Hamilton win D&K Cup

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Oban Saints got their preparations for the 2019-20 season under way last Saturday in traditional style with the 26th playing of their annual tournament kindly sponsored by D&K Lafferty Contractors Ltd.

Once again the tournament, played in glorious sunshine, attracted top quality participants in the form of regulars Alloa Athletic, Hamilton Academical and trophy holders Dundee United.

Joining Saints in representing the amateur side of the game were South Lochaber Thistle, who were making their second appearance at the tournament. Representing the junior ranks and also making their second appearance were St Anthony’s.

Due mainly to their early involvement in the SPFL Betfred Cup, Alloa Athletic, Dundee United and Hamilton Academical were represented by players from their development squads giving the large crowd a glimpse of some of the senior clubs’ stars of the future.

Saints got in on the act by augmenting an experienced squad with the inclusion of youngsters Kenneth Black, Gavin Forgrieve, Cammy Hill, Ruaridh Horne and Aaron McKay, who would all go on to acquit themselves well in considerably more experienced company.

An interested spectator at the tournament was former Queens Park Rangers, Aston Villa, Dundee, Falkirk and Ayr United player Simon Stainrod, now a football agent, who was running his eye over young talent on show.

Oban Saints 2
South Lochaber Thistle 1

Saints and fellow amateurs South Lochaber Thistle got proceedings under way at Mossfield and it was the Kinlochleven men who were first to threaten. The Greater Glasgow Premier Amateur Football League Division Two champions drew two early saves from Saints keeper Graham Douglas before striker Andrew McLean sent an excellent chance inches wide of the target.

Against the run of play Saints opened the scoring in the ninth minute through wide man James Ford. The tricky winger took up a more central position to receive a Cammy Hill pass from the left and, after neatly turning away from his marker, drilled a low right foot shot into the bottom corner.

Five minutes into the second 15-minute period, Saints doubled their advantage. Thistle cleared a Saints free-kick from the left but Myles McAuley broke up the Jags’ counter-attack and played the ball up to Craig MacEwan on the edge of the box. McEwan flicked the ball on to Cammy Hill, who glided into the left of the Jags’ box and beat the keeper from a tight angle.

Straight from the restart, Jags’ skipper Martin Munro pulled one back with a low 18-yard right foot shot into the bottom corner past Graham Douglas’s right hand.

Neither keeper was seriously tested in the remaining eight minutes or so and Saints took the honours in the battle of the amateurs.

Alloa Athletic 0
St Anthony’s 2

Over at the rugby club, reserve team coach Mark McAuley’s young Alloa Athletic side were the first victims of St Anthony’s, whose impressive start placed them among the early favourites to lift the handsome trophy.

The Ants took a first half lead through Kamil Lesz­czynski before an inspired substitution from manager John Kelly saw the lead doubled.

Kelly replaced goalscorer Kamil Leszczynski with brother Pawel whose first touch was to rifle a 25-yard thunderbolt into to the top corner to mark a memorable Ants debut.

St Anthony’s 1
Hamilton Academical 0

The Ants crossed to Mossfield where they met four-time winners Hamilton Academical who were making their 16th consecutive tournament appearance. The young Accies side were under the supervision of academy director George Cairns and coach Dougie Imrie but it  was the semi-professionals from Govan who came out on top.

The Accies were left cursing the lack of VAR, which they feel would have seen their two dismissed penalty kick appeals overturned before the Ants finally broke the deadlock in the dying seconds.

Having weathered almost incessant pressure from Accies, a late breakaway won a throw-in for the Ants deep in Accies territory. Kris Littler’s long throw gave the Ants a chance to pile bodies into the Accies box and, after an almighty scramble, the ball finally nestled in the net with Fraser Williams getting the decisive touch.

Alloa Athletic 1
Dundee United 1

Cup-holders Dundee United began the defence of their trophy with a share of the points at the rugby club against Alloa Athletic.

After a goalless first half, the Wasps opened the scoring with a fantastic jinking run and crisp left foot finish from Calum Murray.

