Temple Of Saints - An Utter Disgrace

Bells League Division One 16/08/2008

Saints 0 Pars 3 - League Table Here

Team : McLean, Irvine, Smith, Millar, Rutkiewicz, James, Swankie, Craig, Holmes, Savo, Sheerin
Subs: Main, Peaso, Jacko, Sammy, Caff

The draw against Morton already had some nay-sayers coming out of the woodwork with the "seen it all before" attitude to the season so far. Two points behind Fissel and the Scum going into this match meant that it was vital that we kept our home record up, so the game against the men from Fife was taking on the air of a potential banana skin. The big question for us was how much of that doubt and anxiety was going to feed into the squad come 3pm on Saturday.

In the end, it wasn't so much the doubt and anxiety that were found wanting but the utter and complete pishiness that the Saints players decided to display in what has to be about the worst performance under Del since he took over. We were barely at the races in the first half and lost a daft goal. Another in the 2nd was followed by some pathetic attempts to take the ball forward against a Pars side that may be better than last year but aren't exactly world-beaters before the shambles was rounded off in injury time. It defies belief that we could ever have had any hopes about trying to take the league by storm or play attractive football. We were simply utter rubbish - the players should be ashamed at even picking up their wages this week and there's no doubt in my mind that this has set back the faith and positive spirit that Del and the Doc have worked to build by a big chunk. It will take a massive effort to recover from this and the worst thing is that there was simply a complete lack of evidence that the Saints players today (and it was a strong squad) have it in them to pick themselves up.

We had Liam Craig back from suspension while both Ando and Sammy had managed a full week's training. The news wasn't so good for Jody who suffered a setback midweek but even so the squad was pretty much at full strength with the added bonus that trialist Dan Smith had been given another week to get to know his teammates - although whether or not that might spare him from the wrath of Kevin James remained to be seen. Del opted for Holmes and Savo up front while Craig came in to replace Hardie and Sammy took over on the bench from Weatherston with MMM dropping right out the side. The rest of the lineup saw the left-back slot filled by Dapper Dan Smith again but otherwise it was an unchanged side from the eleven that drew at Greenock. The Pars fielded a strong side themselves with Harper on the wing and Kirk and Bayne up front. The match started with Saints switching things about so Swankie started on the left wing while Sheerin played through the middle.

The signs were there right from the start with the Pars pressing from kick-off to force a corner in the first minute. That was dealt with but within a couple of minutes they had another effort as Irvine demonstrated all the finesse and control of a drunken sumo wrestler to put the ball behind. We cleared that but the pressure was kept up thanks to Liam losing the ball in midfield before Harper tried his luck with a long-range attempt that went just wide. It took until the 5th minute before we even managed to get the ball into the opposition penalty area with an Irvine cross causing Gallacher no problems. Within a minute though the Pars were threatening again with Harper having an attempt across the goal and then McCann skinning Irvine on the touchline to send another low effort across the six yard box which needed nothing more than a gust of wind to blow it over the line - luckily it didn't happen despite the flapping of McLean in the box.

We had a freekick in the 9th minute that Sheerin (who was very poor today) sent well wide while the Pars threatened a lot more with a turn and shot in the box that went wide and another easy corner forced off James. Saints simply could not get going. For all the skill and pace in the midfield we seemed determined to play in as narrow a space as possible with both wingers coming into the middle and an inability to use the width. Holmes was having a nightmare, unable to win anything in the air while Savo suffered from service that was poorer than a Scumdonian whose just blown his dole on some dodgy scratch cards.

The Pars had another header go over in the 18th minute with Saints nowhere, but two minutes later we managed to pull off a decent flowing move (if we'd known its rarity value we might have appreciated it more) that ended with a Smiffy cross held by the keeper. Two minutes after that Swankie was clobbered on the touchline - no foul, but from the throw-in we got the ball into the box for Holmes who tried to set up Savo only for the foul to be given against him. Harper went off for the Pars midway through the half to be replaced by Williamson while Ruti needed some treatment after straining his back. He was able to carry on but there was little real action for us to get excited about. Craig and Smith were involved in a handbags incident on the touchline as the tackles went in heavily but we couldn't get forward at all. The nerves were saved for our defending with one Pars corner seeing McLean make a diving punch to clear the danger - again not confidence inspiring.

There were slight moments of hope for us with Millar setting up Savo on a run that ended in the Saints striker winning a corner. Smiffy took it well and when Millar played it back in there was a claim for handball but no penalty was awarded. Kirk sent a shot over the bar for the Pars and then Holmes set up Swankie who crossed for Savo only for his header to go wide of target. Swankie tried to set up Holmes next as we got into the game a bit more but the striker was offside. Eight minutes before the break though there was some real controversy as another ball into the box found Holmes sandwiched and flattened by the defence. Again referee Allan waived away the penalty claims and the home crowd were only incensed further when a late challenge on Savo a minute later also went unpunished.

The best chance came in the 40th minute when a good Swankie cross found Liam but his header saw Gallacher pull off a good save. A minute later and it was time for even more controversy when Savo skinned Wilson on the halfway line only to be hauled down. It looked like a last-man challenge with Savo set to break through on goal but the referee disagreed and Wilson only picked up a booking. Sheerin wasted the resulting freekick.

