and were almost through on goal within 60 seconds of the restart. Only a well-timed sliding interception from Keith Mitchell prevented Shaun McCafferty from getting a shot away after the League striker had burst through on the end of a Scott Smith through ball.
The League side forced their way forward again on the left in the 48th minute. Cameron Harkins almost caught out Graham Douglas with a cross on the run which the backpedaling keeper only just managed to get fingertips on to turn the ball over his crossbar.
League left-back Daniel Colbert picked up the first yellow card of the afternoon in the 58th minute for a trip on Keiran Moore. Moore took the free-kick himself but his curling effort from 27 yards lacked power and presented Scott Urquhart with an easy save.
Moore, however, was not to be denied his hat-trick and 60 seconds later he pulled down a Scott Maitland cross in the box and steered a good low finish past Scott Urquhart’s left hand.
The early first-half jitters returned to the League defence just after the hour mark when hesitation in the box allowed Nikki MacDougall of host club Tarbert to nip in and force the ball past Scott Urquhart from nine yards to add a fifth goal for Argyll.
The more advanced role for Martin McCallum almost paid dividends for Argyll in the 73rd minute. Keiran Moore’s tireless running won a throw-in off Daniel Smith on the Argyll left and level with the penalty spot. Moore and Scott Maitland worked the ball into the box where McCallum struck a fierce volley with the outside of his right foot which smacked against the well beaten Scott Urquhart’s left-hand post before being thumped clear.
A flurry of changes from both sides with 16 minutes remaining saw Scott Soudan and Lewis MacNaughton replace Nikki MacDougall and Martin McCallum for Argyll, and Kerr Hunter and Robbie Martin swap places with Cameron Harkins and David Edwards for the League.
The League adjusted quicker to the changes and Kyle Reid and Robbie Martin combined well for Martin to pull a goal back in the 77th minute and deny Oban Saints number one Graham Douglas a highly prized clean sheet.
Referee Pat O’Donnell who, along with assistants Matthew Denne and Chris Sanderson, handled proceedings impeccably throughout, issued his second and final caution in the 80th minute to League right back Daniel Smith for a late challenge on livewire Keiran Moore.
With five minutes remaining, Scott Soudan’s tenacity in the box robbed Daniel Smith on the six-yard line and left him one-on-one with keeper Scott Urquhart.
Soudan’s stabbed effort was stopped by Urquhart’s outstretched right foot but, typical of the League keeper’s luck on the day, the rebound fell kindly for the Campbeltown Pupils striker who rounded the prostrate Urquhart and walked the ball into the empty net.
Soudan’s goal equalled the record winning margin for the long-running series and the League have Scott Urquhart to thank for preventing Keiran Moore from raising the bar another notch in the 89th minute. Keiran Greene found the reserves of energy to keep pace with Moore’s run to connect with a Lee McLean through ball. The League skipper, however, couldn’t prevent Moore from getting a shot away from a tight angle which Urquhart spread himself well at his front post to push behind for a corner kick.
Mr O’Donnell’s full-time whistle brought to an end an entertaining encounter with the players and officials retiring to the Islay Frigate Hotel for the presentation ceremony and some richly deserved refreshments where SAFL president Matt Armstrong presented Keiran Moore with the Duncan MacDougall Trophy for his man of the match performance.
Argyll captain Fraser Talbot was then presented with the Joe Paterson Trophy from Mr Armstrong.