Saints teach high school a scoring lesson

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Match report and photographs: Derek Black

Greenock HSFP 0
Oban Saints 3
Central Scottish AFL
Premier Division

Oban Saints bagged their first Central Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division points of the season last Saturday at Battery Park, Greenock, home of old friends and rivals Greenock High School Former Pupils.

Goals from Cammy Hill, Craig MacEwan and James Ford earned the injury ravaged Saints the points and the bragging rights in the first league meeting of the former Scottish Amateur Football League rivals since the 2010/2011 season.

The ever-deepening Saints injury crisis and unavailability of players saw gaffer Willie Gemmell joined on the substitutes bench by youngsters Preston MacIntyre and Aidan MacDonald from Saints’ 2006’s and the short of match fitness James Ford whose second half strike eventually rounded off a comfortable victory for the visitors.

Saints kicked off attacking the pavilion end and quickly established the upper hand in the key midfield battle where Donald Campbell once again excelled in his new deeper role.

Campbell’s sixth minute ball up the right wing for Ross Maitland to run onto turned the home defence and skipper Craig MacEwan will feel he should at least have hit the target with his shot on the half volley which flew high and wide from Maitland’s well measured cross.

Sixty seconds later, Greenock central defender Neil Rankin made an excellent sliding interception to prevent young Saints striker Kyle Cooper from getting on the end of a Cammy Hill cross from the left.

Steven MacLeod, one of just three survivors from Saints last visit to Battery Park in December 2017 to face Greenock in a Scottish Amateur Cup tie, joined the attack in the 13th minute for a dipping shot which was unfortunately closer to dipping in the Clyde rather than under the crossbar.

Despite Saints having the majority of the play it was the home side who came closest to opening the scoring after 18 minutes. Craig Malloy pounced on a misplaced pass deep in the Saints half and fired in a fierce shot from 25 yards which Jamie Strachan acrobatically pushed onto his crossbar before gathering safely at the second attempt.
Craig Molloy finally found a way past Jamie Strachan in the 42nd minute and couldn’t believe his luck when his crisply struck shot came back off the inside of Strachan’s right hand post before being thumped to safety.

Saints doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time when Donald Campbell was tripped in the Greenock box and captain Craig MacEwan dispatched the resulting penalty kick safely past Kyle Maclean.

Saints made a positive start to the second half with Gavin Forgrieve curling a 48th minute right foot shot wide of the postage stamp corner and Cammy Hill heading a Forgrieve corner kick over the Greenock crossbar ten minutes later before Willie Gemmell made his first change. Cammy Clark, who did well on his starting debut, was
replaced by James Ford in a switch which saw Ross Maitland take up an unfamiliar central midfield role alongside Donald Campbell.

Ford’s introduction proved to be decisive when he netted Saints’ third and final goal of the afternoon in the 68th minute. Gavin Forgrieve and Craig MacEwan linked well on the Saints left with Forgrieve laying off to Ford who carried the ball along the 18 yard
line before eventually finding the opening to slam the ball into the bottom corner beyond the despairing right hand of Kyle Maclean.

Saints’ three goal cushion gave Willie Gemmell the chance to blood Preston MacIntyre and Aidan MacDonald with both 15-year-olds, who have been training with the first team squad, repaying the gaffer’s confidence with solid performances on their first appearances in such experienced company.

Particularly pleased to see MacIntyre and MacDonald make their debuts was proud 2006’s boss Alex Craik and his assistant Allan MacDonald who promise there are more of their young crop waiting to make the breakthrough to the first team.

The Saints back four of Steven MacLeod, Dene Cassells, Alex Craik and Cammy Hill coped comfortably with a late rally from the hosts before Kyle Maclean denied Saints a fourth goal saving a Ross Maitland effort with his feet.

Referee O’Neil flashed a yellow card in the direction of second half substitute Colin McEachnie for a late swipe at James Ford as the tricky Saints winger threatened to burst through on the right before bringing the generally good natured encounter to an end with Saints running out comfortable winners.

It’s Tail O’ The Bank opposition again for Saints this  Saturday when they welcome Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division Port Glasgow Amateurs to Glencruitten in the Scottish Amateur Cup second round. The game will be played at Glencruitten with a 1.30pm kick-off.

Young Preston MacIntyre takes on Greenock defender Peter Dunn.

Celebrations after Cammy Hill opens the scoring.