Temple Of Saints - Saints Blow It

Bells League Division One 15/11/2008

Clyde 2 Saints 2 - League Table Here

Team : Main, Irvine, Craig, Millar, Rutkiewicz, Pamela, Swankie, Hardie, Holmes, Savo, Sheerin
Subs: Kelly, Samuel, Morris, Moon, Peaso

Another weekend and the pressure was mounting on Saints. The unbeaten run had almost covered every team with the Broadwood mob the last to be dealt with. But with us four points clear at the top and Saints starting to look confident you still got the feeling there was a banana skin waiting to happen. Things weren't helped of course with the double award last weekend of Manager and Player of the Month for Del and Savo, an honour which usually ranks up there with the dreaded vote of confidence as guaranteeing a slump in the coming weeks. So it was that we headed to Clyde with the Saints support more intent on settling for another gutsy blood 'n' snotters performance to grind out a win, than anything too entertaining. The fancy stuff could wait until we were well clear of our title rivals, although the promise that we could do better from comeback star Jody Morris in the pre-match comments meant that expectations were high.

Even so, the players and fans had a right to be fairly confident as we'd shown in recent weeks that we were finally playing as a team. There was also the wee fact that Clyde had been showing the sort of form which was an exact opposite of Saints. Few goals, some poor defeats and now seemingly firmly entrenched at the bottom of the table things were looking grim for them. And in John Brown, they had a manager who seemed odds on to be the next casualty of the season (call it the Dundee effect if you will). But they've made life difficult for us in recent years and while there was no Albertz to bang in the freekicks today, they still had players who could make things awkward, especially on the ploughed field that usually passes for a playing surface in Cumbernauld. There was a wee bit of the grudge about the game today - a win for Saints would see us get our own back for the defeat at McD while also seeing us go unbeaten against every team in the league.

Unfortunately it didn't quite go to plan thanks to a previously solid Saints defence slipping up at the death to concede a late equaliser which was all the more annoying given the chances we'd seen go begging beforehand. Add to that a nasty injury for Holmes and too many daft bookings and it's difficult not to be disappointed tonight even though we're still clear at the top.

Del had had the luxury of no new injury worries in recent weeks and with the form of the starting eleven in recent weeks and it seemed that the depth of the Saints squad was paying off - you only had to look at how Sammy and Jody had to settle for places on the bench to see that. But Caff had limped off in the first half last weekend, and a scan saw him ruled out for a couple of weeks. Elsewhere Jacko was still ruled out despite resuming training this week while Euan was still recovering from his injury. That allowed Ando to step up to the mark from the bench where his place was taken by Mooner alongside Jody, Peaso and Sammy.

The Saints fans at least had plenty of room as we were accommodated well away from the sporting supporters of our hosts - the place was still as Baltic and dreich as ever. Last week Saints had gone at their opponents straight from kick-off and today was no different with Swankie flattened in the first minute. The referee decided against playing the advantage and Irvine's freekick was headed just wide by Rustybitz. The game was being played like a cup-tie and the Saints' skipper was called into action to head clear a Clyde freekick two minutes later. Ex-Saints player Wullie "Amy Winehouse" McLaren almost caused some minor concern with a corner which was missed by everyone in the box.

But it was Saints making most of the creative chances backed by another big travelling support. Millar and Swankie combined for the latter to send in a good cross that was cleared, then Liam crossed for Hardie but his header was cleared. Liam saw a freekick cleared before our next chance came in the 11th minute when a good run from Swankie ended with a lovely cross into the Clyde box. Holmes was wrong-footed but still managed to somehow get in a looping header that went just wide.

Saints were beginning to find their form on a greasy surface and the next chance came in the 17th minute. Some good pressure finished with a ball in from Sheerinho who found Savo. He laid the ball off for Hardie who tried to dribble the ball in but his eventual shot was blocked. The ball broke out and was eventually squared to Swankie who tried a shot from the edge of the box but Hutton managed a good blocking save. Time for a wee wake-up call and Clyde broke up the park before crossing from the right where Clarke got into stick a low header past Main.

With the cheers of all two dozen home fans (call it the Dougie Donnelly effect) in their ears, Saints were shaken up for all of a minute. It allowed Amy Winehouse to try a shot deflected off Irvine that Main held. But with 20 minutes on the Broadwood hi-tech scoreboard, we drew level. Irvine found Millar who played the ball forward for Savo in the box. He tried to play a one-two with Sherlock but ended up being bundled over. The referee didn't hesitate in pointing to the spot and the Bully Wee defence didn't even complain. It was Liam that stepped up to do the honours and blasted his kick straight down the middle to make it 1-1.

The boys kept up the pressure with Sheerinho just missing the target after a Millar cross. The game was still being played at a hectic pace, more like a cup-tie than a league encounter. The home side weren't creating much but their odd opportunity was a threat with Clarke slipping on the ball in the 22nd minute after a good cross with the impressive Rustybitz clearing the danger. Holmes saw a shot held before a rare slip from Millar allowed Clyde through but their cutback ended up in a shot going wide. Saints injury problems increased on the half-hour mark as Derek Holmes was clattered on the touchline. He was down getting treatment on his foot for a good few minutes before he was ruled out and Sammy came on to replace him.

