Temple Of Saints - Sheer Magic

Bells League Division One 27/09/2008

Saints 2 Scumdee 0 - League Table Here

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

The first home game in what seemed like ages - four weeks is a long time in football - saw Saints face another "must-win" encounter against our neighbours from along the Tay. While we'd seen a resurgence in recent weeks with the win at Dingwall and the point at Palmerston (which should have been three if Main's positioning and / or the ref's eyesight had been better) we were still languishing in eighth spot as the rest of the league continued to take points of one another. The exception to that was today's opponents with our lather-loathing friends recently undergoing the sort of form that sends shudders of familiar nervousness down the spines of the Saints fans who were at Firhill last month. A humiliating defeat last weekend at home to the New Town Schemies was just the latest blow to the shoogly peg that Alex Rae's jacket is currently hanging on and although Halloween is just around the corner as alternative employment prospects go it doesn't offer a long-term option for the Dens manager. He'd been getting in practice as well before the game with the thuggish mentality of promising Gavin Swankie a "warm welcome" after Swanks decided that the green fields of McDiarmid were more preferable to the pus-filled boils and scabs that litter the Dens Park facilities - shades of Lambie's voodoo curse on Davie Irons. Still, for our Tayside rivals, there was always another bloody take-over / financial injection / dodgy board move to try and help them buy their way out of trouble.

As it was, bragging rights deservedly stay in Perth tonight after a fantastic win over the Coags which left them looking shell-shocked after two of the best finishes we'll see all season and a referee whose performance plumbed new depths of incompetence. If you didn't know any better you'd swear the opposition had bribed him as somehow he managed to continually book Saints players with rarely a ticking off for a Coagie. Still it doesn't matter at the end of the day as Saints fought their way to the sort of win which turns a season round and acts as a springboard for the rest of the campaign. There wasn't a bad performer in blue with the midfield looking solid throughout and the defence fighting for every last scrap. And they were backed to the hilt by a Saints support that for once was united in their backing for the team - although that support did slip as we enjoyed a wee bit of victory gloating over the die-hard tinks that were still left in the away end at the final whistle - presumably the organisation for Alex Rae's farewell party is still being sorted out

There was a bit of a dilemma for Del in the build up to this one. Should he stick with the 4-5-1 that has served us well in recent weeks or, given we're at home, go for broke and try and hit Scumdee from the off. At least this week he was helped by Savo and Peaso coming down off the naughty step while we'd managed to come through relatively unscathed in last weekend's bruising encounter. Swankie and Ando had missed a lot of training this week with hamstring and knee injuries but both were included in today's squad. The starting lineup for Saints saw Ando miss out along with Nick McKoy. Into the side came Swankie in midfield as Liam dropped back to take over the left-back role. Del went for a 4-4-2 formation though with Savo partnering Sammy up front while Mooner kept his spot on the sub's bench. For the Coagies, there were plenty of familiar faces with full-backs in ex-Saintees Cowan and Eddie Malone while their desperation was such that they even gave a game to Freddie Daquin, while up front there was the "threat" of Dundee Courier.

The game kicked off at a hectic pace with both sides seemingly intent on following the "no prisoners" mantra. Dundee got the first corner of the game after a poor clearance from Saints in the second minute but McKeown could only header wide of target. Saints went straight up the park with Swankie skinning Malone on the right wing, taking the ball to the byeline only to be bundled over. No penalty as referee Brines set the standard for what was to come. Swankie had a lot of room early doors and a cross a minute later was unlucky to only find Rabs Scabby Mitts. The attention was on the referee though and Irvine picked up the first warning of the game as Gilhaney made a dive that the US Stock market shares would be embarrassed about. There was little in the way of goalmouth chances and while we looked solid at the back, there was still time for an "emotional" outburst between Main and Craig in the eighth minute following the former's call to leave the ball leading to a mix-up with a passback.

