Penalty shoot-out heartache for Saints

Oban Saints with the Central Scottish AFL Division 1B Section Winners Trophy. Mascot Jack Cassells is in front holding the trophy. Photograph: Derek Black.

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Match report and photograph: Derek Black

Central Scottish AFL
League One play-off

Castlemilk Dynamo 1
Oban Saints 1
Castlemilk win 4-1 on penalties

Fourteen months later than scheduled, Oban Saints finally got their hands on the Central Scottish Amateur Football League Division 1B trophy last Saturday afternoon at Dalziel Park, Motherwell.

But there was to be no double celebration as, after 120 minutes of football could not separate the sectional winners, Division 1A Champions Castlemilk Dynamo emerged victorious from the penalty shoot-out to clinch the Division One trophy.

Having returned to competitive action on June 4, Dynamo held the edge in terms of match sharpness over a Saints side with just 90 minutes of friendly action in the tank. However, there was nothing between the sides, both of which spurned chances to win the tie in regulation time, with Castlemilk holding their nerve to win the penalty shoot-out by four successful kicks to one.

With manager Willie Gemmell forced to self isolate as a close contact of a positive covid case, coach Ross Maitland and secretary David Buchanan were left in charge of team matters which saw Rory Dowd drafted in as a late replacement for the unavailable James Ford.

Saints kicked off attacking the railway line end and came within a whisker of opening the scoring inside the first minute. Ruaridh Horne’s ball up the line sent David Beaton away on the right wing from where he sent over an inviting cross, only for skipper Craig MacEwan to steer his attempted finish wide of target with just 13 seconds on the clock.

Recovering from this early scare, Dynamo took control of the early exchanges but found the Saints back three of Kerr Newbigging, Steven MacLeod and Dene Cassells in uncompromising mood.

Saints were finding it difficult to get Lewis Cameron and Gavin Forgrieve on the ball in midfield but the pair combined well in the 16th minute to carve out an opening for Craig MacEwan.

Referee Scott Pearce had the benefit of assistants Pat O’Donnell and Dougie Gunning, a luxury not often afforded to referees at this level, and Mr O’Donnell made the first of a number of important calls on the half hour mark flagging Dynamo’s striker Gavin Macleod offside when clean through on goal.

Saints central defender Dene Cassells made a foray into opposition territory in the 32nd minute and was chopped down on the left touchline midway inside the Castlemilk half. After a string of poor deliveries, Lewis Cameron at last found his range and with it the forehead of Ruaridh Horne whose glancing header had Thomas Hollis scrambling across his line to fingertip the ball over his crossbar for a corner kick. William Hewitt headed Lewis Cameron’s out-swinger from the right out for a throw-in from where Cameron and Gavin Forgrieve combined to send Craig MacEwan through on Thomas Hollis. MacEwan beat his old Postal United adversary but couldn’t believe his luck when his effort bounced back off the inside of the post.

The second half began in similar style to the first, only this time the early chance fell to Castlemilk. Still inside the first minute, the ball was rolled up to Gavin Macleod who did well to hold off the challenge of Dene Cassells and find the unmarked Joseph Lang who gleefully tucked the ball under Graham Douglas to open the scoring.

The Saints response to going behind was positive and Lewis Cameron threaded a delightful ball through the inside left channel for Craig MacEwan in the 49th  minute. Thomas Hollis came off his line and did well to stop MacEwan getting round him. Ruaridh Horne was first to the loose ball and steered his right foot effort past the stranded Hollis only to see William Hewitt make a last gasp clearance off the goal line for a corner kick.

Assistant referee Pat O’Donnell made a big call in the 54th minute when Craig MacEwan was sent sprawling inside the Castlemilk box. Referee Pearce didn’t have a good enough view to make the call, however, Mr O’Donnell was better placed and immediately signalled for the infringement. Lewis Cameron held his nerve and sent Thomas Hollis the wrong way from the penalty spot to level the scoring.

Since falling behind, Saints were enjoying their best spell of the match but still couldn’t hit the net from open play. Lewis Cameron and Craig MacEwan combined well again in the 59th minute with Thomas Hollis making a good parry to his left to deny the Saints Skipper. William Hewitt once again came to his keeper’s rescue getting back on the goal line to block David Beaton’s effort from the loose ball.

William Hewitt made it a hat-trick of incredible goal-line clearances, sticking out his left boot to deflect a net bound Craig MacEwan effort off target.

David Beaton’s afternoon came to a premature end when he pulled up with what looked to be a strained hamstring giving Cammy Hill a 79th minute appearance. Hill had only been on the pitch for two minutes when he linked up well with Craig MacEwan on the edge of the box but couldn’t direct his shot from 14 yards past Thomas Hollis.

Both sides made changes for the final ten minutes of the 90, with Matty Kelly replacing Gavin Forgrieve for Saints while Chris Hughes and Samuel Edun swapped places with Dean McGinnity and Joseph Lang for Castlemilk.

Despite the best efforts of both sides there was to be no winning goal in regulation time nor in the additional 30 which followed.

Saints lost the services of captain Craig MacEwan in the ninth minute of extra time with Oban Saints Youth product Rory Dowd coming on to make his first team debut.

Saints coach Ross Maitland was pressed into action as an emergency right wing back for the final 15 minutes replacing the tiring Ruaridh Horne.

Mr O’Donnell had his flag raised again three minutes into the final period this time ruling out a Matty Kelly strike after good feet on the edge of the box from Rory Dowd found a fractionally offside Cammy Hill who teed up Kelly.

Referee Pearce selected the rugby pitch end of Dalziel Park for the penalty shoot-out which Castlemilk’s Sam Smith got under way with a cool finish rolled into the bottom corner. Steven MacLeod levelled things for Saints before yet another intervention from assistant referee Pat O’Donnell snatched the advantage away from Saints. Graham Douglas stood up well to stop Connaire Dawson’s effort, however, the eagle eyed assistant ruled that Douglas had strayed off his line and ordered a re-take which Dawson successfully converted.

Cup final penalty shoot-out victories don’t feature often in the Oban Saints annals and the first breakthrough came when Thomas Hollis guessed correctly to stop Lewis Cameron’s effort with Mark Blakey capitalising with the next kick to stretch the Dynamo advantage. Cammy Hill failed to hit the target with Saints third attempt on Wimbledon finals weekend making it ‘championship point’ to Dynamo. Gregg Twaddle held his nerve to smash his penalty high past Graham Douglas’ left hand to clinch the League Division One Championship for Castlemilk Dynamo.

Although losing out in the end, coach Ross Maitland was delighted with the performance of his team. He said: ‘It took us a while to get going against a well drilled Castlemilk outfit that has played a lot more games than us since some of the Covid restrictions were lifted, but once we got going it turned out to be a close game. We had more clear cut chances than Castlemilk but failed to take them and subsequently paid the price, but all in all the lads put in a hardworking performance in a game we could have won. Things are looking promising for our sojourn in the Premier Division next season.’

Saints continue with their pre-season programme with a friendly against Cambuslang on Saturday July 17. Kick-off 2pm at Glen 2.