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Goals early in each half gave Oban Saints the edge over visitors Lesmahagow when the D&K Lafferty Contractors sponsored side made their first home appearance of the season at Glencruitten last Saturday.
In an evenly-contested Central Scottish Amateur Football League Division 1B encounter, strikes from David Beaton and Lewis Cameron had Saints two goals to the good before a 59th minute reply from James McGill set up a nervy closing third of the match for the Glencruitten faithful who were relieved to see their favourites cling on to claim the points.
Saints made two changes to the squad which had defeated Craigneuk seven days earlier, adding James Ford and Cammy Hill at the expense of Martin Bonar and Willie Gemmell.
Saints kicked off attacking the railway line end and were immediately on the attack with Lewis Cameron forcing a corner kick on the Saints left. Captain Dene Cassells climbed highest to meet Cameron’s delivery on the six-yard line but his glancing header flew wide of target.
Getting the first glimpse of their favourites in competitive action since April 6, the Glencruitten faithful didn’t have too long to wait to savour the first home goal of the season when David Beaton’s second minute diagonal run from the left was expertly picked out by Craig MacEwan. Beaton held off the attentions of Dean McLean and, with the outside of his right boot, lifted the ball over the advancing keeper Christopher Shaw and into the net to give Saints an early lead.
Beaton and Shaw were in direct opposition again two minutes later when Beaton collected a Matty Kelly pass and fired off a shot from 16 yards which Shaw did well to push behind for a corner kick. Lewis Cameron again sent in a good delivery which Paul Carmichael, at the back post, sent over the crossbar.
Referee John Quinn controversially denied Saints what appeared to be a clear 18th minute penalty kick when Lewis Cameron was tripped inside the Lesmahagow box. To the bemusement of everyone, instead of pointing to the penalty spot, Mr Quinn gave the decision in favour of the visitors and cautioned Cameron for simulation.
The visitors were becoming more of a force in the game and Graham Douglas in the Saints goal did well to push a fierce James McCrorie left foot strike behind for a 21st minute corner kick.
The Saints defence struggled to get Johnny Logan’s delivery from the right fully cleared and were relieved to see McCrorie’s dangerous ball across the six yard box fizz behind with no takers.
Craig MacEwan sent a low shot wide of target in the 26th minute before being denied a further shooting opportunity 60 seconds later. Returning to the ‘Gow’ after a brief spell in the junior ranks with Cumbernauld United, former club captain Robbie Kilpatrick made a perfectly timed sliding interception in his own penalty box to prevent MacEwan from testing Christopher Shaw.
For the second time in the match, referee Quinn left the Saints’ management team of Donald Campbell and Willie Gemmell perplexed at the lack of a penalty kick award after David Beaton was clearly shoved in the back in the 28th minute.
Lewis Cameron and Cammy Hill combined well on the right wing for Cameron to send a cutback fractionally behind the supporting run of Matty Kelly who dragged his shot high and wide of target before Cameron sent another effort over the ‘Gow’ crossbar after a good turn on the edge of the box.
Lesmahagow hit the woodwork for the second time just before the half time whistle when the unmarked James McCrorie headed a James McGill cross onto the inside of Graham Douglas’ left hand post and back into the arms of the grateful keeper.
Saints started the second half in the same fashion as the first with a goal after two minutes.
A quick release of the ball from Graham Douglas, after he had safely gathered a Darren Smith long throw, sent Cammy Hill away on the left, only for the young striker to be upended midway inside opposition territory by ‘Gow’ full back Gordon Hamilton.
Lewis Cameron rolled the free-kick up to the edge of the box where it was taken towards the byeline by Craig MacEwan. There was no way through for MacEwan but his lay-off to David Beaton was cut back to Lewis Cameron on the edge of the box whose low shot through a sea of legs deceived Christopher Shaw and nestled in the bottom corner.
David Beaton fired in a shot from the corner of the box which warmed the palms of Christopher Shaw before the ‘Gow’ keeper pulled off an excellent save from Lewis Cameron. After being felled 24 yards out, Cameron picked himself up and sent a dipping effort up and over the four man wall which Shaw, at full stretch, finger tipped over the crossbar.
Saints made a double substitution sending on James Ford and Dean Smith for David Beaton and Cammy Hill.
The game, which for the most part had been played in a competitive but fair spirit, erupted momentarily in the 80th minute.
However, Mr Quinn quickly restored order and once the dust had settled issued yellow cards to team captains Dene Cassells and Johnny Logan.
Saints made further changes, replacing Matty Kelly with the fresh legs of Daniel Croarkin and withdrawing Lewis Cameron in favour of the added aerial presence of Kerr Newbigging.
The visitors stepped up their aerial bombardment for the closing stages but the Saints rearguard stood firm under pressure, protecting keeper Graham Douglas well.
Saints had one final chance to take the pressure off the hard-worked defence with an 88th minute breakaway on the left.
Craig MacEwan raced into the box and, after rounding Christopher Shaw, saw his effort from a tight angle cleared off the line by Robbie Kilpatrick. Mr Quinn brought proceedings to a close after three added minutes, confirming back-to-back league wins for Saints and a place among the early Division 1B pacesetters alongside Clydebank and Blantyre RGM.
Saints are at home again this Saturday when they welcome Clydebank to Oban on Central Scottish Amateur Football League Division 1B business. Kick-off at Glencruitten is at 2pm with Tom Cavanagh in charge.