Three out of ten for Saints

Matty Kelly is sent sprawling in the box by Andrew Renny. Photograph: Derek Black.

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Oban Saints 3
Eastfield 7
Central Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division

Oban Saints’ battle for Central Scottish Amateur Football League Premier Division survival suffered another setback at Glencruitten last Saturday with a sixth home reverse of a difficult season.

A hat-trick for skipper Craig MacEwan was of little consolation to the home side who for long spells were well off the pace. This, coupled with a string of defensive howlers, gifted victory to visitors Eastfield who themselves are struggling at the wrong end of the table.

Manager Willie Gemmell’s disciplinary indiscretions saw him begin a three-match suspension, with assistant manager Ross Maitland taking the reins.

Dropping out from the previous week’s victory against Uddingston Anvil were Willie Gemmell, James Ford and Aidan MacDonald with Matty Kelly, James Conington and Jack Wright all returning.

The visitors opened the scoring in the tenth minute when Mark Hansen from the left picked out the unmarked Daniel Hillhouse at the far post who slammed the ball back across Graham Douglas and into the bottom corner.

The static Saints’ defence were left appealing in vain for an 18th minute offside decision from referee Chris Irving which never came.

From a throw-in on the right, the ball was worked across to Kyle McLauchlin who appeared to be well offside, however, Mr Irving allowed play to continue and McLauchlin sent a dipping effort from 18 yards under the despairing dive of Graham Douglas.

Five minutes later and Saints were three goals behind when Thomas McCrindle failed to generate the necessary power on his header back to Graham Douglas leaving the Saints’ number one stranded at the edge of his box as Robert Johnston gleefully lobbed the ball into the unguarded net.

Saints hit the comeback trail in the 27th minute when a scuffed 22-yard free-kick from Daniel MacCuish somehow found its way through the Eastfield wall. Craig MacEwan was first on the scene ahead of Brendan Shaw and dragged the ball wide before lofting over Kyle McLauchlin and into the empty net.

Buoyed by their goal, Saints were enjoying their most productive spell of the first half and found more hope when Matty Kelly’s 38th minute driving run into the Eastfield box was unceremoniously halted by Andrew Renny at the expense of a penalty kick and a yellow card. Brendan Shaw got both hands to Craig MacEwan’s spot kick but couldn’t prevent it from finding the back of the net.

The host’s good spell continued for the opening ten minutes of the second half but was undone in a disastrous four-minute spell where calamitous defending was ruthlessly exploited by Robert Johnston and Daniel Hillhouse to give the visitors a 5-2 lead.

On the hour mark, Ross Maitland gave youngster Michael Campbell his second taste of first team action in a straight swap with youth team colleague Preston MacIntyre on the right of midfield. This was quickly followed by the introduction of Alex Craik and Jack Wright as replacements for James Conington and Fraser MacFarlane.

Saints were awarded a second penalty kick in almost identical circumstances to the first except on this occasion the Eastfield miscreant committing the foul on Matty Kelly was Peter Griffin. Saints skipper Craig MacEwan safely converted the spot kick to seal his hat-trick and give his team renewed hope.

Craig MacEwan completes his hat-trick from the penalty spot. Photograph: Derek Black.

Those hopes lasted barely three minutes when a horribly sliced attempted clearance from a throw-in on the Eastfield right landed at the feet of Daniel Hillhouse who completed his hat-trick with another composed finish.

Things went from bad to worse for Saints with a 78th minute dismissal for Steven MacLeod. Incensed that a foul on Graham Douglas had gone unpunished, MacLeod made a spectacular goal-line clearance before remonstrating with the referee regarding the foul on the Saints goalkeeper in the build up. Mr Irving was in no mood to debate the decision and issued MacLeod with his marching orders.

The visitors saved the best for last with a sublime piece of skill in the Saints’ box from Mark Hansen which beat Alex Craik all ends up before slotting past Graham Douglas to complete the scoring.

Match report and photographs: Derek Black.