The change seemed to upset the flow of the game and it got a bit niggly after that with some heavy challenges going in, not helped by on of the most incompetent linesmen I've ever seen. The closing stages of the half saw Saints keep up the pressure. Pamela linked up with Irvine who crossed for Hardie but his header went wide. Then we managed to win a series of corners forcing Hutton into some panicky punches. One ended up going straight over and finding Pamela who crossed back in finding Savo whose close-range shot was deflected over the bar. Irvine saw another good cross held. Clyde had a freekick after Millar caught Winehouse but the Rehab Kid's set piece went well wide of Main's goal. The last shot of the half fell for Ando but his effort was held.

The second period started evenly for both sides. We took our time creating the first chance with Liam crossing for Savo but he was unable to control the ball. We just seemed to be lacking the final ball. Of course things weren't helped by the Clyde tactics and the Saints support were more than bit annoyed five minutes into the half when Sammy was scythed down and yet the Bully Wee defender didn't even get a warning. We kept pouring in the balls to little avail. Hardie was warned for climbing, Sammy saw a good run end when he was crowded out by three opponents and then Sammy came within millimetres of giving us the lead when a great run in from the right saw him fire in a low angled drive that seemed to trundle along the goal line. Millar had a good run end in a blocked shot while Clyde's only chance came from a break when Liam missed a tackle but Pamela was there to provide the covering tackle.

Del made his second switch replacing the lethargic Swankie with Morris as Millar moved to the right wing. Hardie came close with another header from a throw-in before we finally took a deserved lead in the 61st minute. Sammy and Millar linked well before the latter won a corner. Craig sent over an in-swinger and found Rustybitz at the near post. The skipper rose up and got the merest of glances off his head but it was enough to divert the ball past the flailing Hutton over to the back post where the ball hit the woodwork and rebounded into the net. Not exactly stylish but they all count.

The goal seemed to subdue the home side as we chased a third. Savo got on the end of a Main goalkick and laid the ball back nicely for Hardie but his long-range drive went wide of target. Clyde tried to hit back on the break in the 66th minute but a close offside call went against Winehouse who earned a booking for kicking the ball away in response to the referee's decision. That signalled the start of some more strange decisions from referee Finnie with Liam getting a yellow a couple of minutes later possibly for dissent.

Clyde went for broke putting on McSwegan (for whom the adjective "Veteran" is like saying Cumbernauld is slightly less attractive than Perth). Saints were still creating chances but the final ball was still poor. Craig saw a shot go over and then had a freekick cleared while Clyde picked up another booking for a late challenge on Sammy from behind, closely followed by Hardie getting a soft yellow for dissent after a foul was awarded against him. Then with ten minutes remaining Sammy was again clobbered as he followed up on a great ball from Hardie. No yellow was shown to the defender but Clyde goalie Hutton did see yellow for kicking the ball away - it seemed the referee was making up for lost time. The resulting freekick saw Millar play a lovely ball forward for Savo but the striker ran it just wide.

The game continued its hectic pace into the closing stages. Sammy set up Irvine who crossed only for Hardie to header over before with six minutes left the sucker punch was delivered. A quick breakaway from Clyde saw a cross in from the left which was missed by the Saints defence leaving an unmarked Clarke with an easy finish past Main to draw the home side level. We tried to hit back. A brilliant run from Sammy released Millar who set up Craig for a shot that was blocked.

Ando picked up a booking as the nerves hit the defence but the closing shots were all for us. Craig played a good ball in that Hardie headed forward only for Sammy and Savo to both miss. Sheerinho played a great ball for Hardie who set up Savo but his shot was mishit and easily held. Peaso replaced Savo for the last few minutes and the final effort came from a freekick floated in beautifully by Craig which was headed out for a corner. That was played deep then floated back in by Hardie for Sammy but he couldn't get enough power behind the header and Hutton held gratefully onto the ball.

Overall, the result wasn't too disappointing. Clyde are a different sort of team and are obviously scrapping for every point. It's annoying we didn't capitalise on our chances but again it's hard to find fault with any of the individual performances. While there were odd mistakes, the teamwork was there to cover up for players. Discipline is a worry with both Liam and Mad Mental Martin being silly buggers with their bookings. Standout players for me were Ruti, Irvine, Craig but MoM again goes to Chris Millar whose close control and contribution to the attack has far exceeded my expectations of him this season.

Time to start another winning streak in a fortnight then?

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Team P W D L F A Pts
Saints 14 8 3 3 25 19 27
Dunfermline 14 7 3 4 20 12 24
Livingston 14 7 1 6 20 20 22
Queen of the South 14 6 3 5 20 16 21
Partick Thistle 13 6 2 5 14 12 20
Scumdee 14 5 4 5 10 14 19
Ross Co 13 5 1 7 17 17 16
Airdrie United 13 3 5 5 12 13 14
Morton 13 3 4 6 13 19 13
Clyde 14 3 4 7 14 22 13

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