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Oban Saints 4
Lochgilphead Red Star 0
Following the withdrawal of two previously interested parties, Oban Saints secretary David Buchanan was grateful to closest neighbours Lochgilphead Red Star for stepping in at short notice to provide the opposition at Oban High School last Saturday afternoon for the first of Saints’ four friendlies ahead of the new Central Scottish Amateur Football League campaign.
Strict matchday protocols, including no changing rooms and no supporters inside the perimeter fencing, were followed by both sides.
Two first half goals each from Lewis Cameron and captain Craig MacEwan gave Saints a comfortable victory over a Red Star side featuring a number of youngsters which bodes well for the future of the Mid Argyll club.
Saints had a number of absentees, most notably manager Willie Gemmell, whose place on the touchline was filled by head coach Ross Maitland, and goalkeeper Graham Douglas with club legend David Dunlop taking care of business between the posts.
The home side kicked-off attacking the school end and quickly stamped their authority on a first half which they would go on to dominate almost entirely.
Lewis Cameron opened the scoring in the 13th minute from Saints’ first effort on target. David Beaton was felled 24 yards out, from where Cameron found the top corner with pinpoint accuracy giving Red Star keeper Ally Lewis no chance.
A rare Red Star foray in Saints’ territory had the home defence appealing in vain for an offside decision from referee Martin Rae which wasn’t forthcoming.
Ryan Caskie ran onto Andy Weir’s ball over the top, however, Saints keeper David Dunlop narrowed the angle sufficiently to force Caskie into looking for a cutback which Ruaridh Horne intercepted, mopping up the danger.
Horne featured at the other end in the 24th minute winning a throw-in on the right level with the Red Star six-yard line. Horne took the throw himself, finding Lewis Cameron whose measured cross found the head of captain Craig MacEwan who headed firmly past Ally Lewis to double the home side’s advantage.
Saints kept up the pressure on the Star defence and four minutes later added a third with skipper MacEwan completing his brace. James Ford and Lewis Cameron combined well on the left to send Myles McAuley on an overlapping run from where he produced an unlikely left foot cutback which MacEwan slammed home from close range.
The Oban side continued to knock the ball about confidently and struck again with 10 of the first 45 minutes remaining. Myles McAuley won possession on the halfway line and sprayed the ball out to Ruaridh Horne on the right. Horne sent David Beaton scurrying forward with the pacy Saints’ wide man holding off the attentions of Joseph Harper to fire a low cross along the six-yard line which Lewis Cameron, arriving at the back post, cushioned home.
Despite having almost nothing to do for the first half, veteran Saints keeper David Dunlop kept his wits about him to preserve his highly-prized clean sheet, holding a 43rd minute snap shot from Stuart MacLean.
Saints’ coach Ross Maitland made a double change for the start of the second half, replacing Dene Cassells and Rory Dowd with Steven MacLeod and Matty Kelly.
Despite his alleged retirement in 2018, the evergreen Alex Craik continued to turn back the years, replacing Kerr Newbigging in the middle of the Saints’ back three in the 55th minute.
Red Star’s young keeper Ally Lewis made an impressive stop to deny Craig MacEwan a 57th minute hat-trick goal from a Lewis Cameron lay-off.
Oban Saints’ GG skipper Kenneth Black replaced Ruaridh Horne on the hour, prompting a reshuffle in the back three where Steven MacLeod moved to the right allowing Black to take up his familiar position on the left.
Although still in control of proceedings, Saints posed nowhere near the threat they carried in the first half and the visitors gained in confidence as the match progressed with Lee MacLean impressing in the midfield battle.
Scottish Amateur international colleagues Scott Maitland and Lewis Cameron linked up to good effect on the left for Cameron to pick out James Ford for a shot from 18 yards which slipped just wide of Ally Lewis’ right hand post.
The visitors deservedly kept their second half clean sheet intact when Ally Lewis saved with his feet to deny James Ford from close range after a jinking run into the box by Ford left the Red Star defence trailing in his wake.
Mr Rae, who handled proceedings well, brought a competitive but good-natured encounter to an end with the minimum of added time giving both sides a valuable 90 minutes in the tank ahead of the new season.
Before Saints can focus on the new Central Scottish Amateur Football League season they must first conclude the 2019/20 season with the League Division One play-off against the impressive Division 1A winners Castlemilk Dynamo at Dalziel Park, Motherwell, this Saturday.