Temple Of Saints - Saints Make Hard Work Of It

Bells League Division One 29/11/2008

Scumdee 1 Saints 1 - League Table Here

Team : Main, Irvine, Craig, Morris, Rutkiewicz, James, Millar, Ando, Holmes, Savo, Mooner
Subs: Hillcoat, Sheerinho, Swankie, Samuel, Peaso

Following the minor hiccup against Clyde a couple of weeks ago, Saints went into their first game after the break and into what might be on of the hardest games of the season, both in a football sense and in terms of the medical risk to the players due to their exposure to the Dens Park pitch. Yup it was time for the local derby that today's hosts keep on denying has any importance whatsoever in their minds. Of course things have changed a bit in Coagieland since Sheerinho's magic strike set us on the way in the McDiarmid win a couple of months ago. For a start the tinks have had a rare outburst of common sense and dumped Alky Alex Rae (what next, spending within your means?) and brought back Jocky "Paw Broon" Scott, who, given it's his third bloody time in the hotseat, must surely be a candidate for Masochist of the Year. And since taking over they've even begun to talk about promotion at Dens which just goes to show that the Hulltoon Care In the Community Scheme is possibly overdoing the Happy Pill distribution to the local chavs.

Saints had probably been given the rest at the right time given the signs of fatigue starting to creep in at Broadwood - daft individual errors meaning the difference between a draw and a win. There was plenty at stake here today as well. A win would cement our place at the top of the table as well as serve as a nice wee present for the travelling support, here again in numbers - especially after last weekend saw our fellow challengers blow their games. There was also the added boost that beating the coags would give us in psychological terms. The end of November and the build-up to Xmas usually mean the clouds of gloom and despair descend upon the McDiarmid faithful but given our form in recent weeks (and we should have beaten the Bully Wee as well) there was plenty to be hopeful about - and it would be nice to let Derek McInnes celebrate his first year in charge of Saints with another three points as we targeted our tenth unbeaten game.

Well it didn't quite turn out that way but given the pressure we were under for a large part of the second half and given the lack of form and consistency shown by some of the more reliable players such as Millar and Irvine I'm more than happy to take a point especially since it extends our lead at the top of the table to four points. Sure if we'd hit form and taken our chances we'd have romped it but the Scum are an improved side since our last encounter under the influence of Jocky Fritzl and a point (unlike our hosts body odour) is not something to be sniffed at. Besides it was nice not to blow things by conceding a daft last-minute goal.

The fortnight's break had allowed the injury problems to heal a bit with Caff and Jacko back in the squad, the latter after making his comeback for the reserves on Tuesday night. Neither were deemed good enough for the side though. Derek Holmes had been the latest to limp off the park at Broadwood but he too was back in training while elsewhere Rustybitz had been only a slight concern. The real worry had been the tally of those annoying yellow and red bits of stiff paper which had been gradually mounting in recent matches. Today also saw some of the Saints squad pay the price for opening their mouth once too often as the Mad Mental One was forced to endure the splinters up his arse torture sitting in the main stand. Even so Del made some big changes to the side. Into the defence came James while Ando started at no 8 at left-back and Sheerinho was replaced by Mooner. The other big change came on the bench as Greg Kelly cut short his loan spell as he was hooked back by David Hannah to Links Park. That meant another new sub keeper in for Saints while Euan kept up his recovery. Step forward veteran of many clubs in John Hillcoat to take over splinter-gathering duties on the sidelines

For the home side, there were some bodies missing but since losing assets is par for the course in the Dens Park environs these days that wasn't too much of a surprise. There were more than a few ex-Saintees embarrassing themselves by turning out in the dark blue as well with Malone lining up alongside Douglas and Paton like a dodgy trio of ugly sisters ahead of pantomime season.

Following the Wurzels tune (how do they keep their humour so sharp and bang up-to-date) which served as pre-match entertainment, Saints took to the field in front of another massive travelling support whose singing drowned out the bigoted warblings of the home neds. The game got off to a quick start with Irvine testing Scabby Rabby with a first minute cross. Holmes was soon in the wars although he wasn't helped by a referee who soon displayed his bias for the home side. The early stages saw Millar and Jody link to try and set up Sherlock and Craig put a cross out but we seemed reluctant to play the ball on the deck. Dundee's first chance came in the 6th minute with a drive blocked by Holmes. The striker was involved at the other end a minute later to head on a cross for Liam who turned and tried a volley that went across the goal and just wide. Craig tried a freekick next but Holmes' header found no takers.

Then came the first bit of controversy as a slight tug saw Malone drop quicker than a Hulltoon Whore's knickers and earned Millar a booking - a bit annoying considering the challenges going in on Sherlock. O'Brien put a cutback out for them before Paton decided to scythe down Savo. The 12th minute freekick was headed out as far as Mooner but his effort brought out a great save from Scabby Rabby. Three minutes later Savo headed a Morris freekick over after Liam was clobbered. Then to even things up the defence slipped up in the 17th minute allowing Deasley in but his cross went wide. Back up the other end Saints continued pressing and Irvine cut in from the right playing one-twos with Savo and Morris before trying a left foot shot that was just wide of the post. If anything we were guilty of being too eager to chase a goal and we ended up playing too much one-touch stuff.

