Saints GG return to winning ways

Dean Smith pokes the ball home but the goal is disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper by Rory Dowd. Photograph: Derek Black

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A goal and three assists from Oban Saints youth product Gavin Forgrieve helped Oban Saints GG arrest their recent form slump and return to winning ways against Colquhoun United at Oban High School last Saturday afternoon.

In horrendous weather conditions, braved by a hardy band of supporters Forgrieve’s opening goal was cancelled out by a sweetly struck free-kick on the stroke of half-time from Zak Murray before a dominant second-half Saints performance produced further goals for Alex Craik, Fraser MacFarlane and Keir MacLean.

With a waterlogged Glen­cruitten forcing the cancellation of the first team’s game, the Saints second string management team were able to call on the services of Martin Bonar, Gavin Forgrieve and Aaron McKay, who were due to be part of the squad to face Wishaw HSFP in the Scottish Amateur Cup sixth round replay.

In just their first season in the Greater Glasgow Premier Amateur Football League, the youthful Saints second string are more than holding their own against considerably more experienced opposition and are one of, perhaps, six clubs harbouring ambitions of lifting the Division Three league title.

Those ambitions have taken a bit of a knock in recent weeks with three defeats in succession. However, the youngsters, with seven under 19s in a squad where 11 of the 16 were under 23, bounced back in convincing style to notch their seventh league win of the season.

After a cagey start, the match burst into life in the 12th minute when Dean Smith held the ball up well on the edge of the Colquhoun United box and swivelled away from his marker to arrow a shot towards the postage stamp corner where United keeper Mark Dyet flung himself acrobatically to fingertip Smith’s effort over his crossbar. Dyet’s excellent work was almost undone from Gavin Forgrieve’s corner kick when he lost the aerial battle to Rory Dowd and Dean Smith poked home the loose ball from close range. However, referee Frank MacLachlan, who handled proceedings well, disallowed the goal for what he considered an unfair challenge by Dowd.

The deadlock was broken in the 25th minute with Dean Smith again involved. Smith held up a Daniel Croarkin pass on the edge of the United box and laid the ball off to Robert Johnstone on the right wing. Johnstone strode forward and cut into the box to send a cut-back tantalisingly out of reach of the advancing keeper into the path of Gavin Forgrieve who stroked the ball into the unguarded net from 10 yards.

An injured right foot cut short Nathan Allan’s afternoon after just 35 minutes when the young central defender, one of 11 players on show who came through the club’s youth ranks, was replaced by experienced utility man David Smith.

On the stroke of half-time Smith was harshly penalised for a challenge on United striker Robin Wyatt 25 yards from goal and right of centre.

Defender Zak Murray took responsibility for the set-piece and arrowed a low left-foot strike across Murdo MacKenzie and into the bottom corner to level things up.

With the wind and driving rain at their backs, Saints produced a dominant second-half display and deservedly regained the lead in the 53rd minute.

Veteran central defender Alex Craik demonstrated that his worth to the team extends beyond that of nurturing the young talent alongside him when he stretched his neck muscles to head a Gavin Forgrieve left-wing corner kick past Mark Dyet.

Sixty seconds later, the woodwork denied Daniel Croarkin a spectacular goal when his fierce dipping 30-yard effort landed on top of the United crossbar with the keeper well beaten.

Saints made their second change on the hour mark when Aaron McKay came on to replace Rory Dowd.

Saints made a double substitution in the 67th minute, replacing Dean Smith and Robert Johnstone with Keir MacLean and Fraser MacFarlane.

After coming close on a couple of occasions, MacFarlane got his name on the score sheet in the 76th minute from a move started by Alex Craik. The big centre-half strode out from the back and sprayed the ball out wide to Fraser MacFarlane. The winger’s direct running had the United defence backpedalling and his well weighted pass sent the overlapping Gavin Forgrieve in behind. Forgrieve hit the bye-line and picked out MacFarlane with his cut-back which MacFarlane lifted over the goalkeeper from eight yards.

A cheeky back heel flick inside the six-yard box from Daniel Croarkin was stopped by the legs of Colquhoun keeper Mark Dyet before the midfielder made way for Lewis Buchanan in Saints final change in the 81st minute.

Saints rounded off the scoring in the 89th minute from another good move up the right wing. Right back Craig Livingstone sent Fraser MacFarlane scurrying forward where he was once again supported by Gavin Forgrieve. Forgrieve rounded off an impressive all-round display with another assist, teeing up Keir MacLean for an emphatic right-foot finish past the keeper.

The Saints second string are at home again this coming Saturday when they welcome Westerlands with three more vital league points up for grabs.