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Oban Saints 1
South Lochaber Thistle 0
A collector’s item headed Myles McAuley goal earned Oban Saints the bragging rights in a hard-fought friendly victory over near neighbours South Lochaber Thistle at Oban High School last Saturday afternoon.
Referee Martin Rae ensured the match day protocols, including no spectators inside the perimeter fencing, were strictly enforced for the midday kick-off played in pleasant winter sunshine.
Saints kicked off attacking the Glencruitten end and brought Jags number one Andrew Brown into action inside the first minute when the big keeper had to come through a ruck of bodies to clutch a Gavin Forgrieve free-kick from the corner of the 18-yard box.
Brown continued his busy start to the game needing two attempts to finally stop Aaron McKay’s effort from a Craig MacEwan-pass on his goal-line in the 12th minute.
Saints lost the services of Scott Maitland to a tightening hamstring which prompted a switch to a 3-5-2 formation. Replacement Myles McAuley moved into midfield leaving Ruaridh Horne, Kerr Newbigging and Steven MacLeod to form the back three.
Unexpectedly McAuley’s introduction would prove to be a master stroke by manager Willie Gemmell when the midfield powerhouse netted the only goal of the game after 20 minutes.
Gavin Forgrieve had a shot from 18 yards blocked behind for a corner kick on the right. The youngster trotted over to take the corner kick himself and sent over an excellent delivery which McAuley met perfectly on the penalty spot to send the ball crashing into the roof of the net.
Gavin Forgrieve, who enjoyed an influential first 45 minutes, made way for David Beaton in a half-time switch from gaffer Willie Gemmell.
A good turn on the 18-yard line took Saints Skipper Craig MacEwan away from his marker however his 53rd minute shot could only find the side netting.
Saints continued to press for a killer second goal but almost found themselves back on level terms in the 68th minute. The visitors successfully defended a David Beaton corner kick and launched a swift counter attack through skipper Martin Munro.
The Jags talisman was allowed to carry the ball a long way but crucially couldn’t shake off the attentions of Steven MacLeod, who kept Munro under enough pressure to prevent the shot and allow Graham Douglas to slide out and gather at Munro’s feet.
Sixty seconds later Munro succeeded where he had earlier failed and evaded the attentions of both MacLeod and Douglas and couldn’t believe his luck when Martin Bonar got back with a last gasp clearance clattering into the post in the process.
It was Saints’ turn to hit on the break from the resulting corner kick with Craig MacEwan finally getting an effort on target only to find Andrew Brown equal to the task with a flying save to tip MacEwan’s curling right foot shot onto the crossbar.
Further off-target efforts followed from Craig MacEwan, Lewis Campbell and Cammy Hill as Saints continued to dominate without being able to put the game out of the visitors’ reach.
With five minutes remaining Saints were almost made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal when dangerman Martin Munro escaped Cammy Hill on the right wing and picked out strike partner Andrew McLean in the middle, who glanced his header wide of Graham Douglas’ right hand post.
Fittingly it was Andrew Brown who had the last word capping an inspired performance to clutch a 22-yard James Ford shot before referee Martin Rae brought a highly competitive friendly encounter to an end.
Caption: Myles McAuley’s header flies in the the SLT net past a helpless Andrew Brown.
Match Report and photograph: Derek Black