Still we were creating chances with Mooner heading a cross wide. More controversy in the 26th minute as Deasley again cut inside before a brilliant tackle saw James win the ball only for referee Winter to give the foul against him. The freekick wasn't cleared by the Saints defence and Dundee Curier rose up for the sort of header that gives Jim Spence an orgasm - especially when Main got down to smother it at the post. We were soon smiling though as almost immediately we took the play up the park and a quick break ended up with Holmes squaring for Savo whose clinical finish easily beat Scabby Rabby to give us the lead.

The goal seemed to fire us up and a minute later Holmes was unlucky to be ruled offside at an Irvine cross. We kept pressing and Dundee relied on a stramash and some panicky defending against shots from Savo and Mooner to keep the score at 1-0. Saints defence was looking solid through the middle with Rustybitz and James outstanding.

The pressure on the defence began to increase as the half wore on and there were a couple of nervous moments including a 39th minute clash between Irvine and Main as they both came for the same ball although Ando and Liam were on hand to clear the danger. James made a great tackle in the 44th minute as Deasley broke into the box but Main was the star at the end of the half after James gave away possession allowing an unmarked Pozniak to try a powerful shot from just inside the box which the Saints keeper brilliantly held.

After the break Saints started the second half well and almost increased their lead in the 46th minute. Holmes was fouled and the referee went for the shock tactic of awarding us the freekick. Liam took the set piece and set a great low curling shot round the wall and brought out a brilliant save from Scabby Rabby. It didn't take long for the tempers to start to fray, especially after a late challenge from O'Brien on Millar was allowed to go unpunished, and then a foul on Mooner turned into a Scumdee freekick according to the Winter variation on the Laws of the Game.

Action was at a premium with Craig trying a long-range lob that went over and James heading a freekick wide. Then Ando played a good ball down the left for Mooner to chase. He won the ball tackling McKeown cleanly but as usual the referee saw things differently booking the Saints player. Mooner just missed getting on the end of a Savo pass in the 57th minute and Holmes failed to connect with an Irvine cross losing out to Scabby.

Dundee made a couple of changes and began to get more into the game. But we still came closest to scoring in the 63rd minute after Liam's run ended in a corner for us. Morris hit over an inswinger that was unfortunately headed off the line. It still broke out to Ando but his shot was cleared. Scumdee counter-attacked but Ando tackled Curier and their final shot was well held by Main. Malone had a blatant dive under Irvine winning himself a freekick and this time Curier managed to turn and shoot just wide of Main's left-hand post. Millar was hacked by MacKenzie next but recovered to put a decent cross in that was held.

With 20 minutes remaining Del made his first change replacing Morris with Sheerinho as Liam moved into the centre of midfield. Dundee were still piling on the pressure and a 72nd minute corner ended with Main making a brilliant catch from the cross. Sheerinho tried to set up Liam with a neat chip a minute later but Craig was crowded out. Then another good run from Irvine saw him cross in for Savo but his glancing header went wide.

Time for our luck to run out then and with fifteen minutes left James was the victim of another refereeing blunder as he was judged to have climbed over a Coagie to get the ball (as if he'd risk exposure to their diseases). Anyway the freekick was taken quickly and played out left. Irvine lost out in his challenge and the cutback found Curier who made no mistake despite a Rustybitz attempt at blocking the shot. A bad goal to lose but given the way we'd been surrendering possession in midfield we had to take some of the blame.

The goal fired up the Coags and we were on the back foot. Holmes was replaced by Sammy but still our distribution from the back was poor with Main's kicking and both full backs all over the place. Rustybitz made some good tackles and we dealt with a Scumdee corner after Ando mucked up a clearance.

The closing five minutes saw more chances for both sides and more controversy as Malone again escaped punishment after a nasty assault on Millar. Savo and Ando combined to release Craig through the middle but he was too greedy and allowed himself to be crowded out. Mooner and Millar tried to release Sammy but the sub just didn't seemed to be bothered chasing the ball - something that didn't go down well with the Saints support. Paton was given too much room but thankfully shot over when he broke in from the right. Then into injury time and we should have clinched it as Millar played the ball in for Mooner. He knocked it on for Savo in the box and he seemed certain to score but his well-struck shot saw Scabby Rabby pull off a brilliant save to tip the ball wide. Even then there was still time for the Coags to take the ball up the park where Curier skinned Ando but only succeeded in pulling his shot across the goal and wide.

The final whistle probably came as a relief to both sides. While we didn't deserve to lose we didn't do enough to merit a win although the referee didn't help matters. Millar arguably had his worst game for Saints - the early booking didn't help, while Ando and Irvine both struggled late on. Holmes didn't win enough in the air and I have to say that I expected more of Morris - we certainly missed Mad Mental Martin's dig. James did well at the back and Main had a solid game but MoM for me was Rustybitz who was excellent throughout.

And at least we kept the unbeaten run going...

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Team P W D L F A Pts
Saints 15 8 4 3 26 20 28
Dunfermline 15 7 3 5 20 13 24
Partick Thistle 15 7 2 6 16 14 23
Ross Co 15 7 1 7 20 17 22
Livingston 15 7 1 7 21 22 22
Queen of the South 15 6 3 6 20 18 21
Scumdee 15 5 5 5 11 15 20
Morton 15 5 4 6 16 19 19
Clyde 15 4 4 7 16 22 16
Airdrie United 15 3 5 7 12 17 14

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