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Oban Saints’ Scottish Amatuer Cup hopes were blown away at a very wet and windy Oban High School last Saturday afternoon. A confidently converted first-half penalty kick and a lightning quick counter-attack strike early in the second half from visitors Wishaw High School Former Pupils were enough to see the 2011 cup winners safely through to this season’s quarter-finals.
Saints will reflect ruefully on two crucial saves from Wishaw keeper Sandy Thomson either side of the half-time whistle. However, the hard-working visitors were worthy of their victory and will have given Saints a glimpse of the quality of opposition they will face on a weekly basis if they are successful in their push for promotion to the Central Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Divison.
Manager Willie Gemmell made two changes to the starting line-up which had drawn the sixth round tie at Wishaw Sports Centre two weeks previously. In came Cammy Hill and the fit again Myles McAuley, with Ross Maitland and Willie Gemmell dropping to the bench.
Saints had the benefit of the strong wind blowing from the school end in the first half and were frustrated after four minutes when referee Donald McCallum ignored a loud appeal for what appeared to be a clear foul by Liam Smith on James Ford on the edge of the Wishaw box.
Scottish Amateur Football Association Select squad member Lee Hadden’s pace on the left would prove to be a major threat for the visitors and Saints central defender Steven MacLeod picked up the first caution of the afternoon for pulling back the wide man just inside the Saints half.
Lewis Cameron and Craig MacEwan combined well on the left to pick their way through the Wishaw defence in the 10th minute but Cameron’s ball along the six-yard line was thumped clear by Jamie Halliday launching a lightning quick counter-attack. Lee Hadden raced away on the left and picked out the supporting run of Ewan Leonard in the middle who played in former Arthurlie Juniors man Joshua Payne for a shot into the side netting.
Saints skipper Dene Cassells was inches away from connecting with a tempting Lewis Cameron free-kick delivery from the Saints right in the 12th minute before Cameron drew a spectacular save from Sandy Thomson with a curling effort from 23 yards which the Wishaw number one pushed away from the postage stamp corner.
The visitors broke the deadlock from the penalty spot after Matty Kelly clipped the heels of Brian Ross as the Wishaw midfielder tried to get on the end of a Ewan Leonard flick into the Saints box.
Wishaw captain James Bryson rolled the resulting penalty kick into the bottom corner, sending Saints keeper Graham Douglas in the opposite direction in the process.
Douglas did well to gather an attempted lob from Wishaw central striker John Neill before surviving another devastating counter-attack from the visitors. After Cammy Hill had won a corner kick on the left, Saints were left appealing in vain for a penalty kick for a push on Dene Cassells which prevented the Saints skipper from connecting with Lewis Cameron’s corner kick.
Saints kept plugging away in search of an equaliser and were unlucky to see a dangerous Lewis Cameron ball across the face of goal deflect off an outstretched Wishaw leg into the grateful arms of Sandy Thomson.
Scorer of Saints’ goal in the first game Scott Maitland almost came up trumps again on the half-hour mark when his cutback from the left after a jinking run into the Wishaw box was inches away from finding his Scottish Amateur Football Association Select colleague Lewis Cameron.
Wishaw midfielder Brian Ross somehow managed to escape disciplinary action from referee McCallum for a late high tackle on Ruaridh Horne which left the young Saints fullback in a crumpled heap in the 31st minute.
Making his first start for his new club, Joshua Payne was proving to be a nuisance on the Wishaw right. After having a 33rd minute shot blocked behind for a corner kick, Payne drew a fine save from Graham Douglas from a curling effort which the Saints number one did well to claw away from the top right-hand corner of his goal. Douglas received the slice of good fortune his heroics deserved when, from an extremely tight angle, Wishaw’s John Neill could only head the loose ball against the junction of post and crossbar.
Wishaw keeper Sandy Thomson launched a 41st minute free-kick from deep inside his own half which, despite being held up in the wind, was won in the air by John Neill who found Joshua Payne on the right. Payne’s dangerous ball across the six-yard box was turned goalward by Lee Hadden at the back post but Graham Douglas got down well to his right to make a good save.
On the stroke of half-time Lewis Cameron was felled on the Saints left by Joshua Payne whose failure to retreat the required distance at the resulting free-kick saw him become the first Wishaw name in referee McCallum’s notebook.
When the action did get under way, Saints worked a terrific opening for Cammy Hill who couldn’t believe his luck when Sandy Thomson threw up a strong left forearm to deny the young striker from point blank range. Thomson broke Saints hearts again 60 seconds after the restart with another sensational save from James Ford. Ford’s shot from the edge of the Wishaw box appeared destined for the bottom corner until Thomson, at full stretch low to his left, made just enough contact to turn the ball behind for a corner kick.
As if Thomson’s save wasn’t enough for the large home crowd to endure, the visitors delivered a hammer blow when their swift counter-attacking style finally bore fruit from the Saints corner kick. Lewis Cameron’s delivery from the right was headed clear and found its way up to Brian Ross who raced into the Saints half ignoring the supporting runs of Joshua Payne and Lee Hadden to fire an unerring finish into the bottom corner beyond the despairing right hand of Graham Douglas and double the visitors’ advantage.
Gaffer Willie Gemmell made a double substitution on the hour mark, replacing Cammy Hill and James Ford with David Beaton and Ross Maitland in an attempt to reinvigorate the Saints attack.
Beaton and Maitland managed to get some joy in the wide areas but once again there was to be no way past Sandy Thomson when he produced another terrific save at his near post to thwart David Beaton from a left-wing Lewis Cameron cut-back in the 70th minute.
Willie Gemmell called one too many of Mr McCallum’s decisions into question and joined the growing list of names in the referee’s notebook.
Very little was going Saints’ way as they struggled to match the visitors’ steely determination and top scorer Craig MacEwan’s usually reliable first touch let him down when threaded through by Lewis Cameron in the 75th minute allowing the ball to run harmlessly through to the Wishaw keeper.
Myles McAuley, who had a good game in midfield, had his return to the team cut short when he bundled over Wishaw danger man Lee Hadden with 10 of the regulation 90 minutes remaining. McAuley did well to track Hadden’s lightning quick run and took one for the team in bundling over the pacy wide man before he could get his shot away.
After having to leave the field of play for treatment for a head knock, Wishaw’s Ewan Leonard incurred the wrath of referee McCallum for returning uninvited and became the latest caution in what, despite the high stakes, was a competitive but fair contest.
Having received a cheap yellow card in the first half, Joshua Payne gave Mr McCallum the chance to even up the red cards tally when he needlessly kicked the ball away at a Saints free-kick deep inside home territory. Well within his rights, the referee issued a second yellow card and gave the Wishaw wide man his marching orders.
Despite being returned to numerical parity, and a generous amount of added on time, Saints failed for the first time this season to find the target and slipped out of the Scottish Amateur Cup to concentrate on the season’s primary objective of gaining promotion to the Central Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division.
The next instalment of Saints Division 1B campaign takes place this coming Saturday when Stedfast K are the visitors. The game will again be on the 3G pitch with a 1pm kick-off.
Saints GG team took the field after their senior counterparts and recorded a fine 3-0 win against Westerlands in very difficult conditions.
On target for Saints were Dean Smith (2) and Martin Bonar. The win lifted Saints into second place in the league
This Saturday Saints GG travel to take on league leaders Kirkfield United.