Temple Of Saints - Almost There....

Bells League Division One 25/04/2009

Scumdee 0 Saints 1 - League Table Here

Team : Main, Irvine, Liam, Mooner, Rutkiewicz, Caff, Millar, Mad Mental Martin, Savo, Samuel, Sheerin
Subs: McLean, Ando, Jody, Barrett, Holmes

There are games which when you look at the fixture list before a ball has even been kicked you know will be amongst the most critical games of the season. Way back when the phrase "Barrett Holmes" to Saints fans meant some mob that built new houses, Garters had a totally different meaning and a Gary Irvine goal was about as likely as seeing the OF go a season without trying to wangle a move to Englandshire, a glance at the 2008-09 campaign saw the third last fixture stick out with all the prominence of a tatty fiver in the Dens Park biscuit tin.

Mind you at the time it seemed that possibly both teams would be going into this one challenging at the right end but instead our Lux-loathing neighbours from the grotty end of the Firth of Tay have had to settle for mid-table obscurity while Saints still had a chance of escaping to the heady heights of the SPL where every referee is like Charlie Bloody Richmond. Last weekend had been a big disappointment though and while there was a chance we could wrap up the title today most of us were just focussed on the important job of putting the Dobbie Nightmare behind us and getting the three points to sneak a wee bit closer to the trophy.

With the Coags going all out to demonstrate that wonderful Dundonian hospitality the Saints fans who got their precious tickets this week were in the usual away stand while the more unfortunate ones had to tolerate the ramshackle Main Stand - still given the behaviour of the Dundee fans the last time they visited McDiarmid, I'm sure their club would be more than willing to listen to the complaints from the fans who had to tolerate an obstructed view and the contagious diseases that the Main Stand brought via the splinters up the erse. Perhaps there are some things that the SPL has got right. Mind you there was an added bonus for those stuck in the restricted view areas - Voodoo-Boy Irons was apparently set to come to town. At least he was easy to recognise - the dodgy 1970s haircut (height of fashion in Greenock no doubt), faded Gretna managers jacket and he was the one sticking pins into an effigy of Sheerinho.

For the thousands of Saints fans that made the trip though, the afternoon turned into one of the most enjoyable of the season. An afternoon in the sun dominating the game (albeit without the convincing margin our play deserved), a nice early goal to settle things and the fun of watching the Coags self-destruct. There was a damper with Partick's late winner at Firhill but after the late disappointment last week there was nothing to take the smiles off the 3000 plus Saints fans that backed the team to the hilt for the ninety minutes. We're on target to go up and there seems to be no way that this team will blow it now. The fighting spirit and concentration from every player on the park was there to see and one more performance like that next week and the trophy will be ours.

Going into this one Del at least had almost a full squad to pick from and the performance of Mooner coming off the bench last Sunday had given us some heart. A draw in the closed doors game midweek allowed Jody to continue his comeback and along with the fit-again Caff, he was back in the list of options for Del going into this one. Given the likely nature of the game and the shape of the opposition (not to mention factoring in the effect that being in the proximity of a Coag might have in terms of contagious diseases), there was no point in sitting back and resting any players. Confidence had been high in the Perth camp during the week. The starting lineup saw Craig replace Ando as Millar returned to the right side of midfield while Caff came in for Garters. The bench saw Jody back from injury.

For the Coags, MacKenzie had managed to sit this one out after getting a red card last week while Cameron and Gilhaney were apparently also set to miss out (the former making Peaso look like an ever-present for us). They had notched up a decent win at Livi and were not going to make things easy for us but their home form in recent weeks had been poor and their season was all but over. Their lineup still boasted a strong defence with Malone and Paton there and the experienced Young in midfield while Dundee Courier was there to provide plenty of entertainment up front.

The bigger question though was how the players would react on the park. We've had a problem in recent weeks where the team has taken a while to get going and given the pressure and hype for this game that had been mounting during the week, the opening stages of the game were going to be critical. The game kicked off with a massive Saints support with voices in full flow (most of us in there for about an hour before kick-off) and Scabby Rabby in front of us to give us a nice target for the songs. It didn't get off to a great start with Caff forced into conceding a corner within the first thirty seconds after clashing with Courier. The defence cleared the danger but there was a degree of nerves about our play.