The lead, however, lasted barely 60 seconds as a free-kick from the United right was headed home at the back post by Jake Davidson.

Dundee United 2
South Lochaber Thistle 0

Holders United got their first win of the day against the amateurs from Kinlochleven who, despite the result, acquitted themselves well. Player of the tournament Declan Glass opened the scoring before Shaun Brown netted the first of his two goals to boost Arab hopes of a fifth tournament success.

Oban Saints 0
Hamilton Academical 3

For the third year in succession, Accies put three past the tournament hosts without reply. After a good start, Saints shot themselves in the foot in the 12th minute when young Kenneth Black headed a left-wing Accies header past a static Ben Pollock in the Saints goal.

Ross Cunningham added a second for Accies before the half-time interval, nipping in at the back post after the Saints rearguard had failed to deal with a right-wing throw-in level with 18-yard line.

Saints started the second half brightly with another promising youngster, Aaron McKay, making good ground on the left before swinging the ball into the box for Craig MacEwan. Unfortunately, the Saints marksman couldn’t get over the ball and sent his header looping into the keeper’s gloves.

As Saints committed numbers forward in search of a way back into the game they were picked off on the break by a swift counter-attack rounded off by a right-foot strike from Liam Harris.

Dundee United 2
St Anthony’s 1

Dundee United brought St Anthony’s winning streak to an end racing into a two-goal first-half lead through Lennon Walker and Shaun Brown.

The Ants struck back immediately after the restart with Fraser Williams, who regularly chips in with goals from the Ants midfield, knocking home from close range after good work from former Alba Thistle duo Connor Milne and Johnny McKay.

South Lochaber Thistle 1
Hamilton Academical 4

Hamilton Accies did their goal difference no harm at all with another big win on pitch two at the rugby club. A successfully converted Regan Mimnaugh penalty kick set the ball rolling, with Jay Blair adding a second before the interval.

Erik Tot pulled one back for the Jags in the 23rd minute. However, any hopes of a comeback were quickly extinguished when Regan Mimnaugh netted his second of the game straight from the restart.

With the clock ticking down, there was still time for that veteran of many preseason fixtures, triallist, to add a fourth for the Accies.

Oban Saints 1
Alloa Athletic 2

The young Alloa Athletic side, led by reserve team coach Mark McAuley and head of youth Derek Nicholson recorded their only victory of the day, edging out the hosts by the odd goal in three.

Saints opened the scoring early in the proceedings with Jamie Graham and David Beaton combining well on the left before Aaron McKay teed up Cammy Hill for another cool finish from the big man.

The Wasps equalised when Liam Evans pounced on a slip by Graham Douglas, who dropped a bouncing free-kick at the striker’s feet.

James Ford continued to impress in the wide areas and, after tricking his way past three players on the right, set up Fraser MacFarlane for a curling left foot effort just wide of target.

In the 23rd minute, a long clearance from Wasps’ keeper Young deceived Saints central defensive pairing of Jamie Graham and Steven MacLeod allowing Liam Evans to race through unchallenged and drill the ball low past Graham Douglas to double his and the Wasps’ tally.

St Anthony’s 2
South Lochaber Thistle 0

Over on pitch two, St Anthony’s kept themselves firmly in the trophy hunt with a two-goal victory over South Lochaber Thistle whose small squad were feeling the pace of their third game on the trot.

A brace from Kamil Leszczynski either side of the half-time interval meant it was still all to play for when the Ants would face the hosts in their final fixture.

Hamilton Academical 0
Alloa Athletic 0

As the large crowd basked in the warm sunshine at Mossfield, Hamilton Academical and Alloa Athletic played out the only goalless match of the day.

Dundee United 1
Oban Saints 0

Holders Dundee United remained firmly on course to retain their title after a narrow win over Saints on pitch two. A bright start from the hosts was undone when a clumsy challenge from Kenneth Black saw referee Pat O’Donnell point to the penalty spot.

Player of the tournament Declan Glass gave Saints keeper Ben Pollock no chance with his precise low strike from 12 yards which gave the Arabs the lead on the stroke of half-time.

