Saints carve out gutsy win against the odds

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A makeshift Oban Saints side missing a number of key players recorded an unlikely battling Central Scottish Amateur Football League Cinema Cup victory against three-time Scottish Amateur Cup winners St Patrick’s FP in Dumbarton last Saturday.

At a windswept Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School, goals from Myles McAuley, Craig MacEwan, David Beaton and Cammy Hill won the battle of the Saints for Oban against old friends and former Scottish Amateur Football League rivals St Pat’s.

Dene Cassells, James Ford and Scott Maitland joined long-term injury victims Matty Kelly and Matt Rippon on the sidelines adding to the selection problems of co-Manager Willie Gemmell. Gemmell’s own absence, coupled with that of management colleague Donald Campbell, left coach Jamie Graham in charge, ably assisted by coach Peter MacCallum and secretary David Buchanan.

Saints lined up with captain for the day Graham Douglas in goal behind a back three of Kerr Newbigging, Steven MacLeod and Daniel Croarkin. Across the midfield were Ruaridh Horne, Gavin Forgrieve, Myles McAuley, Lewis Cameron and Ross Maitland. The front two were David Beaton and Craig MacEwan. Coach Jamie Graham joined teenagers Cammy Hill and Aaron McKay on the bench.

Saints kicked off with the strong wind at their backs and fashioned an opening for Lewis Cameron inside the first minute. Cameron raced onto a lay-off from Craig MacEwan but sent his effort from the edge of the box straight into the midriff of St Pat’s keeper Brian Gallacher.

A good ball up the right wing from Kerr Newbigging for Craig MacEwan saw the Saints striker bundled over by Ross Cannon, handing Lewis Cameron a chance to put the ball into the St Pat’s box. Cameron’s free-kick was well met by MacEwan at the near post with Brian Gallacher only able to parry the header back into the danger area. MacEwan was quickest to react and, from the right of the six-yard box, lifted the ball back across the face of goal for Myles McAuley to head into the net for the opening goal.

After a slow start, the hosts began to show their Premier Division class and carved out the first of a number of good first half opportunities in the 16th minute. Scottish amateur international striker Ciaran McElroy was allowed to carry the ball a long way on the right and cut into the box to unleash a powerful right foot shot which, fortunately for Saints, flew well off target.

Another McElroy run on the right was stopped, illegally in the opinion of referee Stephen Payne, by Ross Maitland five minutes later. Martin Currie rolled the free-kick from the corner of the box back to skipper Dominic Ruane for a shot which Graham Douglas did well to hold at the second attempt.

Pointless back chat to Mr Payne after a disputed 22nd minute free-kick award earned Craig MacEwan and Joseph Coleman a place in the referee’s notebook. This would later prove costly for the St Pat’s central defender.

St Pat’s striker Ryan McColl got the better of Kerr Newbigging to fire a left foot shot just over before right back Dominic McElroy found his way into Mr Payne’s notebook for pulling back Ross Maitland in the 29th minute.

The hosts levelled from the penalty spot on the half hour mark after benefiting from an extremely harsh decision given against Steven MacLeod. The once again well forward Dominic McElroy appeared to run into MacLeod after the experienced head at the heart of the Saints makeshift back three had made a clean sliding interception.

Mr Payne, however, considered MacLeod had caught McElroy with his challenge and awarded a penalty kick. St Pat’s skipper Dominic Ruane expertly tucked away the spot kick to level the scores.

Myles McAuley joined the growing list of miscreants in Mr Payne’s notebook in the 33rd minute before Ryan McColl narrowly failed to connect with a tempting cross from left back Neil Allan.

Saints rediscovered their attacking threat with a good 39th minute move up the right wing involving Kerr Newbigging, Ruaridh Horne and David Beaton with only Craig MacEwan’s usually reliable first touch denying the Saints leading goalscorer a clear sight of goal.

Ciaran McElroy continued to show why he figures so prominently in Scottish Amateur Select manager Colin MacLeod’s plans with another driving run and cross from the right which Stephen Gardiner, on the stretch, headed over from four yards out.

