Temple Of Saints - What comes after crisis?

Bells League Division One 30/08/2008

Saints 2 Clyde 3 - League Table Here

Team : Main, Irvine, Morgan, McKoy, Caff, Anderson, Millar Hardie, Jacko, Holmes, Craig
Subs: McLean, Savo, Sheerin, Swankie, Samuel

It was back to league business for Saints today with the CIS cup now a distant memory (at least until next season). But after the shambles against the Pars and Partick there had at least been some glimmers of hope for the faithful at Almondvale as a much improved and reshaped Saints side only went out in extra-time. Today though it was back to home ground as the boys attempted to get the league campaign back under way as well as rebuilding the shattered walls of Fortress McDiarmid. The visitors were Clyde who had also exited the cup in midweek. John Brown's side though had decent form in Perth winning the midweek game towards the end of last season and this was never going to be an easy match for Del to try and continue winning back the fans.

Unfortunately for the Saints management team it looks like they face an increasingly uphill battle in that respect. From the hiccough against the Pars, to the shambles last week and the crisis as we exited the cup, today marked a new low in the ineptitude shown by Saints on the park this season. Disaster is possibly too strong a word but time and patience in the stands is fast running out as yet again the so-called decent squad on paper turned into shite once they crossed the touchline onto the Sacred turf. Yet again we didn't start well and yet again ended up chasing the game for long spells. Too many players are either unfit, off-form or just not up to the job. Too many players seem to be clueless on the park and unable to either communicate or take responsibility for their actions. We again lacked leadership and it seems that outside of Sheerin there is not one player that can pick up a pass and hold onto the bloody ball. Basic skills again let us down and while luck always plays a part in the game Saints just didn't do enough to merit even a single point never mind all three. It's just not good enough.

The injury list had mounted during the week. With James, Morris, Mooner and Rustybitz all ruled out we'd seen Holmes and Sheerin pick up knocks which curtailed their involvement in midweek and they were facing a late decision to see whether they'd be fit for today's clash. On the plus side Alan Morgan and Crispy McKoy were set for their home debuts after impressing against Livi and the Caff and Ando partnership looked set to continue at the back. Davie Weatherston had departed for Dumfries freeing up a wage for Del to strengthen the defence ahead of Monday's transfer deadline. Into the starting lineup therefore came Samuel and Craig as Sheerin and Holmes dropped to the bench. Again there was no place in the squad for Peaso.

As I've said, we've not gone onto the attack from kick-off all season but today was even more pathetic. Less than a couple of minutes gone and skipper Martin Hardie was robbed in the middle of the park by the Bully Wee's McKay. He ran the best part of the pitch totally unchallenged as Morgan and Caff hung off him before getting into the box where he fired a low drive past the floundering Main. There was barely time for a stunned silence before the East Stand told the players and dugout exactly what we thought of it. It was the sort of goal you'd expect a pub team to lose - take nothing away from McKay's run and finish but to be able to do so unchallenged was simply basic stuff. The goal knocked the stuffing out of us for the early stages - as if we had a snowball's chance in hell of even beginning to make a comeback. The midfield was all over the place, the defence looked shit-scared any time the ball came near them and up front we looked about as likely to score as ever filling the North Stand again.

Our first attempt to vaguely trouble the opposition defence came with a freekick which was wasted as Hardie conceded a needless foul. We were slow, cumbersome and unable to create anything vaguely like creative football. Clyde's defence were physical but even that wasn't knocking much sense into the blue shirts. Sammy was clobbered again in the 12th minute but the freekick was headed out for Morgan (who was a shadow of his Tuesday form) to lose the ball. Two minutes later it was even more frustrating as the skipper again led by example standing and letting the ball pass him by. At least Crispy was there to get a tackle in and he set up Jacko who sent the ball wide to Millar but his cross was cleared and ended up with Hardie picking up a warning for kicking out at a defender.

It wasn't until the twentieth minute that we won our first corner from a deflection off a Millar cross. It was easily cleared to Morgan who was fouled and when the freekick came back into the box Ando was there with a free header but just like the last couple of games he failed to even hit the target, instead sending the ball well wide. Clyde hit back but Craig was in there to head the ball clear only for Hardie to again lose the ball and let McKay back into the box but this time thankfully he sent the ball over the bar. Our first real chance came after 26 minutes (a statistic that tells you everything about the performance) as Morgan sent the ball forward for Hardie who in a rare flash of effort flicked the ball on for Jackson but Jacko again showed a complete lack of pace and Cherrie was able to gather comfortably. A minute later McKoy played the ball through for Jackson who turned and tried a shot that was held and then Samuel got onto the end of a Craig knockdown only for his effort to be blocked.

Brown picked up the first booking in the 29th minute for a foul on Jacko. Craig's freekick was in the box and headed out again. Ando set up Millar and his cross found Sammy who played the ball over for Jacko but his header was easily held. It wasn't inspiring stuff, as we seemed content to hoof the ball up the park to a pair of wee strikers who just weren't linking up either with the midfield or each other.

As if that wasn't bad enough eight minutes from the break the shit well and truly hit the fan. A soft corner conceded too easily was swung into the box. Main was static on his line and didn't come for the ball and Gemmel was allowed a free header at the back post to make it two-nil to the visitors. You couldn't write a bigger disaster scenario if you were given the screen writing job on Gordon Brown's economic policies.

