Temple Of Saints - Record Broken and Still Top

Bells League Division One 28/02/2009

Saints 0 Scumdee 0 - League Table Here

Team : Main, Irvine, Byrne, Moon, Rutkiewicz, Caff, Millar, Craig, Holmes, Savo, Swankie
SSubs: McLean, Garters, Sheerin, Barrett, Hardie

Any fan, both us and the unwashed, who went through the hallowed gates of McDiarmid today expecting an easy match for their side or showing anything like confidence either didn't understand football or hadn't been around long enough to realise that derby games such as these have a nasty habit of leaping up and kicking you in the teeth. Saints should have been brimming with confidence - well clear at the top of the table, nineteen games unbeaten and at home to a side that we've already put to the sword at home this year. But the cynics and realists might also have pointed out that recent performances have been less than spectacular (at least for the non-neutral) with comebacks and scrappy wins the order of the day. Yes it's great that we came back from being twice behind at Palmerston last week but the big question was why we had let ourselves get into that position in the first place. Looking to today's game though and the one plus was that the fighting attitude shown last Saturday might just be what we needed today.

For the Scum, it was a new boss coming to McDiarmid and the unfamiliar sight of Cocky Cameron getting out of the treatment room again to actually try and earn his wage - he'd managed to piss off Chris Millar enough into scoring for Saints last weekend which was no mean feat in itself. Our soap-dodging neighbours have managed to avoid bankruptcy for several weeks now and seemed to have gone on a decent run so that they're no longer stuck in the play-off spot. Two good wins over fellow Chapter 11 candidates Meadowbank meant that they'd sneaked up the table into third spot like a Coagey burglar on day release to Perth. Mickey Dundee Courier had managed to stay on his feet long enough to score some goals and their Home For OF Orphan Rejects had borne fruit with a couple of Wallys Weans fitting in well to their side (well I suppose Govan and the Hulltoon are both similar in a sort of deprived 3rd world sort of way). Jocky Scott had been whinging in the papers about Saints letting the rugger buggers play at McDiarmid on Friday night . But while the pitch was no doubt going to take some punishment , the idea of a Scumdee manager to complain about a playing surface after the sandpits that we've had to endure at Dens in recent years is like the Marrs being asked by Gordon Broon for advice on how to solve the credit crunch.

Today's encounter turned into a bit of a slog at times with chances kept to a minimum as both defences were well on top (in McKenzie's case that usually involved climbing all over Homer) and while there were no goals, there was still plenty of controversy in the game with two penalty claims for Saints and Main making a late save. Add to that the new unbeaten record and a crowd of over seven thousand to keep the Saints board happy (must have been plenty of giros cashed in Coagieville this morning). For Saints, it wasn't a convincing performance and a lot of players are still under- performing but given the hype the Coags had going into this game this is a decent enough result.

Del had more injury worries during the week after Sammy and Jody had gone off injured ruling themselves out for the next few weeks. With Jacko out for the season, it meant that places up front were at a premium. Mind you so were the options with Peaso and Doris managing to pick up knocks in Methil in Monday night's reserve game (cue loads of jokes about picking up nasty things in Methil). The manager hadn't wasted any time though and moved to sign ex-Wean Graham Barrett on a deal through to the end of the season. It gave us an option up front but Homer's partner-in-crime this week was Savo, fresh from signing another extension to his contract which will probably see him in employment longer than most of the Dens Park players if they fail to go up. Elsewhere in the side Richie Byrne got his home debut at left-back allowing Liam to move to the right wing while Swankie started on the left ahead of the Wizard. The rest of the defence saw Garters benched with Caff returning and a surprise start for Mooner in the centre alongside Millar. Scumdee's selection included such delightful human beings as Thugger Malone, Dundee Curier and various OF loans.

The pitch wasn't looking too bad after the rugby and there was a real tense atmosphere in the build-up to kick-off with the Ormond Stand opened to accommodate the overflow of Coags (extra disinfectant on order for cleaning it next week obviously). The idea of seeing a flowing football game though was put to bed within the first minute with a throw-in from Gary Irvine finding Homer but he was blatantly held by Cowan - but with a sign of things to come referee Conroy and his assistants ably demonstrated where their loyalties were going to lie for the next ninety minutes. The opening stages saw plenty of pressure from Saints with the 2nd minute seeing Ruti head a cross on for Savo who nicked in to beat Scabby Rabby but only flicked the ball over the bar. Mooner set up Craig next but his looping header ended in the keeper's hands. And despite the moans about being able to handle the pressure and stress coming out of Dens the last fortnight, it was Old Jocky in the away dugout that seemed set to lose the plot and he was warned by the officials - some folk can't handle the heat.

The Scum's first chance came in the 8th minute with a foul by Caff ending up in Swankie knocking the freekick behind for a corner. That saw Saints break with Savo on a decent run but his forward ball for Mooner saw the ball cleared. It was another five minutes before our next chance with another good ball into the Coag's box bouncing about before Mooner laid it off for Liam who shot just wide. Craig tried to set up Savo with a cross next but the striker, who didn't look match sharp, just failed to make contact. McMenamin picked up the first booking after quarter of an hour for dissent after he fouled Byrne on the touchline.

With the defence relatively untroubled so far though it was time for Main to trigger the nail-biting amongst the home fans, first with a clearance which was almost intercepted by Dundee Curier and then in the 18th minute he remained static for a Curier cross which was headed in - luckily Rustybitz was there to clear the danger. The Saints skipper was immense today and both he and Caff were solid all afternoon dealing with the Scumdee strikeforce. It was Rusty that came to the rescue after Efrem took a dive on the touchline. The resulting freekick was headed behind by the skipper and when the corner ended up in another soft award to the coags, he was there to head it behind again.

