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Saturday 22 May
Oban Saints GG 2
Vale of Leven 3
Oban Saints Greater Glasgow Premier Football League side looked to bounce back from their opening night Spring Cup defeat to South Lochaber Thistle with another difficult tie against Vale of Leven AFC at Oban High School last Saturday afternoon.
Previously competing in the Scottish Amateur Football League as FC Argyle, the visitors have recently rebranded as the amateur wing of Vale of Leven Junior FC and begin their Greater Glasgow Premier Amateur Football League journey in this season’s Division 3B.
Among an experienced Vale line-up was former Scottish Amateur International striker Allan MacPherson whom Saints fans will recall from previous visits to Oban with Haldane United and Vale of Leven Juniors.
In an entertaining encounter, well handled by referee Martin Rae, it was a tale of missed opportunities and defensive calamities from the young Saints side which ultimately saw the visitors come out on top by the odd goal in five.
The visitors kicked off in bright sunshine attacking the Dalintart end and Saints number one Murdo MacKenzie did well to hold a Ross Davies volley from 20 yards after Alex Craik had headed out a fourth minute corner kick from the Vale right.
The normally rock solid Craik then set an unfortunate and unwelcome trend for defensive blunders when he was caught in possession on the corner of the Saints 18 yard box by Cameron Jamieson who eagerly snatched the opportunity to open the scoring, despatching the ball past the hopelessly exposed MacKenzie.
After a decent Gavin Forgrieve free-kick delivery drifted just out of reach for the on-rushing Alex Craik, Saints conceded another avoidable goal in the 12th minute. Central defender Aiden Campbell misjudged the bounce of a Cameron Jamieson cross into the box gifting a chance to former Scottish Amateur International striker Allan MacPherson who made no mistake in inflicting the punishment.
Young Louis MacFarlane, making just his second appearance for the Oban club, linked up well in the 18th minute with Cammy Hill and Kyle Cooper to create an opening for Gavin Forgrieve who dragged his right foot shot just wide of target.
Saints impressive end to the first half continued and only an excellent Ally Shields save from Craig Livingstone denied the home side after the full back’s driving run had been picked out by an excellent diagonal ball from Robbie Johnstone.
Reward for their endeavours came Saints’ way 90 seconds into the second half after tenacious work by Louis MacFarlane on the right won possession just inside the Vale half. MacFarlane found Kyle Cooper on the edge of the Vale box and the young striker turned away from his marker and slotted a low, right foot shot beyond the grasp of Ally Shields to half the deficit.
The young Saints side were now in the ascendancy but passed up three gilt-edged chances to take control of the tie with Cammy Hill each time failing to hit the target after taking up good scoring positions.
Saints’ failure to capitalise on their chances came back to haunt them when another defensive calamity gifted the visitors a third goal. Murdo MacKenzie spilled a routine catch from a right wing cross straight to the feet of Richard Stibbs who needed no second invitation to roll the ball into the unguarded net.
Alex Craik’s never say die attitude took the veteran defender into unfamiliar territory with a driving run out from the back and deep into the Vale half. Craik’s pin point cross was met perfectly by Robbie Johnstone whose header from 12 yards looped over Ally Shields into the net.
Saints kept pressing right to the end but were unable to find the equaliser ensuring a happy bus journey home for the men from the Vale.
Despite two cup defeats to quality opposition in the opening week of the return to competitive football, Saints GG manager Donald Black and coach Brian Forgrieve can take heart from the positive attitude of his young charges and can look forward in anticipation to the start of the league season in August.
Caption: Vale of Leven’s former Scottish Amateur International striker Allan MacPherson is marked by Saints’s central defender Aiden Campbell. Both players had to leave the pitch injured later in the game. Match report and photograph: Derek Black