It was Glass against Pollock once again in the 21st minute. However, this time, with the added protection of a four-man wall, Pollock was able to parry the United man’s effort from 25 yards before completing a double save to deny Robert Ward on the rebound.

Dean Smith and Daniel Croarkin both had efforts wide of the goal frame as Saints searched in vain for the equaliser before Mr O’Donnell blew the full-time whistle.

St Anthony’s 2
Oban Saints 3

Saints crossed to Mossfield for the third of their three games in a row against a St Anthony’s side who knew a victory in their final match would afford them ‘leader in the clubhouse’ status.

Co-manager Donald Camp­bell continued his quest for a return to full fitness with another 30-minute run-out and the added bonus of a crisp 22-yard strike which flew into the Ants net to give Saints a third minute lead.

An injudicious challenge by Steven MacLeod on Gary McGarroch two yards inside the Saints box saw referee Jimmy Litster award a penalty kick to the green and white hoops which former Renfrew Juniors striker McGarroch tucked into the bottom corner away from Graham Douglas.

At the other end, Cammy Hill drew a smart save from the Ants keeper as Saints looked to regain the advantage.

It was, however, the Ants who were next to strike with a thumping 14th minute Fraser Williams finish from the corner of the Saints box which fizzed past Graham Douglas into the roof of the net.

Spurred on by Steven MacLeod’s desire to make up for conceding a penalty kick Saints began the second period in adventurous style, pressing forward on the right where MacLeod and James Ford combined to set up Craig MacEwan for an overhead kick which looped inches over the crossbar.

The Ants seemed content to hold on to what they had and allowed Saints to come on to them which Saints ultimately capitalised on in the closing minutes.

Racing in at the back post, James Ford knocked home a 29th minute Lewis Cameron ball along the six-yard line after Cameron had combined well with Steven MacLeod and Craig MacEwan on the right.

Sixty seconds later, the turnaround was completed when an excellent turn in the box from Lewis Cameron brought the Ants goal into full view for last season’s top scorer who found the bottom corner to end the day on a high note for Saints and shatter the Ants hopes of clinching the trophy.

Alloa Athletic 1
South Lochaber Thistle 3

In the growing heat, the third game in a row for the young Alloa Athletic proved a bridge too far against a reinvigorated South Lochaber Thistle.

Andrew McLean put the Jags ahead early in the proceedings with David Forbes adding a second before the half-time interval. A successfully converted Calum MacDonald penalty kick gave the Wasps a lifeline but a second goal from Andrew McLean sealed victory for the Kinlochleven men.

Hamilton Accies 1
Dundee United 0

St Anthony’s failure to take anything from their final fixture against Saints left the destination of the 2019 D&K Lafferty Cup finely balanced and entirely dependent on the result of the final match between Hamilton Academical and Dundee United.

United were in pole position with 10 points and a goal difference of plus four whereas Accies had seven points and a goal difference of plus five. A draw would therefore be enough for United but a win for Accies would see the trophy return to New Douglas Park where it has resided for four of the past six years.

The game was a tense affair with precious few chances and it looked as though David Bowman’s young United side had successfully completed their mission of keeping a clean sheet until a moment of late drama.

In the final minute, a deep cross from the right wing was hooked left-footed past United keeper Josh Donaldson by an Accies triallist to confirm a fifth tournament win for Hamilton.

After the conclusion of the final game, tournament organiser David Buchanan thanked the visiting teams for their continued support of the tournament and congratulated winners Hamilton Academical and player of the tournament Declan Glass of Dundee United on their success.

David also thanked the spectators, many of whom had travelled considerable distances to be there; the Argyll and Bute Council grounds staff who had prepared the two pitches well in testing circumstances; and finally the match officials Donnie Brooks, Jimmy Litster, Pat O’Donnell, Jim Pearson and Martin Rae, without whom the event couldn’t take place.

David then called upon Councillor Jim Lynch to present the winning team with their individual trophies and the winning captain Leon McCann with the D&K Lafferty Cup.