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Saturday 22nd January 2022
Central Scottish Amateur Football League
Oban Saints 4 – 1 Greenock High School Former Pupils 1
Oban Saints welcomed Greenock High School Former Pupils to Glencruitten last Saturday in the Central Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division where four goals from the hosts in a devastating 19-minute, first half spell saw off the challenge of their old Scottish Amateur Football League rivals.
David Beaton opened the scoring after 25 minutes before a quick fire double from Kyle Cooper and a curled finish into the bottom corner from skipper Craig MacEwan on the stroke of half time gave Saints an unassailable lead at the interval.
Greenock, however, refused to buckle in the second half giving Saints little chance of adding to their first half tally and notched a deserved consolation goal when Jamie Grant beat Graham Douglas from the penalty spot.
Manager Willie Gemmell was forced to make a number of changes to the squad which had secured a place in the fifth round of the West of Scotland Cup with victory away at Uddingston Anvil the previous Saturday. Out went David Dunlop, Myles McAuley, Cammy Hill, James Conington and Louie MacFarlane, with Graham Douglas, Dene Cassells, Scott Maitland and Lewis Cameron all returning.
Saints lined up with Graham Douglas in goal behind a back three of Steven MacLeod, Dene Cassells and Thomas McCrindle. Across the five-man midfield were Ruaridh Horne, Matty Kelly, Daniel MacCuish, Gavin Forgrieve and David Beaton, with Kyle Cooper and Ccaptain Craig MacEwan up front. On the bench were Lewis Cameron, Scott Maitland and Ross Maitland.
Having won the reverse fixture in Greenock last September, Saints were looking to complete the league double over their old friends from the Tail o’ the Bank but got little change out of the visitor’s experienced central defensive pairing of Chris McAllister and Gerard McLauchlan in the opening exchanges.
Craig MacEwan sent David Beaton away on the left in the fifth minute from where he looked to pick out Ruaridh Horne coming in at the back post, but the combined attentions of James McClure and Ryan Dickson were just enough to deny the young Saints wing back a clean strike.
Greenock won the first corner kick of the match in the twelfth minute when Steven MacLeod made a good interception to turn a Zach McEachran right wing cross behind. Kenny Munro’s delivery picked out Gerard McLauchlan at the back post, but the big central defender sent his header wide of target.
David Beaton linked well with Daniel MacCuish after 15 minutes, cutting in from the right for MacCuish’s return pass and a left foot shot from 20 yards which narrowly cleared the crossbar.
The visitors looked to exploit another set-piece in the 22nd minute with a Chris McAllister header from a free-kick just inside the Saints half which looped harmlessly into the gloves of Graham Douglas.
Saints were knocking on the door and only a fine block from Gerard McLauchlan prevented Gavin Forgrieve from testing Greenock keeper Kyle MacLean after good work on the left from Craig MacEwan.
The breakthrough came after 25 minutes after a driving run from Matty Kelly through the inside right channel. Kelly picked out the supporting run of David Beaton on the right, whose unerring finish across the keeper nestled in the bottom to give Saints the lead.
Saints doubled their advantage four minutes later from a swift counter-attack after dealing comfortably with another Greenock corner kick. Matty Kelly was involved again and picked up the loose ball on the edge of the Saints box before driving forward towards the half-way line. Kelly’s through ball was perfectly weighted for Kyle Cooper who turned on the after burners to skip away from Conor Larkin’s despairing lunge to slam the ball past Kyle MacLean. Larkin’s attempt to stop Cooper earned the Greenock fullback a caution from referee Michael Kerr.
Cooper completed his brace in the 32nd minute with another composed finish after good link-up play from Gavin Forgrieve and Daniel MacCuish.
Straight from the restart, Gavin Forgrieve saw a second goal bound effort blocked by the Greenock defence as Saints looked to stretch their advantage still further.
Despite Saints’ three goal lead, the visitors still posed a threat and Steven MacLeod made another important intervention to cut out a low Zach McEachran right wing cross looking for striker Kenny Munro.
Gerard McLauchlan picked up the second yellow card of the afternoon after going through the back of Craig MacEwan in the centre circle in the 41st minute.
The Saints skipper rounded off the first half scoring in the 44th minute cutting in from the left and finding the far bottom corner with a curling effort despite the best efforts of young Greenock keeper Kyle MacLean.
Saints kicked off the second half attacking the car park end but it was the visitors who were the first to threaten, this time from a good near post run from Ryan Dickson to meet a Luke Mullin corner kick from the left with Dickson’s header flying inches over the Saints’ crossbar.
The visitors made a double change on the hour mark, replacing Ryan Dickson and captain Cian McAuley with Jamie Grant and Brandon Lee. Saints followed suit withdrawing Kyle Cooper and sending on Lewis Cameron for his first outing in ten weeks.
Cameron’s endeavours found him caught in a sandwich on the corner of the Greenock box in the 65th minute with the Scottish amateur internationalist curling the resulting free-kick wide of target.
Gaffer Willie Gemmell tapped into the strength on his substitute’s bench sending on Scott Maitland to join international colleague Cameron at the expense of David Beaton.
At the other end, Graham Douglas was brought into the match with a fine save to push away a James McClure shot. The loose ball fell into the path of Kenny Munro whose goal bound shot hit the arm of Thomas McCrindle which saw referee Michael Kerr point to the penalty spot.
Jamie Grant found the bottom corner from 12 yards, sending Graham Douglas in the opposite direction in the process to give the visitors some hope of finding a way back into the match.
Those hopes were extinguished, however, by a solid performance by the Saints’ rear guard in which youngster Thomas McCrindle impressed, alongside the experienced duo of Steven MacLeod and Dene Cassells.
Further personnel changes followed with the evergreen Ross Maitland replacing Ruaridh Horne for Saints and Ronan McCafferty, Thomas McQuilkin and Neil Rankin making appearances for the visitors.
When Greenock eventually got past the Saints back three, they found Graham Douglas in no mood to be beaten again, with saves from two Kenny Munro efforts restricting the visitors to just the one consolation goal.
Greenock holding midfielder Craig Molloy completed the caution count after bringing down his opposite number Daniel MacCuish in the centre circle in the 84th minute.
The solid second half defensive performance from the visitors continued and Saints were unable to test young Greenock keeper MacLean any further with Lewis Cameron, Daniel MacCuish, Ross Maitland and Scott Maitland all failing to find the target with efforts from distance.
Referee Kerr, who handled proceedings well, dismissed two Saints’ penalty appeals in the closing stages before calling time after an injury time Lewis Cameron free-kick failed to clear the Greenock defensive wall.
Saints are on the road this Saturday when they travel to Glenhead Park to face Drumchapel Amateurs.
Captions: Team captains Craig MacEwan and Cian McAuley with referee Michael Kerr.
Thomas McCrindle and Zach McEachran.
Celebrations after David Beaton’s opening goal.
Conor Larkin’s last ditch challenge can’t stop Kyle Cooper.
Kyle Cooper makes it 2 – 0.
Kyle Cooper nets his second goal.
Kyle Cooper and Matty Kelly.
Craig MacEwan gets away from Conor Larkin.
Oban Saints’ legends Frank Beaton, Iain Jackson and David MacLeod.