Saints were struggling to create any real chances with Sammy looking slow and the Dundee defence playing the offside trap which meant even the rare freekick awarded to Saints came to nothing. Swankie was warned in the 13th minute for a late challenge while Craig was penalised after Paton took a tumble. Dundee seemed to be settling for trying to beat us from the set-piece and with Brines in charge they were being given plenty of opportunity although even when awarded a soft freekick at the edge of the box (Ruti's rash style of recovering from some bad passing in defence the cause) they could do nothing more than cross the ball behind the goal. Another Dundee corner in the 19th minute was cleared to Craig who took the ball up the park before crossing only for no blue shirts to be in support. Douglas cleared the ball down the park for Dundee Courier but Ruti was there to head the ball clear - or so we thought as Brines decided to see it differently, the situation not helped by a shoulder injury Ruti picked up in the process. Still the freekick ended in another one of those headers which looked about as likely to hit the target as Alex Rae is to win Mr Universe.

Our first chance came in the 21st minute as Irvine set up Savo who played the all wide for Sammy but his angled shot was held. Brines though by now was starting to lose control with some strange decisions halting play. But we were starting to dominate the game with Sheerin, Millar, Mad Mental Martin and Swankie all excellent in the middle of the park.

With 29 minutes on the clock, this seemed to have paid off as some good play ended up in Hardie being held on the edge of the box. Liam dummied and Swankie took the freekick crossing the ball into the box for Mad Mental Martin only for a white-shirted, rat-munching, lice-ridden tink to head the ball home first. The Saints fans erupted with cheers, while the players soon erupted with fury as Brines decided to chalk the goal off for a mythical shove in the box. It only served to fire Saints up but also piss off Brines and five minutes later the cards began to be dished (all at Saints). Ruti was the first in the book for obstruction following a quick Dundee freekick - the resulting set piece was headed over. Two minutes later there was more controversy as Hardie won the ball - with the ref just blowing the whistle, Cowan decided to go in on Savo with a nasty challenge which left the Saints striker down clutching his knee and some nervous moments amongst the home supporters. Savo recovered though the referee let the Dundee thug off without even a warning.

Saints seemed set to shoot themselves in the foot in the 38th minute as Millar made a rare mistake sclaffing the ball across the defence. Dundee were in with loan signing Dodds getting the break of the ball in the box but Main made a great blocking save at his feet before Savo cleared the danger. The closing stages of the half saw the challenges going in thick and fast. Swankie was fouled by Malone who escaped punishment. Liam took the freekick which landed perfectly in the Dundee box only for a lack of blue shirts to allow them to clear the danger. It only went as far as Posniack and Sammy soon dispossessed him. Well so we thought but the Rules of the Game (Brines version) dictated that Saints players aren't allowed to challenge for 50-50s so as well as the freekick Sammy went into the book. The freekick only went about 2 yards before Paton went down under a Millar challenge - another booking for Saints.

But at least there was some match action as the game headed to the interval with Sammy making a good run down the right and despite being brought down still managed to get a shot in which went behind the goal.

No changes to the side at the break but Del shuffled the formation with Swankie moving to the left wing and Millar on the right as the rain started to pour down. The action was on that flank in the opening stages with Daquin managing a decent run without diving in the 49th minute, leaping a Liam tackle, but luckily his brain cell wasn't as quick and despite being in loads of room he went for a long-range shot over the bar. Liam reacted by skinning Cowan a minute later before crossing into the box. Scabby Rabby missed the ball completely and when it broke to Millar his shot was deflected in the box seemingly by a hand but the referee again waived away any claims from Saints.

Three minutes later though that was forgotten as we rose to witness one of the most sublime goals we'll ever see. Another good run from Liam down the left wing. His cross was headed out as far as Hardie who seemed to have gone all negative with a square ball to Sheerinho. But it was actually an amazing piece of wisdom as the Wizard turned it on. A couple of dribbles, a series of mazy turns on the spot and the three coagies surrounding him couldn't even get close to cough their germs over him. Another side step and Sheerin was in six inches of room at the edge of the box from where he played an amazing curling shot round the defenders, past the flailing Scabby Rabby and into the top corner. Absolutely beautiful - I doubt we'll ever see him score a more perfect peach of a goal. You could almost smell the Dundee fans fear.

