Meadowbank 0 Saints 1 - League Table Here
Team : Main, Irvine, Craig, Millar, Rutkiewicz, Caff, Morgan, Hardie, Holmes, Savo, Sheerin
Subs : Robinson, Ando, Moon, Jackson, Peaso
The international break was over and for a change we'd had the chance to relax a bit without a two-week matchless spell wondering if Del was up for the job. Ten points from twelve in the last four games had helped push us up the table to the heady heights of fifth. But today was the chance to close the gap on the ex-leaders as well as get a wee bit of revenge for that CIS defeat earlier in the season. The big question was whether or not the fortnight's break had meant that Saints had rested on their laurels or whether they'd still show the hunger and fight that had gained the recent points - especially with yet another tough run of games coming up and a chance to get our own back for recent league defeats in the coming weeks.
It might not have been totally convincing in the end but the three points headed up to Perth tonight and that's what counts - especially given some of the arrogant crap coming out of the Almondvale camp this week. Defensively we were as solid as ever and while we had a couple of strokes of luck during the game, the same could be said for the home side as well though as they were aided and abetted by this weekend's incompetent officials. The midfield worked hard throughout as did the forward line and while it wasn't the sexiest display we'll see all season, there's times when winning ugly will do just as well.
The Meadowbank Mafia's attempts at bringing European football to Schemie-land (the sort of statement that had the likes of Chic creaming himself with plucky wee club tales without waking up to the reality) had taken a tiny knock a fortnight ago as they crashed to a humiliating 6-1 defeat at Palmerston - embarrassing enough but then you see that Jamie McQuilken even managed a goal against the Mafia and you wonder why half the team aren't sleeping with the fishes these days. Of course Roberto the Hitman seemed to be more intent on targeting ex-Saints boss Billy Stark this week after the latter decided that Leigh Griffiths couldn't be trusted to travel on his own to the Scotland U-19 set-up (knowing the Meadowbank striker he'd probably have taken a dive or picked up another dodgy hairstyle en route). So with the Almondvale management planning how to sneak a horse's head into Billy Stark's bed, their problems had also been added to thanks to Callum "Billy" Elliot picking up a red card and a suspension for today's game. Almost enough to start a Boydesque toys-oot-the-pram naebody-likes-me tantrum.
Saints had used the break to try and clear up some of the injuries (although Gary Irvine had managed to amuse himself in a totally different way with various nappy-changing activities). There hadn't been time for a reserve match though and despite resuming full training this week, Jody and James were kept out of the squad although Ando made it back. Mad Mental Martin had recovered from his back injury but on the down side Collin Samuel was still ruled out. He'd decided to make use of the free space in the McDiarmid treatment room and a hamstring strain meant he had also missed out on the international trip to Guatemala with the Soca Warriors as well as the even more Third World delights of West Lothian. The other doubt was Gavin Swankie who was suffering from one of those mysterious bugs that seem to afflict only professional fitba players. The starting lineup for Saints saw only one change with Morgan getting the nod for the left midfield slot over Sicknote Swankie. Elsewhere and Ando came onto the bench as Crispy McKoy dropped out. For Ferranti Thistle it was good to see Rioja return between the sticks for some much-needed humour for the Saints fans.
And by God we needed it - never mind the rip-off car park being halved in size, today's massive cock-up saw the grand total of two turnstiles opened to allow a big Saints support into the ground where we got the usual wonderful treatment from the stewards. Conditions weren't that great on the park with winter coming to visit and the strange swirling wind (such is life in the shadow of the Schemieland), and unfortunately the wind wasn't enough to drown out those bloody drums - but there was a nice wee striker wearing light blue who managed to do that instead. The game started at a hectic pace and as usual we were too quick off the mark with Savo caught just offside after getting on the end of a Holmes knockdown. Livi won the first freekick of the game a minute later but thanks to the wind and the ineptitude of the home player the ball had about as much chance of coming near Main's goal as Landi has of winning Tourettes Impersonator of the Year.
The game was soon bogged down in a midfield battle with conditions and defences coming out on top. Our first chance came in the fifth minute with a long-range attempt from Sheerinho but that went wide of Bianco's goal. The referee showed his incompetence next waiving play on after Homer took a nasty boot in the guts. That somehow led to a Livi freekick which was played forward for Ruti but he almost screwed things up with a poor wind-assisted passback to Main but the keeper managed to just clear the danger. Main was called into action again in the 13th minute when he had to get down and hold a McParland drive. Then Craig, who was having not much luck at left-back, was caught napping by Smith but his cross was held by Main. The game started to liven up and the first sign of things boiling over game after quarter of an hour when Hardie and Innes clashed on the touchline after Talbot fouled Savo. You could almost see Landi getting the mobile out to dial Hitmen'R'Us. Saints had a freekick a minute later but Spumante had an easy catch. Then Irvine played a good ball down the right flank for Savo who won a corner. The inswinger found Ruti who somehow from about two yards out succeeded in only heading the ball over the bar.
Millar picked up the first warning from referee Finnie for a late challenge but while the game turned a bit scrappy, it wasn't exactly the St Valentine's Day Massacre. Chances were at a premium as the half wore on and you got the feeling it was going to take something special to turn the game. Saints had a couple of freekicks held and Craig sent a wayward cross miles over the bar. Hardie won a good ball in midfield and set up Liam who played a one-two with Morgan before sending in a decent cross that Bianco held. Innes was finally penalised in the 28th minute for trying to sodomise Holmes but Liam's set-piece from the edge of the box was totally wasted.