As the half wore on the Coags began to see more of the ball although neither side was able to hold onto possession for too long or to create any chances. Saints had a soft penalty claim when Homer was held in the box in the 29th minute after Craig floated a freekick in, but the referee waived play on and we ended up with Mooner shooting wide. Irvine saw a decent cross played high into the box and obviously the lingering scent of soap had been sneakily added to the ball by Irvine - at least going by the way Scabby Rabby dropped the ball - unfortunately Savo was unable to capitalise.

For the Coags their best chance came in the 36th minute when a Byrne half- clearance landed at the feet of Shittie and his shot was just over the bar. They had another corner as the half drew to a close which Caff dealt with and then two minutes from the break Millar played a great ball for Savo in the box and he was blatantly caught by Malone. No penalty said the referee but surely if it wasn't a penalty he had to book Savo for diving. - to say the least the fans were annoyed. That triggered reactions in the stands as well as some disease-ridden Coag decided to invade the pitch flashing his malnourished gut to all and sundry. And just to prove the numpties weren't all on one side Malone seemed to be hit by a coin or some other object when taking a throw-in in front of the East Stand.

Del made a tactical change at half-time with Swankie, who had been pretty much total pish for the first forty-five, replaced by Sheerinho who moved to the middle allowing Millar to go to the right. Within a couple of minutes of the restart though the Coags had made their tactics plain with Curier enjoying a blatant dive. Saints went up the park and in a rare flowing, passing move Craig, Homer and Savo linked to square for Mooner but the youngster's volley went over. A minute later Irvine set up Mooner but this time his angled effort went out for a corner ending in a Homer header being cleared far too easily. Shittie had a dive under Byrne's challenge next as Saints continued to be the only side willing to play football in the second-half. A long ball from Rusty was half-cleared by the Coag's defence and it fell beautifully for the Wizard but somehow Sheerinho's chip shot went over the bar. Craig was fouled on the touchline but again his freekick was cleared.

This was followed in the 56th minute by a Millar cross from the right which found Homer unchallenged but his header went wide of the goal. Back up the other end of the park Efrem had a header from a cross but Main was there to take the ball from Curier. Saints had another good claim for a penalty in the 58th minute. A Millar cross in from the right touchline was headed back by Homer and as Savo went up for the header he was blatantly shoved to the ground by a defender - again the referee decided that he'd rather cash some more giros than give us a fair decision and waived play on.

Scumdee meanwhile were limited to the odd freekick thanks to some wonderful diving with the Dens Park players hitting the deck quicker than a Hulltoon slapper's knickers after she's been offered a Bacardi Breezer.For all that though they weren't really troubling the Saints defence aided by the likes of Craig and Homer dropping back to defend when necessary. The real problem for us seemed to be our inability to get forward enough to put any real pressure on the defence with no support from the midfield when we managed to get the ball into the box.

With 73 minutes gone another good ball in from Millar (who again came onto a good game as the half wore on) was knocked down by Homer for Savo but this time his low shot was deflected out for a corner. Del used the break in play to replace Mooner with Hardie introduced to the action. The corner ended up with a Rustybitz header going wide. Four minutes later and Savo was hooked with Graham Barrett coming on to give us the dream Barrett Holmes partnership (you could almost see the journos preparing the headlines). As it was the game entered the last ten minutes with neither side really able to create anything and both sets of fans getting more and more nervous as it became obvious that one goal might be enough to seal the points.

Paton had a long-range effort go wide of target after Craig and Byrne stood off him and then Irvine failed to get back to clear a loose ball and ended up conceding a freekick after being pulled into fouling Curier. But Saints weren't out of it yet and with five minutes to go Craig played a ball into the box that was headed on by Holmes, only half-cleared, played back in by Craig and Barrett before it was headed out and fell perfectly for the Mad Mental One at the edge of the box but he somehow managed to sky his shot despite the collective "Keep it down" being yelled from the East Stand.

The Scum pressed back and with four minute to go Main pulled off a great save. The ball had bounced around the box before it was only half-cleared to Shittie at the edge of the box who hit a low shot that took a spinning deflection. It seemed destined for Main's left-hand side but the Saints keeper managed to get down to tip it round the post. The resulting corner was easily cleared and the play moved back up the other end of the park with Barrett and Irvine combining well before MacKenzie went in a la McQuilken on the Saints right-back. He got a booking and Irvine recovered although the freekick was wasted. The final chance came after MacKenzie went in on Barrett (who looks a decent player). This time the freekick into the Coag's box was held by Scabby Rabby.

Overall a draw is about a fair result and while the Coags are already on the radio complaining about our wonderful facilities, the fact is that they failed to close the gap on us while we were relatively under-strength. The midfield was poor today with Craig and Sheerin off-form and the enigma that goes by the name of Swankie again flattering to deceive. Savo lacks sharpness up front but Homer played well and Barrett looked good when he came on. MoM for me though for the second week in a row was the skipper Kevin Rutkiewicz who led by example from the back and won everything on the ground and in the air. We weren't perfect but not losing ground at the top (other than to Partick) and getting past that psychological barrier of the new record will hopefully set us up.

After all we can handle a bit of pressure.

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Team P W D L F A Pts
Saints 25 11 11 3 35 26 44
Partick Thistle 26 12 5 9 31 28 41
Scumdee 25 10 8 7 21 20 38
Dunfermline 24 10 5 9 33 28 35
Livingston 26 10 4 12 39 41 34
Ross Co 24 10 3 11 31 32 33
Queen of the South 26 8 8 10 35 32 32
Morton 25 8 8 9 26 28 32
Clyde 25 7 7 11 29 36 28
Airdrie United 26 6 9 11 19 28 27

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