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With the Oban Saints’ first team squad away on a ‘team bonding’ session in Inverness, the Oban Saints Greater Glasgow team kicked off a weekend of football on Saturday for the Argyll and Bute Invitational Cup, sponsored by Soroba House.
Joining the host team were old friends and Argyll rivals Lochgiliphead Red Star, Ayrshire Division One champions New Farm Loch and Caledonian Division One champions Milngavie Wanderers.
Games were played on both the high school 3G and the excellent conditioned Glen 2, with three x 50-minute games each and combined with the blistering sun it was sure to be a major test fitness-wise for all involved.
Saints, with an 18-man squad, started the day off against Caledonian Division One Champions Milngavie Wanderers on the 3G pitch with Martin Rae overseeing proceedings.
Half time arrived with the score 0-0 and Saints will be somewhat disappointed not to have been ahead after running the Milngavie guys ragged for much of the first half.
Milngavie took the lead when their attacking midfielder slotted the ball into the Saints’ net much to the home team’s disappointment. Saints looked to get back into the game but didn’t learn from previous mistakes and lost a second carbon copy goal to go behind 2-0.
At full time despite losing 2-0 there were plenty of positives to take, particularly against such an organised championship winning team.
Red Star lined up against early tournament favourites New Farm Loch at Glen 2, with the highly respected and experienced Jimmy Litster taking charge.
Early play saw the Ayrshire boys going 2-0 up, however, a lack of concentration was allowing Red Star back into the game. New Farm increased their lead by adding a further two goals. However, a late surge and never-say-die attitude by the Argyll boys saw Red Star get two late goals back but New Farm won 4-2.
Next up was the battle of the champions as New Farm met Milngavie and saw some excellent football played by both sides.
However, the experience of some of the New Farm players and the hangover for the Milngavie boys after the tough game against Saints saw New Farm run out 3-0 winners.
The derby between the Argyll teams kicked off with early strong, but fair, tackles going in. The half time score was 0-0.
Saints came out all guns blazing in the second half and were rewarded after some great work and movement in midfield saw them take the lead through young Cameron Hill.
The Oban team continued to take control of the game and got a second when a counter attack saw a pass from Gavin Forgrieve to Ross Maitland, who picked out an exceptional ball to Hill to allow the big striker to fire the ball into the net and see the Oban side come out the 2-0 winners.
With all teams feeling the pace of the day the last games saw Saints take on the undefeated New Farm Loch.
In a game that beforehand many would have settled for a respectable result, the Oban boys took all the manager’s instructions on board and gave the performance of the day.
Half time came with Saints 1-0 ahead thanks to a Sean Grant header. The Oban boys soon added to the lead when Cameron Hill netted his first of the game after yet more great build-up play.
Rory Dowd then split the defence and sent Hill through on goal where he rounded the keeper only to be taking out leaving the referee with an easy penalty decision and once again given the nature of the contest avoiding showing a red card. Hill stepped up to slot his second goal of the game to make the final score 3-0.
With talks of where the result left teams in regards to goal difference Milngavie returned with a 6-1 victory over a stretched Red Star team which meant the Caley League outfit won the tournament with a one goal better goal difference than hosts Oban Saints.
Councillor Jim Lynch kindly presented the Argyll and Bute Cup to winners Milngavie Wanderers
A special thanks goes to Soroba House for sponsoring the competition and also the referees.
Saints GG now look forward to their final pre-season home match this coming Saturday against South Lochaber Thistle, with a noon kick-off, before they start their league cup campaign against Langcraigs at home on Saturday August 17.