Saints were fired up but a minute from the break we had the usual kick in the teeth as the Pars pressed down the right with James apparently fouled as he tried to clear. No whistle and when the ball was played round the box it wasn't cleared and a low drive from Williamson somehow got through everyone and trundled over the line. Another bloody soft goal and the sort of thing that is costing us far too much this season. The half was rounded off nicely with Gary Irvine picking up a daft booking for dissent.

Del didn't hesitate in making the changes at half-time with Jacko and Sammy replacing Holmes and Swankie respectively although the latter could feel hard done by if it was a tactical switch. That meant Craig moving to the left-wing as we switched to a 4-3-3 formation. It didn't exactly set the pitch on fire with a 48th minute Pars cross from the left finding McLean playing statues again although Smith (who was having a decent game) cleared the danger. Two minutes later we almost went two behind after Smith conceded a soft "foul" on the wing. The cross into the box was fumbled by McLean but the resulting shot thankfully only met the boot of Rustybitz on the line. Surprisingly enough we managed a shot of our own a minute later after Jacko won a corner. James headed the ball down and found Sammy who tried an overhead effort that went over the bar. Millar had a run next cutting in and played a good cross from the left that Samuel somehow headed wide of goal.

But the Pars went two up in the 57th minute after a good break saw the ball played left to Kirk in space (although he looked offside) and his cutback into the 6 yard box beat McLean and found Phinn and Smith but somehow the ball was bundled over the line. Heads didn't so much go down in the Saints ranks as take the fast lift down to the deepest pits of hell. There was still half an hour ago but absolutely bugger all hope that we would comeback from this.

The play went downhill fast after that. Irvine contributed with a cross straight out and then the Pars sent a shot just over the bar after James was turned inside-out. Sammy had a decent run in the 63rd minute but despite us being three on two at the start, the lack of pace was apparent and Samuel ended up passing to Smiffy who won a corner - that ended up with a Savo header going wide. The Pars certainly threatened a lot more and kept on winning soft corners and almost every 50-50 ball. We were all over the place with no real passing play and a lack of movement. Too often we had front men dropping back or else midfielders playing the ball and then standing still. Our best chance came in the 73rd minute after Sammy was fouled and Smith won a corner. The ball broke nicely for Sammy who hit almost a miskick that took a bounce and was heading for the top corner only for Gallacher to pull off a good save and tip it round the post.

Craig had a shot blocked after that and that was about it. We were simply out of ideas and despite a couple of half-chances Samuel contributed little while Jacko seems to be reverting to the form prior to last season where he hardly got a touch of the ball. Millar and Sheerin faded while Craig seemed to be happy to just hit the ball more in hope than anything else. Our best play was actually coming from Smith who was getting a lot of room on the left wing and played a series of crosses which although they didn't come off at least attempted to keep the ball away from the tattered Saints defence. Smiffy was also winning corners and eight minutes from time another corner of his saw James get a header in that was cleared as far as Millar on the edge of the box - but he managed to do nothing more than sky his shot over the bar, which achieved nothing more than trigger some early departures from the East Stand.

Peaso replaced Sheerin in the 86th minute and a couple of minutes later he got on the end of a James header only to sclaff his shot straight at Gallacher. Time for the last kick in the teeth and in the 90th minute bitter icing was added to the afternoon as a long ball forward saw the Saints defence caught out and Bayne turned Craig twice before firing a dipping shot from the edge of the box which beat McLean and rocketed into the net to make it 3-0. No fault of the keeper but it was the final straw for a lot more Saints fans. In the end they missed arguably our best chance of the half with Peaso and Jacko linking in the 92nd minute to release Savo into the box but with just the keeper to beat, his angled shot went an inch to the wrong side of the post. Summed up the afternoon.

There wasn't even much booing at full-time more the sighs of resignation that we have a lot of work to do to pick ourselves up. There were a couple of plus points with Savo and Smiffy playing well and the latter certainly worth signing in my opinion and he just did enough to get my MoM award. As for the rest of the players every single one of them should be forced into double training this week - our fitness is poor, there were too many players not willing to move on or off the ball. James and Ruti tried in defence but were caught napping too easily. The midfield though was the worst - we missed Hardie's tackling and Sheerin looked unwilling to get forward while Millar faded badly and Craig was chasing shadows all afternoon. Holmes barely won a ball all afternoon while Jacko was simply like a ghost when he appeared.

Today might just have been a bad day at the office for too many players but we can't afford these at this stage of the season. The confidence has taken a major knock - it's up to Del to get things sorted and pick up the pieces for next week.

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Team P W D L F A Pts
Scumdee 3 2 1 0 3 1 7
Dunfermline 3 2 0 1 5 2 6
Partick Thistle 2 2 0 0 2 0 6
Livingston 3 2 0 1 4 3 6
Saints 3 1 1 1 4 5 4
Morton 3 0 2 1 4 5 2
Clyde 3 0 2 1 3 4 2
Airdrie United 3 0 2 1 0 1 2
Queen of the South 2 0 1 1 1 2 1
Ross Co 2 0 1 2 3 6 1

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