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Oban Saints Under 15s are celebrating after reaching their first cup final.
The Oban side travelled to Glasgow Green Football Centre last Sunday to play Glasgow Athletic in the Glasgow and District Youth Football League Divisional Cup semi-final, with both teams serving up an entertaining tie.
Having lost all four previous league and cup games against Athletic, the young Saints’ team knew they would have to be at their best to make the final.
The Oban youngsters started the game on the front foot aiming to take the game to their opponents in the early stages and on eight minutes had a glorious chance to take the lead from the penalty spot.
Zander Craik nicked the ball off the toe of an Athletic defender midway inside their half and as he ran through on goal, the defender brought him down inside the box. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and showed the defender a yellow card. Up stepped Zander but the goalkeeper dived low to smother his spot kick to keep the scoreline at 0-0.
Four minutes later Zander had a chance to redeem himself after another run into the box, this time from the right, was brought to a halt after another foul and resultant penalty kick.
Zander stepped up again and with the goalkeeper initially saving his second penalty of the match, the Saints’ youngster was quickest to react and much to the relief of his teammates knocked the rebound into the net to give Saints the lead.
Some stout defending made sure the Oban side stayed in front, first a good block on the edge of the box from Michael Campbell before Calum MacMillan made a goal line clearance moments later.
That was to prove important as on 29 minutes Saints doubled their advantage. Zander Craik cut in from the right and his pass across the box was confidently slotted home by strike partner Cody McCulloch to make it 2-0.
Eight minutes into the second half, Athletic reduced the deficit with Saints punished for a poor clearance after defending a corner kick. The sliced clearance fell at the feet of Athletic’s captain who, from just inside the 18-yard line, struck his shot into the net to make it 2-1.
The goal seemed to knock Saints out of their stride and two minutes later they had Josh Lane to thank as the goalkeeper dived low to make a good save from another shot.
Athletic had their tails up now and on 54 minutes they grabbed an equaliser, when their number 10 curled a low shot into the bottom corner of the net despite the best efforts of Josh Lane to keep it out.
Credit to the Oban boys as they grabbed back control of the game and three minutes later took the lead again, Aidan MacDonald picking the ball up in midfield and threading a great ball through the defensive line for Zander Craik to finish expertly to put his side back in the lead.
Saints then survived a few nervy moments as Athletic threw everything forward in the last ten minutes. First a glancing header just missed the target from a wide free kick before a well-stuck shot from outside the box flew narrowly over the bar.
With the referee adding on almost seven minutes of injury time, the Saints’ boys excellent game management allowed them to run down the clock, however they had defender Logan Black to thank for an excellent last ditch block to stop a goal bound effort from the edge of the box.
The full time whistle was greeted with scenes of celebration on the pitch as the Saints’ youngsters booked a place in their first cup final.
Coaches Allan MacDonald and Alex Craik were full of praise for their players, who put in a top class performance to record their first win over Athletic in five attempts.
The boys are now looking forward to their first cup final which is scheduled to take place on Sunday June 27 against Knightswood at a venue in Glasgow still to be confirmed.
A happy Saints squad celebrate reaching their first final.
Action from Sunday’s semi-final at Glasgow Green.