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Let down by scheduled opponents South Lochaber Thistle, Oban Saints played their final pre-season friendly ahead of the new season against an Under-19s select at Glencruitten last Wednesday evening.
Huge thanks are due to the Under-19s Select for stepping in as late substitutes and for putting in a spirited performance despite the odds being heavily stacked against them.
The youngsters, with evergreens Alex Craik and Ross Maitland providing some valuable experience, repelled the early Saints advances. However, the pressure eventually told and Fraser MacFarlane opened the scoring after 16 minutes cracking home a drive from 12 yards.
Scott Maitland rattled the crossbar in the 25th minute before young goalkeeper Jake Weir pulled off good saves from Shaun MacIver and Dougal Graham.
Saints gaffers past and present, Alex Craik and Willie Gemmell, came head-to-head in the 36th minute when Craik slid in with a well-timed challenge to halt a promising driving run forward from Gemmell. Craik’s intervention was latched onto by Jordan Norman, who launched a counter-attack up the right which saw Ben Pollock fingertip a viciously dipping Lewis Buchanan effort onto his crossbar.
Within 60 seconds of hitting the woodwork, the youngsters found themselves two goals down when Ruaridh Horne’s endeavour on the right wing set up James Ford for an angled shot across the keeper which nestled in the top corner of the net.
A moment’s hesitation in the Under-19s rearguard was punished by the lively Fraser MacFarlane in the 39th minute when he dispossessed Nathan Allan before burying another tidy finish beyond Jake Weir to give Saints a three-goal half-time lead.
Saints made three changes for the start of the second half, withdrawing Ben Pollock, Dougal Graham and Shaun MacIver and introducing Graham Douglas, Kerr Newbigging and Craig MacEwan.
MacEwan made an instant impact, setting up Fraser MacFarlane for his third of the evening inside the opening 60 seconds.
Despite the scoreline the Under-19s’ goalkeeper Jake Weir acquitted himself well and produced another fine save in the 50th minute to deny Kerr Newbigging.
James Ford doubled his tally in the 55th minute with a crisp low strike across Jake Weir to move the Saints tally onto five.
Lewis Cameron got in on the scoring act in the 57th minute, tucking a way a Ruaridh Horne cross from the right.
Saints made two further changes for the closing 30 minutes with Jamie Graham and Steven MacLeod coming on to replace Paul Carmichael and Dene Cassells. The Under-19s also made changes giving a run to young Aaron McKay and that veteran of many friendlies, Trialist.
A quiet evening for Graham Douglas was interrupted when Kerr Newbigging was penalised for a foul on Jay Cooper 25 yards from goal and left of centre. Ross Maitland’s effort towards the near post was on target and Douglas had to look sharp to scamper along his goal-line and turn the ball behind for a corner kick. Maitland stayed on dead-ball duty and sent a good delivery from the corner flag onto the six-yard line from where Alex Craik headed narowly wide of target.
Still looking for his first goal of an injury disrupted pre-season, Craig MacEwan was unable to direct a header from a Scott Maitland cross on target in the 72nd minute thanks mainly to a strong aerial challenge from Lewis McPhee.
Ross Maitland wanted too much time to work the ball forward from the edge of his own penalty area in the 73rd minute and was caught in possession by James Ford. With the Under-19s defence already pushing up, Ford had time and space to measure a sweet curled finish into the bottom corner and complete his hat-trick.
Another good delivery from the right from Ruaridh Horne 60 seconds after the restart found the head of Craig MacEwan, who drew another fine save from Jake Weir, flinging himself to his right to push the ball away.
Another mistake at the back was cruelly punished by Lewis Cameron who rounded off the scoring with five minutes remaining.
The real action starts for Saints this Saturday with the visit to Glencruitten of newly promoted Dunoon Amateurs for a first Premier Division encounter between the two Argyll clubs. Kick-off is 2pm with referee Jimmy Litster in charge.