On fire champions too hot to handle for Saints

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St Patrick’s FP 2 Oban Saints 0

Central Scottish AFL Premier Division

Oban Saints’ run of testing fixtures continued last Saturday with a trip to Dumbarton to face reigning Central Scottish AFL Premier Division Champions St Patrick’s FP.

The home side warmed up for their delayed 2019-20 season West of Scotland Amateur Cup final appearance this Friday with an impressive performance to stretch their winning streak to seven games, a run which includes five clean sheets.

Scottish amateur international Ciaran McElroy capped an inspirational display with a second half goal to secure the points for St Pat’s after a seventh minute wonder strike from Liam Rowan had set the home side on their way.

Saints battled hard throughout but got no change from the miserly home defence and had goalkeeper Graham Douglas to thank for a clutch of excellent saves to keep the deficit at two.

With manager Willie Gemmell unavailable, coach Ross Maitland and secretary David Buchanan were left in charge.

The stand-in management duo were dealt a blow with the late withdrawal of stalwart defender Steven MacLeod so handed a first team call-up to Thomas McCrindle, rewarding the youngster for his recent impressive displays with the club’s Greater Glasgow Premier team.

McCrindle joined fellow youngsters Kyle Cooper and Louie MacFarlane on a bench which also included coaches Ross Maitland and David Dunlop.

Livewire St Pat’s striker Ciaran McElroy was proving a handful for the experimental Saints back three of Cammy Hill, Dene Cassells and Scott Maitland and provided the assist for the opening goal. McElroy collected the ball from a throw-in on the right, level with the penalty spot, and picked out Liam Rowan unmarked 25 yards from goal from where he arrowed a stunning strike into the top corner past a rooted Graham Douglas.

The hosts continued their high tempo start with McElroy sending David Connelly through in the tenth minute with Graham Douglas producing a fine save diving to his left.

The visitors were struggling to get their passing game going, conceding possession too cheaply and inviting pressure on themselves which the hosts constantly looked to exploit through the twin strike force of McElroy and Connelly.

The Oban side finally made their presence felt with David Beaton’s driving 23rd minute run on the right being unceremoniously brought to an end by Neil Allan. Lewis Cameron’s inviting free-kick across the face of goal narrowly evaded the runs of both Dene Cassells and Cammy Hill and skipped behind for a goal kick.

Two minutes later, Myles McAuley’s tried to pick out David Beaton at the far post with a ball from the left corner of the St Pat’s box, but St Pat’s keeper Brian Gallacher got across quickly to smother the ball at Beaton’s feet.

Referee Tony McCann was sent reaching for his notebook and cards twice in quick succession when Ciaran McElroy and Dominic Ruane both went in late and high on Cammy Hill and Myles McAuley respectively.

Mr McCann did, however, resist the temptation for a third card on the stroke of half-time when a badly-timed swipe from Liam Rowan almost cut Lewis Cameron in two.

Saints started the second half brightly and a Ross Cannon foul on Daniel MacCuish gave Lewis Cameron a dead ball opportunity from 28 yards which he sent over the St Pat’s wall but straight into the midriff of Brian Gallacher.

The visitors’ good start to the second period was undone after just five minutes when the hosts ruthlessly exploited more cheaply conceded Saints possession. A promising Saints move broke down wide on the left touchline midway inside the St Pat’s half. Dominic Ruane’s quick ball over the top was just the invitation Ciaran McElroy had been looking for and the speedy striker held off the challenge of Dene Cassells to slot left footed beyond the right hand of Graham Douglas and into the bottom corner.

A golden opportunity for Saints to grab a foothold in the game was passed up by Craig MacEwan after 54 minutes. MacEwan ghosted in unmarked from the left onto a Lewis Cameron cross but with no shout to tell him just how much time he had the skipper snatched a difficult header wide of target.

Gavin Forgrieve sent a long range effort over Brian Gallacher’s crossbar after 55 minutes before another chance fell to Craig MacEwan seven minutes later. Gavin Forgrieve and Matty Kelly combined well to send David Beaton scurrying forward on the right from where his cross picked out Craig MacEwan in the middle. MacEwan escaped the close attention of Neil Allan and Scott Anderson but curled his effort from 14 yards wide of the postage stamp corner.

Saints made their first change after 73 minutes, sending on Kyle Cooper to replace David Beaton. Craig MacEwan then made way for Louie MacFarlane and a final Saints change followed when Thomas McCrindle replaced Daniel MacCuish.

Saints kept probing for the opening that would give them some glimmer of hope, however, it was the hosts who came closest with another swift counter-attack.

Graham Douglas capped a first class personal performance with a point blank save to deny Ryan Deeley from a Luke Gray through ball before Mr McCann brought the contest to a close with the Saints from Dumbarton good value for their 2-0 win.

This Saturday Saints are on West of Scotland Cup duty when they host Westerlands of the Caledonian League First Division in a third round tie which must be decided on the day. The match will be played at Glencruitten with a 2pm kick-off.

Gavin Forgrieve fends off a challenge from Luke Gray. Photograph: Derek Black.

Match report and photographs: Derek Black.


Gavin Forgrieve fends off this challenge from Luke Gray.