The goal sparked the game into life but the Dundee players' heads went down as Saints kept up the pressure. Scabby had to look alert to punch a freekick clear before Brines tried to even things up with a yellow card for Swankie in the 57th minute. But a minute later we should have had a second as Millar showed brilliant control to get on the end of a long pass and skin his marker. He broke through and with Savo in support Saints were two on one. Unfortunately Millar elected to go for glory instead of passing and his shot was held - Mad Mental Martin was there to give him a deserved ticking off. Craig was next to send another ball in the box but again Savo and Millar couldn't make room for a clear shot.

The entertainment continued in the 63rd minute as Malone decided to hit a clearance which cannoned off Gilhaney pox-ridden visage. Brines stopped play but on restart (once we'd all stopped laughing), went for a drop ball and Dundee broke up the park only for Caff to end the break with a tackle on Dundee Courier - cue another yellow card. Alex Rae decided to go for the penalty option with Daquin replaced by McMenamin but it was Mackenzie that took the dive in the box when the freekick was played over.

With twenty minutes to go and Saints tiring slightly Del made a double change with Sammy and Swankie replaced and Holmes and Mooner coming on as Hardie went wide left and Moon came in to partner Sheerin in the centre. A minute later and we had the first of a series of crosses in the box that Holmes and Savo couldn't capitalise on. Dundee were restricted to a long- range attempt from Gilhaney after he was allowed to go on a run through the middle of the park but Main dealt with it comfortably.

Morgan came on for Hardie in the 75th minute but Brines kept up his vendetta with Mooner the next victim of the soft challenge rule. Main came out to punch the freekick well clear. As the game wore on though the away support were starting to leave while the Saints fans were hiding their nerves through a good sing-song. For the players, the confidence was growing amongst the blue shirts and while we've all seen these scenarios end badly, Saint to their credit were still chasing another goal. A 78th minute freekick found Holmes heading the ball on for Millar but his cross found no takers. Craig had a cross a minute later for Holmes but Douglas managed to hold it.

Dundee hit back with nine minutes remaining winning a series of corners but that ended on their third attempt when the ball was headed well over. There was a spell of some scrappy play but Saints started to press back as Dundee lost all hope. With 5 minutes left another cross in was headed out by Homer for Mooner but his low shot was held by Scabby Rabby. Two minutes later though and the afternoon was complete as more pressure from Saints ended with Holmes holding the ball up at the edge of the box before laying it off for Savo who came in between two defenders and fired a cracking drive from 20 yards out which Scabby barely got near before it was in the back of the net. Two nil and the only sound behind Scabby's goal was the shuffling of the knuckle draggers heading for the exit. Even Brines gave up on the Coags as Cowan managed to become their first booking with a minute left after clashing with Craig. Dundee had one break but McMenamin headed over and the afternoon ended badly for the sub as he was stretchered off at the end with what looked like an ankle injury.

Saints were simply excellent throughout this afternoon. We controlled most of the play and every one of the players dug deep and fought for the team today. The spirit and confidence throughout the side was excellent as we controlled the midfield and the defence too played their part with no messing about. But the icing on the cake had to be the goals. Sheerin gets MoM for his beauty but Savo deserved plenty of praise as well after doing a power of running all afternoon and capping things off with a great finish at the end. Del can be rightly proud of the players tonight and there's no doubt in my mind that the winning margin would have been far, far greater if Brines had shown even a fraction of the sort of competence we expect from our officials. As for our derby rivals - they looked leaderless and lost for large parts of the game. Still it made for some good entertainment.

Now - can we keep this run going for a few weeks?

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Team P W D L F A Pts
Livingston 8 6 0 2 15 8 18
Queen of the South 8 4 3 1 11 5 15
Partick Thistle 8 4 1 3 10 8 13
Dunfermline 8 3 3 2 10 6 12
Saints 8 3 2 3 12 14 11
Scumdee 8 3 2 3 5 9 11
Airdrie United 8 2 3 3 7 6 9
Clyde 8 2 3 3 10 11 9
Ross Co 8 2 1 5 8 12 7
Morton 8 0 4 4 6 14 4

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