Still at least we tried to press as the interval (and the proverbial arse-kicking- to-no-effect no doubt loomed). A Saints freekick into the box was headed down for Jackson but he managed to somehow shoot wide. But three minutes from time lady luck smiled on us (well more a pitying grimace but we were getting desperate). Sammy was fouled on the right. Craig's freekick was headed out for a corner. Craig took that one himself and found Crispy whose header down was somehow bundled into the net by Caff with the Clyde defence and keeper doing their best Saints impressions. The goalscorer rounded off the half by picking up a daft booking.

As is usual these days Del's half-time team talk led to a couple of changes as the ineffectual Jackson was replaced by Sherlock while Sheerinho came on as Morgan was sacrificed with Craig dropping back to a more defensive role. Saints at least showed some promise and almost an ounce of effort from the restart with Irvine sending a cross in that was punched clear as Holmes challenged. The ball broke to the Wizard on the edge of the box and Sheerin's first-time right-footed volley dipped over the bar. Both wings were now putting plenty of crosses into the box and in five minutes Sheerin gave us something to really cheer about as he went on a brilliant mazy run into the box before trying a shot that went out for a corner - that ended up with another header from Holmes that was well-held.

Just to prove it wasn't all one-way though Clyde proceeded to go right back up the park and after beating Irvine send a chip shot in that beat Main but thankfully went over the bar. Holmes and Hardie combined to lose the ball as the next Saints attack floundered a minute later but the cross this time was headed behind. Craig picked up Saints second booking of the game for holding in the 53rd minute as Saints tried to get back on track. Irvine sent a cross in that Hardie headed wide and then Millar and Irvine linked well for a cross into the box which Holmes headed down for Sheerin. He was tackled but the ball still broke out for Liam Craig who tried an attempt from the edge of the box which went just over.

We were looking a lot sharper mainly due to the influence of Sheerin who was at the heart of everything and the ability of Holmes to win the ball in the air but we were still lacking control of the centre of the midfield and the final ball was letting us down too often. But eventually the pressure paid off in the 66th minute as a freekick was sent long for Holmes to head down for Sheerin on the left just inside the box. He did well to hold off his marker and get to the byeline where a cross to the back post found Sherlock rising like a blue-shirted Zebedee to bullet a header home.

Almost immediately McKoy made way for Savo (a bit of a surprise since to my mind at least he was playing better than Hardie who was really struggling). Saints kept up the pressure and Craig had a good run before crossing for Irvine who shot wide and then Sammy had a decent run before setting up Irvine - this time the cross ended in a foul against Holmes. Our best chance came in the 73rd minute with a prime example of route one. Main's long kickout found Holmes who simply headed the ball on for Savo behind the defence but he was unable to control the ball as it bounced awkwardly and he ended up heading wide of goal.

A minute later and a good run from Sammy ended in a low cross for Savo but his well struck shot at the near post was held by the keeper. Clyde were limited to the odd foray up the park by now and for a change Main seemed more willing to come out and go for the cross balls - there still seemed to be a real lack of urgency in the Saints defence to take the play forward with Caff and Ando guilty of too many square balls.

With thirteen minutes remaining Hardie sent another long ball forward for Savo but he had to settle for a corner. That ended in Hardie and Holmes losing the ball and Clyde getting up the park before Main got down to hold their cross. Two minutes later though and it was pretty much game over as Clyde pressure ended in a soft foul against Ando on the edge of the box. Shades of Jorg Albertz still haunted the ground obviously as one touch and a Waddell rocket beat the Saints wall and the static Main to make it 3-2 to the visitors. You could almost see the vultures circling above the home dugout.

We tried to hit back and almost straight away Holmes set up Savo for a first-time volley just wide of goal. Next Caff played a long ball forward for Holmes to flick onto Hardie but again the ball failed to find the target. Three minutes from the end and it was plainly not going to be our day after Irvine won a freekick on the far touchline for obstruction. That was swung in and seemed set to cross the line before the keeper punched it out. Even then Sammy and Savo had shots blocked before it was cleared. There was still time for a luckily escape for Saints as another Clyde break ended in Main making a block at his right-hand post. The keeper was involved in some verbals before the end as the frustration began to get the better of the players with Ando less than happy at his goalie's refusal to come off his line and clear a loose ball. It summed up the indiscipline that is prevalent in the Saints side these days.

More boos at full-time but to be honest most had given up on the side long before that. I tried to pick a man of the match and in the end went for Sheerin who seemed to be the only one out there today that cared. Defensively we still look poor, the midfield lost its shape once McKoy went off and Hardie faded and while we had some luck up front, the lack of effort and form in the first half especially from the likes of Jackson has to be a major concern to the management. I don't know where Del goes from here (cue thoughts of the job centre from folk reading this). We have a 2-week break to try and recover but more and more it looks like drastic surgery needed. McInnes always said he wanted competition for places from players who wouldn't be happy not playing - unfortunately I don't think even he reckoned on so many of the side willing to give such little effort for the cause.

It could be worse though - at least we know we won't lose next weekend.

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Team P W D L F A Pts
Livingston 5 4 0 1 8 5 12
Scumdee 4 3 1 1 5 4 10
Partick Thistle 5 3 0 2 6 3 9
Dunfermline 5 2 1 2 6 4 7
Queen of the South 4 2 1 1 6 3 7
Airdrie United 5 1 3 1 5 1 6
Clyde 5 1 2 2 7 8 5
Ross Co 4 1 1 2 4 6 4
Saints 5 1 1 3 6 11 4
Morton 5 0 2 3 4 11 2

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