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Oban Saints made it five wins out of five to extend their lead at the top of the Central Scottish Amateur Football League Division 1B table to five points.
But it was far from a five-star performance at the Palace of Art as the D&K Lafferty sponsored side struggled to overcome determined hosts Bridgewater.
After surviving a couple of early scares, a successfully converted Matt Rippon penalty kick gave Saints a first half lead with second half strikes from Craig MacEwan and David Beaton securing the points with a slightly flattering scoreline.
Ross Maitland, Willie Gemmell, Aaron McKay and Gavin Forgrieve all dropped out of the squad from the previous Saturday to make room for the returning David Beaton, Lewis Cameron, Paul Carmichael and Cammy Hill.
On perhaps the strongest bench Saints have ever been able to name were Lewis Cameron, Donald Campbell, Paul Carmichael, Cammy Hill and Kerr Newbigging.
Saints kicked off in bright, warm sunshine but were denied the chance to settle into their normal stride by their hard-working hosts who would go on to dominate the early exchanges.
Saints Skipper Dene Cassells tried to inject some urgency into his side’s play with a driving run forward which saw him upended midway inside the Bridgewater half. Cassells stayed forward for Matty Kelly’s thirteenth minute free-kick which was inches away from connecting with the big central defender’s well-timed run into the box.
The deadlock was broken in the 29th minute when Saints profited from a mix-up in the home defence. David Beaton pounced on a stray back pass and was sent sprawling in the box by Bridgewater keeper Graeme Macrae. Matt Rippon assumed responsibility for the spot kick and sent Macrae in the wrong direction to give Saints the lead.
David Beaton and Craig MacEwan combined well on the left to force a 32nd minute corner kick as chances for both sides remained at a premium. James Ford’s delivery to the back post was nodded back by Myles McAuley to Craig MacEwan whose hooked effort from 16 yards flew high and wide of target.
Attacking the pavilion end, Saints made a better start to the second half with Matty Kelly hooking a right wing James Ford cross over the crossbar.
Saints management duo Donald Campbell and Willie Gemmell made an early change, replacing goalscorer Matt Rippon with Lewis Cameron.
Cameron’s introduction paid instant dividends when he retrieved a David Beaton left wing cross which central defender Ross Gemmell had helped on its way. Cameron picked out Craig MacEwan in the middle with a low cross which the Saints’ leading scorer gleefully tucked away from close range.
Saints made a second change after 62 minutes, sending on Paul Carmichael to replace Steven MacLeod who had produced a typically solid performance at the heart of the defence.
A further change followed five minutes later when James Ford made way for teenage striker Cammy Hill.
Saints made the points secure with 20 minutes remaining when Matty Kelly’s driving run and cut back from just short of the bye-line was met by David Beaton sliding in at the near post to divert the ball past Graeme Macrae and into the far corner of the net.
Beaton thought he had added a fourth in the 78th minute when he appeared to time his run onto a Lewis Cameron through ball perfectly, only for referee Patterson to rule his well-placed finish across Graeme Macrae offside.
Now treading the disciplinary tightrope, Gemmell was dispossessed on the corner of his own box by Craig MacEwan who fed Lewis Cameron on the overlap. Cameron’s low cross to the near post was stabbed narrowly wide of target by David Beaton in the final act of an influential second half performance before the diminutive wide man was replaced by Donald Campbell.
Further changes followed with Kerr Newbigging replacing Matty Kelly and Donald Campbell coming on for David Beaton.
Donald Campbell’s quick thinking from a corner kick on the left caught the Bridgewater defence napping in the 85th minute. From Campbell’s short corner Lewis Cameron sent a ball to the far post which Cammy Hill on the stretch smacked off the outside of Graeme Macrae’s left hand post.
After two weeks without a fixture, the Glencruitten faithful now have two consecutive home games to look forward to.
First up, on Saturday, Cambusnethan Talbot come calling in the Central Scottish Amateur Football League Division 1B followed seven days later by a visit from old rivals Inverclyde in the West of Scotland Amateur Cup.
Both games will be at Glencruitten with 2pm kick-offs.
Saints GG team had a fine 4-1 away win against Duncanrig last Saturday thanks to goals from Gavin Forgrieve (2) and Martin Bonar (2).
The club is holding a golf day at Glencruitten this Sunday.