Saints 3 Airdrie 1 - League Table Here
Team : Main, Irvine, Craig, Millar, Rutkiewicz, Caff, Swankie, McKoy, Holmes, Savo, Sheerin
Subs: Robinson, Morgan, Moon, Jackson, Peaso
After last weekend's glorious humiliation of the coags, today always had the potential to turn into one great big dose of a Fyffes banana skin. Saints are well enough known for their propensity to cock things up just as you think things are going well and after the classy victory last weekend restored the faith of the fans following the blip early on last month, there was a nagging doubt that Airdrie (who have been a bit of a bogey team in the past) might trip us up and bring us crashing down to earth - and Rod only knows that the international breaks are bad enough without fretting over a poor result for Saints. There was some hope though that we'd complete the first quarter with another win to add some respectability to the points tally.
The pseudo-Wegies beloved by both Traynor and various branches of the Klu Klux Klan alike came to town on the back of some poor results recently which had seen them slip down the table to join the likes of Morton and Ross County in the relegation battle. However the First Division is such that there's a very fine line between dropping down the table and rocketing up to the top half. They've put in some creditable performances this season and despite losing last weekend still carry plenty of threat (and not just in Paul Lovering's animal tendencies).
The game almost lived up to expectations with the perfect start for Saints turning into the proverbial potential banana skin in the second-half before we deservedly ran out winners with the last goal coming at the death. Add to that the lack of action for Main and the penalty claim and decent goal chalked off for Saints and it turned into a decent day at the office for Del's boys. The midfield looked a lot sharper with plenty of dig and fight shown for the full ninety minutes and while it might not have been pretty at times, Saints never gave up and showed the sort of spirit we've been looking for all season.
With the Dundee victory seeing us come through relatively unscathed, Saints more than made up for it with a series of training mishaps in midweek. Ruti had been the only worry after he limped out of the ground on crutches last weekend but he recovered from what was diagnosed as an aggravated ankle strain (not helped by having to carry Curier around in his back pocket for 90 minutes) to join the fray today. But there was one new face in the squad as well with Gers loan goalie Lee Robinson signing up this week for a month-long loan deal after Euan McLean decided to go for the stoke fashion look after training in midweek. Also doubtful was the Mooner after picking up a back knock as the reserves were tanked by the Pars earlier in the week. All of which meant Del opted for a starting lineup that showed a couple of changes. Mooner made the bench and Ruti the starting lineup but Collin Samuel and Martin Hardie both dropped out for unspecified reasons (international duty might explain one of the absences - guess which one?). Into the side came Holmes to start while Peaso replaced him on the bench and Nick McKoy was given a rare start. Airdrie had ex-Saintee Stephen Robertson in goal to make us all feel old while Lovering prowled the left flank like one of those nasty bogey monsters your parents warned you about.
A fairly poor crowd turned out to see Saints start the game as the heavens opened. The first attempt went to the visitors in the first minute after Swankie was shoved off the ball. Saints tried to play it back to Main but Alan managed a total sclaff of a clearance which went straight to Shuggy McThuggy in an Airdrie jersey (to give him his Broomfield tribal name) but fortunately the lob towards the home goal was easily held by Main. That might have got the home fans a bit worked up but the fears were calmed three minutes later as McKoy released Swankie on the wing for a one-two with Millar. Gavin then took the ball forward and inside on the edge of the box where he found the room to try a 20-yard curling shot that fooled us all as it curled into the top corner leaving Roberston doing his best statue impersonation and Saints one goal up.
The game didn't exactly spark into life after that but Airdrie's tactics were blown as they were forced to chase the game. That allowed Saints to pass the ball about well but that sort of flowing play was interrupted in the sixth minute with the first booking of the game as McDonald of Airdrie (or Slasher McNasty) was punished for a late challenge on Caff. Our play wasn't helped by the constant offside trap played against us with Holmes especially struggling to win any of the long balls from defence. The conditions were causing problems with players sliding all over the place - a problem that afflicted Savo as he just failed to connect with the final ball on a move involving McKoy and Swankie to split open the Airdrie defence.
Airdrie's best chance came in the 13th minute after some poor defending saw us pressed back and Craig had to settle for a corner. That was played in and Lovering (Filthy UglyWan to his pals) rose up like a bad stench to send a looping header which Main managed to tip over the bar. The subsequent corner was easily cleared and Saints broke up the park with Swankie making a good run only for his low cross to just fail to find Savo in the box. Millar and Irvine combined next but their cross was cleared. Two minutes later we won our first corner after Savo chased the ball down following a Swankie pass. Sheerinho hit it low for Savo but his effort was cleared. Our next shot came in the 25th minute when a long goal kick from Main was headed back by Holmes for Millar who headed it down into the path of Savo but the striker's shot was a low, weak effort that even Robertson managed to get down to hold.
