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A goalkeeping crisis forced Oban Saints to cast the net far and wide in search of a stand-in for regular number one Graham Douglas for last Saturday’s trip to Clydebank.
With Ben Pollock, Murdo MacKenzie and all other back-up options also unavailable, former Celtic youth keeper Jamie Strachan answered the call and produced an assured performance to pave the way for Saints’ ninth consecutive Central Scottish Amateur Football League Division 1B win. Second-half goals from Dene Cassells and Lewis Cameron were enough to secure the points against a stuffy Clydebank side who battled hard throughout.
With co-manager Donald Campbell beginning a work-related football sabbatical and Scottish amateur international left fullback Scott Maitland also missing, the remaining half of the management duo, club stalwart Willie Gemmell, opted for a change of formation and took his place in the middle of a back three alongside Steven MacLeod and captain Dene Cassells. In midfield were Matty Kelly, Lewis Cameron and Myles McAuley with Ruaridh Horne and Ross Maitland as wing backs. Up front were Cammy Hill and Craig MacEwan. Making up a strong bench were David Beaton, James Ford, Gavin Forgrieve, Aaron McKay and Matt Rippon.
Both sets of players were finding the surface difficult and a miscued fourth minute finish wide of Andrew Cameron’s left hand post from Cammy Hill let Clydebank off the hook after his well timed run connected with a Ross Maitland cross from the left.
Saints skipper Dene Cassells had the ball in the net from a Lewis Cameron 15th minute free-kick but only after referee John Quinn had blown for some pushing and shoving between Cammy Hill and Bankies central defender Benjamin Pierre Junges.
Saints produced another good move on the left and only the slightest of touches from the outstretched right boot of Colin McLafferty prevented Cammy Hill from connecting with Lewis Cameron’s low cross along the six-yard line.
Saints squandered another good opportunity in the 35th minute when Ruaridh Horne turned a Matty Kelly cross from the left well wide of target after Myles McAuley had taken down an Andrew Cameron goal kick in the centre circle and sent midfield partner Kelly off on a run.
Bankies skipper Andrew Cameron safely gathered a 22-yard effort from opposite number Dene Cassells after the big Saints central defender had connected with a Myles McAuley throw-in before enjoying a massive slice of good fortune 60 seconds later. From another McAuley throw, Craig MacEwan glanced a header onto the inside of Cameron’s right hand post and straight back into the grateful keeper’s arms.
Saints continued where they left off and opened the second half with a Myles McAuley shot from the corner of the box which curled just wide of the postage stamp corner.
The deadlock was broken in the 52nd minute when the home defence couldn’t clear a Lewis Cameron free-kick after the Saints Scottish amateur international had been felled on the corner of the box by Benjamin Pierre Junges. Cameron’s free-kick was bundled behind for a corner on the left presenting the Saints talisman with another dead ball opportunity.
Having opened his goal scoring account from the penalty spot in Saints last outing, Saints skipper Dene Cassells doubled his tally for the season with a glancing near-post header from three yards which gave Andrew Cameron no chance.
Saints made the first of their four changes in the 56th minute sending on David Beaton as a direct replacement for Ruaridh Horne at right wing back.
As the second half wore on, the home side were enjoying their best spell of the match and Saints introduced Matt Rippon as a 64th-minute replacement for Cammy Hill in an attempt to improve their fortunes up front.
Saints added a second goal in the 72nd minute when Central League Select pair Matty Kelly and Lewis Cameron combined to good effect through the middle. Kelly won the ball inside the centre circle and fed Cameron who jinked his way through the Bankies defence and slotted the ball into the bottom corner past the left hand of Andrew Cameron.
Aaron McKay and James Ford were given late run outs as replacements for Ross Maitland and Lewis Cameron, the latter being withdrawn as a precaution ahead of the following day’s inter-league match between the Central Scottish Amateur Football League and the Strathclyde Saturday Morning Amateur Football League at New Tinto Park, Govan.
This coming Saturday Saints welcome first time visitors Craigneuk to Oban for a top versus bottom League Division 1B clash with referee Allan Loch in charge for the 2pm kick-off at Glencruitten.