But it wasn't long before we began to press and in the second minute Sheerinho played a great ball forward for Sammy who cut inside his man and played a cross over for Hardie but his header back across goal saw Scabby Rabby collect from Sammy. The Coags managed to win another corner that was cleared before we turned on the style in the fourth minute. Sammy and Millar linked well on the right and Millar took the ball wide before laying it in for Gary Irvine cutting into the box. His angled effort came across the goal and good ole Savo was there to slide the ball into the net. One-nil up and the party started - you could almost see the home support reaching for the methadone nice and early.

With the goal behind us the confidence as usual came through the side. There was a bit of concern a minute later when Main seemed to pick up an injury kicking the ball but he was able to continue after some treatment. The Coags tried to threaten (well beyond spreading their diseases) with a cross in from the right that Main easily held. Shinnie tried a cross but again Main was on top of his game. For Saints some eighth minute pressure on Paton saw him make a cock-up and give us a corner but Irvine's inswinger was grabbed by Scabby's mitts. A minute later though Savo tried to set up Hardie but he was downed. The freekick was just to the right side of goal and Hardie dummied it beautifully before Liam curled it round the wall only for Scabby Rabby to get down and tip the ball clear with no blue shirt following up.

We were playing well with the players carrying on with the concentration and focus that was missing in the first half last weekend. We looked a lot more comfortable on the ball and were solid playing it out of defence with no sign of panic. Scumdee for their part were sticking in the challenges on us with Malone nailing Mooner and Lauchlan on Sammy but referee McCurry refused to show a card. Our next good chance came in the 12th minute with another ball forward finding Savo on the angle but his volley was blocked by Scabby when it seemed like we were going to score. Two minutes later and another ball forward found Savo through on goal but he was upended by Benedictus - no freekick as usual. Then Savo set up Irvine cutting in from the right and he hit a cracking shot with the outside of his foot that curled just wide of goal.

The Coags had a couple of corners and some simple crosses but didn't really cause us any worry. The fans were in full voice and the players seemed to be responding to it with every one of them busting a gut on the park but thankfully keeping the skill level high as well. Liam played a nice cutback in the 18th minute for Sammy but the striker couldn't find room to turn (well not without having to touch a Coagie and there are some things in life you want to avoid). Millar and Sammy set up Savo next but he was robbed of the ball in the box - and for a change it wasn't a penalty. Irvine saw a freekick cleared and then in the 25th minute we had our next chance. Savo set up Irvine who played to Millar and he laid it out for Sheerinho who let rip from outside the box only to send the ball just over the bar.

A minute later we had a perfect opportunity to double the lead. Mooner set up Sheerinho who played the ball forward for Sammy on the left touchline end he skinned Paton to cut inside and play the ball over for Savo. Unmarked on the edge of the six yard box Savo rose up only to end up heading the ball into the keeper's arms. The Coags went down to nine men for a while as Benedictus and Paton both went off for their methadone jabs. Mooner had a good run before he was tackled as we continued to dominate the midfield. Liam played a good cross in deep for Millar but he was bundled off the ball - not that the referee was bothered.

The Coags had a shot go wide but seemed to concentrate more on fouling our players than anything else with Lauchlan (demonstrating the height of numptiness) warned for a late foul that sent Sammy flying. Irvine managed to win a corner in the 32nd minute and Liam's cross over was headed back across goal by Captain Beardy. A defender managed to header it clear but only as far as Sheerinho who struck the sweetest of volleys that went inches wide of Scabby's right-hand post. The Coags had a small bit of pressure although we seemed to get more entertainment from watching an Efrem tantrum when he didn't get a freekick. They had one shot in from the right but Captain Beardy used his magic whiskers to deflect the ball out for a corner and the defence dealt with it comfortably enough.

Saints were creating the better chances and next up a simple throw-in was squared to Mooner and he broke down on goal before trying an angled shot that went just wide with Mad Mental Martin almost getting onto the end of it. Two minutes later and the Mentalist pounced on a loose ball to set up Savo who got in but saw his shot deflected wide for a corner. That was sent out for Sheerinho but his effort was blocked. Irvine picked up the first booking of the game three minutes from the interval after bringing down Efrem on the break. And a minute later that was matched when Young was booked for the tinks for a foul as Mooner broke through on goal. The freekick was sent forward for Sammy whose cross was put out for a corner. Liam took it and found Rustybitz at the back post but his header was just wide of goal with Scabby nowhere. That made it about four good chances that had gone a-begging and the half-time talk showed some nerves in the Saints support that one goal wasn't going to be enough.