After surviving a dominant spell from the hosts, Saints regained the lead in the 41st minute. A lofted ball over the top from Ruaridh Horne picked out a clever run from Lewis Cameron. Brian Gallacher was alive to the danger and came a long way out of his box to beat Cameron to Horne’s through ball. Luck, however, deserted the St Pat’s keeper when Craig MacEwan controlled his attempted clearance and sent it sailing back over his head into the unguarded net.

The Saints goal continued to lead a charmed life when, on the stroke of half-time, Ciaran McElroy sent over another excellent cross which Joseph Cullen glanced wide of target from three yards.

Despite conceding the considerable wind advantage to their hosts, Saints made a good start to the second half and were unlucky to see a Lewis Cameron through ball for Craig MacEwan taken off the toe of the Saints striker before Gavin Forgrieve fired the loose ball 12 inches over the crossbar.

The hosts drew level for a second time after ten second half minutes from a hotly disputed free-kick awarded for handball against Kerr Newbigging. From the corner of the 18-yard box, Martin Currie bent the ball into the corridor of uncertainty between defenders and goalkeeper and was delighted to see the ball bounce beyond the despairing grasp of Graham Douglas and into the net.

Parity lasted just three minutes though as David Beaton gained his reward for a punishing shift against imposing central defenders Ross Cannon and Joseph Coleman. After Coleman had been penalised for a shove on Craig MacEwan just inside the St Pat’s half, Saints worked the ball forward for Beaton who raced away from Cannon and Coleman to slot the ball past the advancing Brian Gallacher.

The hosts response to falling behind for a third time was to send on 2017 Central Scottish Amateur Football League Player of the Year Kevin McElroy in favour of Stephen Gardiner.

Pressed into action on the right, McElroy drew a sixty sixth minute foul from Daniel Croarkin which earned the Saints’ emergency defender a yellow card. Croarkin, however, immediately redeemed himself by heading clear Ryan McColl’s free-kick.

Saints made their first change with 20 minutes remaining sending on Cammy Hill to replace David Beaton.

Joseph Coleman’s earlier yellow card for dissent came back to haunt him when referee Payne took exception to another comment from the Scottish Amateur Select man and sent the big central defender for an early bath.

The woodwork denied St Pat’s a third equaliser when Dominic Ruane rattled the crossbar with a thumping seventy fourth minute drive.

Pressing forward in search of an equaliser, the ten men were leaving space at the back for Saints to exploit and Lewis Cameron found Cammy Hill in the clear in the 76th minute but the teenage striker dragged his shot across the face of goal and wide of Brian Gallacher’s right hand post.

In serious danger of running out of lead for his pencil, Mr Payne added Kerr Newbigging to the lengthy list of cautions in the 78th minute.

Matthew Devine replaced Martin Currie for the closing ten minutes and his cross from the right in the 82nd minute was hooked just wide by fullback Dominic McElroy who had again added his support to the attack.

Ruaridh Horne took a whack on the left ankle in the 85th minute and, from the resulting free-kick, Gavin Forgrieve threaded the ball through to Lewis Cameron who fired a left foot shot from 18 yards narrowly over the crossbar. Horne failed to recover from his knock and was replaced by Aaron McKay who was asked to take on an unfamiliar defensive role.

The hosts threw everything into the search for an equaliser and had Saints pinned back in their own box with a succession of corner kicks which the Saints defence, with Steven MacLeod an inspiration at its heart, manfully repelled.

Cammy Hill and Ryan McColl became the latest to have Mr Payne reaching for his yellow card for pushing and shoving in the centre circle. From the resulting free-kick awarded in St Pat’s favour, Saints skipper for the day Graham Douglas took the pressure off his embattled defence by coming through a ruck of bodies to make a clean catch.

Moving into time added on for stoppages, Saints invited more pressure with a cheaply conceded free-kick which earned Gavin Forgrieve the final yellow card of the match. Graham Douglas once again made a telling contribution with a solid clearing punch paving the way for the killer goal. Lewis Cameron and Aaron McKay linked up well on the left from where Cameron found Craig MacEwan inside the centre circle. MacEwan’s perfectly weighted pass sent Cammy Hill racing through where he kept his nerve to lift the ball over Brian Gallacher on the edge of his box and make the tie safe.

Saints reward for their gutsy against the odds win is another hugely difficult away tie at West of Scotland Cup holders Bannockburn.

This Saturday Saints return to league business with a trip to face promotion rivals Lesmahagow.