McKoy had a rare effort a couple of minutes later after a good turn but he was having a poor game - looking off the pace and off form. Sheerin had a cross in for Savo but his shot was blocked then our best chance came in the 31st minute. A long ball forward found Holmes in space as a defender slipped, leaving Sherlock through on goal. Unfortunately his physique went against him and he lacked the pace to take the ball forward and ended with a long-range attempt going well wide. Airdrie's next chance came a couple of minutes later as the Saints defence were caught static. Di Giacomo (aka Warty Herpes) took the ball down the right despite being so far offside that even Brines would have awarded the freekick. He got to the byeline and cut in before trying a shot that thankfully the pacy backtracking of Caff dealt with as the ball went behind for a corner. We broke back up the park with Millar setting up Swankie in space on the left but he hesitated and took the ball too wide. Craig and Swankie linked up next to set up Sheerin who stopped, took a step and tried his luck from the edge of the box with the ball going over. Airdrie tried a freekick in the 38th minute which Main held but spilt although he recovered to pass the ball clear.
The half ended with McKoy picking up a booking after a late foul on McKenna. He can play better but it was no real surprise when he didn't reappear after the interval as he was replaced by Mooner. Saints started the second period well with a good Swankie cutback for Savo who won a corner. Craig sent a decent effort in but Robertson (Tubby O'Lard) managed to come and hold the ball. Almost immediately Airdrie took the play up the other end of the park and as Saints stood back and ended up with Caff conceding a corner. Time for the "Oh shit here we go again" moment as the ball was swung out and Nixon (Boozer O'Buckie) rose up and headed the ball past Main who I think could have done better but managed to stand still on his line.
With the scores level, Airdrie sat back and Saints tried to press for a second. Swankie and Craig lined up on the left before setting up Holmes who sent the ball back for Craig to send a great cross in. Holmes wasn't there but Savo was at the back post only for his header to be held by O'Lard. The Airdrie keeper had another sclaff of his own a couple of minutes later but Holmes was too slow to capitalise on the advantage. Then there was the first bit of controversy for referee McDonald to deal with as an Irvine cross in the 53rd minute saw Holmes practically throttled by O'Buckie in the box but no decision came our way. Still we managed a wee bit of luck three minutes later as we got our second. Holmes passed the ball out to the right wing where Mooner played a great cross in that Swankie missed but Holmes was there to chip the ball back in where Savo (possibly slightly offside but nobody seemed to be complaining) was there to slot the ball in from about 5 yards out for one of the easiest finishes he'll have as Robertson decided not to dirty his knees again.
After that we were playing with a lot more confidence and a minute later we almost scored a third after Savo shot over from the edge of the box. Then within a minute of that effort, we came even closer after a ball into the box was headed out by Holmes for Mooner who tried a volley from 20 yards which was only stopped by the Airdrie goal's right-hand post. A corner in the 62nd minute ended up with Craig playing the ball in and it almost bypassed all the players in the box and into the net only for the keeper to stop it with a decent save. Airdrie weren't totally out of it and won a corner of their own a minute later which ended up with Sherlock's clearance turning into a shot going wide. Sheerinho had a long-range attempt go wide before a Craig long ball from defence was headed on by Swankie for Savo but his low effort was stopped by the keeper.
It had been a while since Filthy UglyWan had been able to exert his neanderthal tendencies and he went for the jugular with two nasty elbows on Millar and Irvine in the space of about 30 seconds only being punished for the latter although McDonald decided that he didn't want to be mugged in an alley later and kept the card in his pocket. UglyWan went off just after that with quarter of an hour left, to practice bathing while Saints made their second change with Swankie being replaced by Morgan on the left wing. And it was Morgan who kicked off the next piece of real controversy. He made a good run down the left in the 77th minute before sending a cross in for Holmes who rose up with Robertson. The keeper spilt the ball and it broke to Savo who scored but referee McDonald decided that Holmes had lifted his knee up and injured Robertson who by now was doing his best dying fly act in the 6 yard box - as if Holmes would want to risk the chances of tetanus / cholera / scabies by touching an Airdrie player. Still it meant the ex-Saintee got booed for the rest of the game which he seemed to not like very much at all (aw diddums).
As the game entered the last 10 minutes, Airdrie pressed forward and we began to look like we were going to sit back again. They won a corner that ended in a foul on Main but no freekick was awarded and then Ruti cleared a shot before we made our third change with 7 minutes remaining as Peaso came on for a comeback replacing the knackered Holmes. Airdrie were having the better of the play and Lynch was given too much room to cut inside Irvine but luckily his shot went wide of goal. Back up the other end and some more great work from Morgan on the left wing saw him make room for a good cutback for Peaso but his spectacular volley went just wide of goal. Boozer O'Buckie picked up a booking for dissent after fouling Peaso but Saints wasted the freekick.
The closing minutes saw Airdrie throw everything bar their giros at us but despite the constant stream of balls in the box the likes of Ruti, Caff and Craig were there to clear the danger with the end result being a shot wide of Main's goal. Then with about sixty seconds on the clock Morgan sent a long crossfield ball over for Millar who, with Airdrie pressing, had plenty of room and he took the ball down the wing before playing a low cutback across the six yard box and found Savo at the back post for easy finish number two of the afternoon and our third.
Overall the performance was as gutsy as we've seen all season. Defensively we looked sharper with Rusty and Caff both on top form and Craig providing the distribution from the back. In midfield Millar was outstanding by my MoM has to be Savo who covered every blade of grass today and if there had been any justice would have had a hat trick. We may still have a long way to go in the league campaign but it has to be said that Del is finally getting some fight out of his players.
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