No changes at the break which was surprising given the way Paton had limped off the park. The second-half got off to a quieter start with both team seemingly holding back a bit rather than going hell for leather. It wasn't until we'd been playing for five minutes that we managed to create anything with Mooner and Millar combining for a cross for Hardie who headed the ball back across goal for Savo but his header went over the bar. Just to show they weren't totally inept and give the Derry morons something to try and shout about with a Coags break and cross from the right which saw Courier outjump Irvine with a strong looping header that Main took easily on the line.

Hardie saw a good cross blocked before Sammy had a good break in the 53rd minute when he turned his marker to run onto the ball. A defender came over to cover for a corner. Liam took this one but Scabby managed to get his flea-ridden gloves on it. The clearance though came back to Savo but as he chased the ball in the box Scabby again rescued the Coags. We weren't running about as much and seemed to be conserving our energy with Sheerinho especially tiring a fair bit. More pressure from us in the 56th minute saw the Coags clear the danger. Rusty came out and his clearance ended up with Dundee Courier on the left and his cutback was only half-cleared by Caff as far as Young and his shot went over the bar.

The challenges kept coming with McMenamin late in on Liam next. Another foul on Millar saw us win a corner. Sheerinho sent this one deep for Caff but his header went behind. Another long ball forward saw a header on for Savo who got into the box but his header went just wide. Irvine saw a cross cleared before the game turned in the 64th minute. It was Dundee Courier who decided to take his life in his hands with a nasty challenge on Mad Mental Martin. That left the Saints midfielder on the deck and McCurry over flashing a straight red at the Coag who tried to protest his innocence (not a hope) and with Del on the touchline furious he eventually wandered along and up the tunnel.

The game didn't exactly clean up much with Paton in on Savo and escaping a card. The resulting freekick again went deep but was too high for the Mental One. Del made his first change in the 69th minute with Homer coming on for Savo (who didn't look too happy at going off). Within a minute he was in the thick of a good move which saw Millar set up Irvine who played it forward for Homer. He chested it down for Sammy who went on a great run down the right playing it on for Millar on the overlap but his cutback was held by Scabby. The Coags for their part then had their final spell of pressure with some pressure down the right and a cross that found McMenamin at the back post with a free header that thankfully went wide of goal.

We were starting to look tired and as against the Pars we were struggling to break down a ten man opposition. There was still some skill and Sammy had a great run in the 73rd minute going down the right before playing a nice backheel for Millar but his cross was cleared. A minute later and Jody made his comeback as he came off the bench to replace Hardie. At the same time the radio reported that Livi had scored (it was chalked off) but that was enough to get the fans going and seemed to give the players their second wind. A few minutes later and Del's final change saw Barrett replace Sammy with the latter looking pissed off as well at having to go off. The game was dying down though as both sides ran out of ideas. Liam ended up conceding a corner in the 81st minute and despite blatant Coag handling when the ball came over the referee still left it for Liam to clear the danger and Main to take the ball when it came back in.

We were in the closing stages now and to their credit Saints were still looking for that second goal to wrap things up. Irvine and Millar combined for a decent cross from the right that broke to Morris but his shot was blocked. Liam saw a low cross cleared and Millar had a run end with a solid tackle from Malone. The ex-Saintee picked up a booking with Barrett after the pair clashed before Young saw a header go well wide in the final minute. That left us with injury time and Liam killed that off nicely by taking the ball to the corner flag.

Saints thoroughly deserved their win and it's hard to pick a MoM as there wasn't a weak point in the side. Millar, Rusty, Caff, Hardie and Sammy were all outstanding but my vote goes to Liam for as solid a game at left-back as we've seen all season. The whole team needs to take credit for this as do the Saints support who backed their team from the start for the full ninety minutes (even tolerating the wee Coagie neds leaving before the end with their sporting hospitality - and never mind the token Wurzels song that the PA tried before kick-off). Del has described the performance as acceptable and professional and at this stage of the season, that's just what is needed to get us over the finishing line.

Same again next week boys......

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Team P W D L F A Pts
Saints 34 15 14 5 48 34 59
Partick Thistle 34 16 7 11 38 33 55
Morton 33 12 11 10 38 33 47
Scumdee 34 12 11 11 29 30 47
Queen of the South 34 12 10 12 55 45 46
Livingston 34 13 6 15 52 54 45
Dunfermline 33 12 8 13 46 42 44
Ross Co 34 12 7 15 38 44 43
Airdrie United 34 9 12 13 28 39 39
Clyde 34 9 8 17 38 57 35

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