Still he made up for it a couple of minutes later as he played a nice ball forward down the left for Sherlock who took the ball wide before cutting back for Savo on the edge of the box. Unmarked, Savo took an extra touch to flick the ball up in the air before belting in a cracker of a volley that fizzed past Cinzano into the top corner of the net. The drums were well and truly silent. The Saints support wasn't.
The goal lifted Saints and we began to play with a bit more confidence as the first half wound down with even Holmes chasing a seemingly lost cause to win a corner - not that we did anything with it of course. Morgan cut inside in the 36th minute and he tried a curling right-footed effort that was just held by the keeper before another Saints freekick just after that ended up in a good header from the Mad Mental One into the keeper's arms. It wasn't all one way traffic though and Main managed his usual fit of stupidity five minutes from the break and spilled a long ball but luckily his defenders were there to clear the danger. We had a couple of corners before the break but it seemed that Craig was unable to play any decent balls in from the corner flag and time and time again it felt as if we were wasting some good chances.
There were no changes at the break and for a change Saints kept up the effort after their wee break. Following a delay in the restart while the Livi groundsmen tried to fix Main's goal (why bother given the home side's lack of threat in that area) the first action of the second period saw Millar chase a through ball only to lose out to a defender. Craig picked up a warning for dissent after another decision went against him but there was little real action as even given the million and one freekicks that Ferranti Thistle were being awarded there was little danger of the ball going near the target. Saints best chance came in the 52nd minute as a freekick found Holmes in the box. He chested it down for Savo only for the referee to decide it was handball. A minute later Savo had a great break setting up Morgan but he had to settle for a corner. That went deep over to Hardie on the near side but his control only ended up in a shot going slightly over (well a wee bit more than slightly but I'm not going to tell Hardie his shooting was shit am I?).
That almost cost us dear as Livi then proceeded to go the park and miss the sort of chance that gives George Burley nightmares. A good break down the right saw Craig and Morgan caught out and Livi given room to play a good cross into the 6 yard box which was missed by everyone and landed at Smith's head but somehow from almost in the bloody goal he managed to head the ball over the bar. Who said Livi were a one-man side? It was a lucky escape for us and Saints seemed to waken up a bit and within a minute Sheerinho set up Craig who played a one-two with Morgan before getting in the box and shooting wide. We were creating more and more chances without the killer touch at the end of it. An Irvine freekick on the hour mark found Ruti unmarked but somehow our favourite troubadour defender managed to blot his otherwise impeccable copybook by somehow nutmegging himself. Well he was probably put off by those bloody drums.
Mooner came on for Morgan just after that with Sheerin moving out to the left wing and Kev's first action was to smash the ball into Fox's face. That resulted in a drop ball but that ended up in Savo setting up Holmes but his shot from the edge of the box was blocked. More good play from Saints saw Millar win a corner. Craig's inswinger was somehow tipped over by Campari when it looked like it was just going in. Talbot picked up the first booking just after that after going in late on Mooner but that was followed in the same incident by the ref flashing the yellow at Rustybitz presumably for dissent although the Saints skipper seemed to be just as confused as the rest of us. Livi had a freekick curl just wide of the goal in the 74th minute and just after that Hardie picked up a booking for a bodycheck on Talbot (henceforth to be known as Lazarus given the bloody miraculous way he rose from the dead after the challenge). Sheerinho decided to turn on the skill next and got onto the end of a header out after Holmes headed the ball in. Sheerin got onto the end of the ball but his chip went just over the bar.
Sheerinho decided the footballing Gods weren't on his side and eleven minutes from the end he was replaced by Ando who went to left- back as Liam moved to left midfield. Just after that a Saints freekick found Liam and he got into the box but shot just over the bar. Then a Craig shy ended up finding Savo who played the ball through for Holmes in the box only for a defender to get over and tackle Sherlock (well he's not the fastest player in the world).
Livi were getting desperate and you could almost hear Landi getting the violin cases out but it was Saints who were creating most of the chances as the game moved into the last ten minutes. First up was a good wee run from Millar (who came onto an excellent game as the match wore on), who beat three before cutting into the box only to fall victim to some blatant obstruction. A minute later it was even more frustrating as Bacardi Breezer managed to escape punishment despite handling the ball outside the box. It came to nothing and Saints kept up the pressure with Irvine and Hardie seeing efforts go wide. Livi's only counter was Rocco "Quarter of a million" Quinn with a long-range effort which went well wide - about the only time we noticed he was in the opposition side to be honest. Savo picked up a back knock in another run and was replaced by Peaso but despite the millennium of injury time added on by the referee Saints managed to comfortably hold the ball up in the corner flag and even managed a couple of chances with a Holmes header blocked and a low cutback from Peaso just missed by several players in the box.
Come full-time though we weren't complaining. The win was a good solid performance throughout the side and while some players might have been off form, their hunger, workrate and fight couldn't be questioned. As it is, it's hard to pick a MoM. Savo's goal was excellent and Ruti was a rock in defence but I'm going for Chris Millar who got forward a lot and was at the heart of a lot of the linkup play. Livi were a decent enough side but were more than put in their place.
Del didn't even need his lucky tank top for this one either.
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