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Oban Saints made a gruelling 410-mile round trip to the chilly north-east last Saturday afternoon for a Scottish Amateur Cup re-match with last season’s conquerors Rothie Rovers.
Thanks to the sterling efforts of the Rothie Rovers committee, Rothie Park survived the deep freeze which wiped out half of the fourth round card, passing an early morning pitch inspection to give the Saints travelling party the green light for an 8am departure from Oban.
Co-manager Willie Gem-mell was dealt a selection blow on the eve of the match when illness ruled out midfielder Kerr Newbigging and leading goalscorer Craig MacEwan, forcing Gemmell to include himself on the substitutes bench alongside Ross Maitland, Matt Rippon and youngster Aaron McKay.
MacEwan’s goals, however, were not missed with a brace from Cammy Hill, adding to David Beaton’s 15th-minute opener, giving Saints revenge for the agonising penalty shoot-out defeat in last season’s epic encounter and confirming their place in this coming Friday’s fifth round draw.
The woodwork came to the rescue of the Saints back four in the sixth minute when Sean Bremner got in between Scott Maitland and Dene Cassells to flick a long Lewis Milne clearance into the path of Gavin Smart. The Rothie wide man beat Graham Douglas on the corner of the six-yard box and watched in agony as his shot came back off the post. Smart regained possession and sent a cross to the back post where the waiting Bremner volleyed over the crossbar.
Graham Douglas required two attempts to hold a ninth-minute Keith Walker free-kick with Stuart Gray receiving a telling off from referee Mark Crawford for sliding in late on the Saints keeper.
Slightly against the run of play, Saints opened the scoring in the 15th minute. Cammy Hill won a throw-in on the left level with the 18-yard line. Hill laid Scott Maitland’s throw back to the
Scottish Amateur International left back, who sent a tempting cross into the box. David Beaton was first to react, coming in from the right to slam a left foot half-volley past the helpless Lewis Milne.
Scott Maitland also provided the assist for Saints’ second goal which came from a quick breakaway five minutes later. Dene Cassells and Steven MacLeod ensured there was no way through for Gavin Smart on the right of the Saints box with their combined efforts eventually blocking the ball behind for a corner kick. Robert King’s deep delivery was knocked back into the middle by Jack Brown where Myles McAuley met his cross with a solid header out to the left. Maitland launched the ball long to Cammy Hill who galloped away from the Rothie defence, rounded the advancing Lewis Milne and slammed the ball left footed into the net.
Saints kicked off the second half playing into the very low sun and attacking the car park end of Rothie Park where they immediately made good ground down the very heavy pavilion side touchline. Lewis Cameron, Scott Maitland and James Ford linked up well on the left with David Beaton only inches away from connecting with Maitland’s cross at the front post.
Lewis Cameron, fresh from his goalscoring exploits with the Scottish Amateur International squad, continued to influence proceedings and appeared to be scythed down just inside the Rothie box in the 53rd minute but Mr Crawford, who was well positioned to make the call, saw no infringement.
An injury for James Ford forced Saints co-manager Willie Gemmell into his first change sending on Matt Rippon in the 65th minute after the restorative powers of Davie Buchanan’s magic sponge failed to heal Ford’s right knee.
Saints made the tie safe with 20 minutes still to play after Cammy Hill’s perseverance won a corner kick on the left. Lewis Cameron’s delivery looped over the heads of Dene Cassells and Ryan Walker and was met perfectly on the volley by Cammy Hill who side footed past Lewis Milne from five yards.
The home side, one of just four Aberdeenshire sides still involved in the competition, refused to give up and were almost rewarded for their efforts in the 77th minute when Sean Bremner wriggled into the Saints box only to be foiled by a perfectly timed challenge by Dene Cassells.
Cammy Hill, who lead the line well, passed up a glorious opportunity to claim the match ball when he raced through onto an 82nd minute Matty Kelly pass but sent a poor finish wide of Lewis Milne’s right hand post.
David Beaton’s busy shift came to an end with five minutes to play when he was replaced by Aaron McKay in a straight swap on the right.
Saints ended the match on the front foot but it was definitely a case of the wrong man in the right place as Myles McAuley turned up in the Rothie box to head a good chance wide of target after good work on the right by Matty Kelly, Cammy Hill and Aaron McKay.
Referee Crawford, who had an excellent game, signalled the end of the match after three added minutes, sending Saints back down the long road to Oban in buoyant mood after a hard-fought win over a very good Rothie Rovers side who will once again be challenging for the top Aberdeenshire Amateur Football Association honours.
Saints return to league business this coming Saturday when they welcome title rivals and first time visitors Blantyre RGM to Glencruitten. Taking charge of the Division 1B clash is experienced referee Pat O’Donnell who recently joined Saints in leaving the Scottish Amateur Football League in search of a fresh challenge in the Central Scottish Amateur Football League. Kick-off at Glencruitten will be 1.30pm.
Oban Saints GG team were also in action last Saturday when they came from 2-0 down to gain a creditable 2-2 draw with Kilbarchan Thistle at the Oban Community Pitch thanks to goals from Dean Smith and Daniel Croarkin.
The team are at home again on Saturday when they take on GSM Amateurs on the 3G pitch, 2.30pm kick-off.
Saints are lying in second place in the Greater Glasgow AFL Division Three, four points behind leaders Kirkfield United but have three games in hand.