Temple Of Saints - ?

Bells League Division One 25/10/2008

Saints 3 Partick 0 - League Table Here

Team : Main, Irvine, Craig, Millar, Rutkiewicz, Caff, Swankie, Hardie, Holmes, Savo, Sheerin :
Subs: Robinson, Moon, Samuel, Peaso, Anderson:

After the good win over the Mafia last weekend it was time to take on the Luvvies today. Yet again there was a bit of an edge to this encounter as Saints looked to get revenge for possibly the worst performance any of us can remember in recent years. From being on the receiving end of the four-nil drubbing at Firhill, you could argue that we've made some good progress since then and with four wins out of the last five and the eleven players looking like a team at times, there was a fair bit of justifiable optimism going into the game. Add to that the knowledge that the run of form had moved us to within a point of the leaders and there was more than enough incentive for the players to go out and win the game. Partick hadn't had that easy a time of it - from some early form, they'd begun to slip into the traditional Firhill form of being as inconsistent as ever. A defeat last weekend in Fife had put a big dent in their hopes for the season but there was no way we could afford to take them lightly, especially with a tactical genius like Jobbie McCall at the helm.

Games between the sides have seen more goals than Dundee has creditors in recent years. Today's encounter turned into one of those games where any goals looked like coming from mistakes due to the weather conditions as the first hurricane of the season hit the Scottish game. A strong wind made a mockery of goal kicks and the constant rain saw some heavy challenges go in but both teams managed to put on a decent performance although Saints were the ones that came out top. The Firhill defeat might not be totally to bed (I mean we only scored three today) but today saw a Saints side brimming with confidence and skill run out easy winners against Partick who seemed to just give up midway through the second-half as they were reduced to ten men after Storey was red-carded. The only disappointment for the home support was that we didn't show the sort of clinical finishing that we are capable of. But that's a small moan on an afternoon where we moved up the league.

The Reserve cup game on Tuesday night had been postponed but Saints managed to fix up a bounce game which allowed Del to get some badly-needed match practice for comeback boys. But showing more caution than a Chancellor, Del decided to leave out Jody and James pending more match practice. Mooner and Jacko had picked up minor knocks and the latter's ankle injury ruled him out, while Collin Samuel was only able to make the bench in a surprising return from injury. Gavin Swankie had returned to the squad after his wee bout of illness. All of which meant that from last week's Meadowbank-Mauling heroes, the starting eleven today saw only two changes with Morgan and Jacko out totally and Swankie starting on the right wing with Samuel moving onto the bench. The Luvvies had plenty of ex-Saintees on show with Robertson and Maxwell shoring up their defence while Buchanan returned up front to try and provide Jobbie with something to smile about. Nae luck pal.

Saints started the game playing against the wind and within a minute Mad Mental Martin managed to put us under pressure. He was fouled but with the referee waiving play on he got his own back. This time the offence was spotted but the freekick came to nothing. We were soon starting to create some chances and Swankie supplied a good cross from the right in the second minute only for Holmes to be just beaten to the ball. Craig and Sheerinho combined next for the latter to cross into Tufty Hare's six yard box where Savo headed it on and Homer rose up to head just wide of the goal. Partick tried to capitalise on the wind with a long ball for Main next. The Saints keeper came out but misjudged the bounce allowing Buchanan to round him but luckily his angled attempt just went across an empty goal. Saints took the play back up the other end and a long clearance from Chris Millar found Savo on the right and his ball into the box reached Holmes but this time Sherlock's looping header went just wide of goal.

But the Saints fans didn't have long to wait for the smiles to appear. Fourteen minutes on the clock and Hardie was caught late outside the box about 25 yards out. The Mad Mental One took the freekick himself and while the ball took a deflection in the box it landed in space for the unmarked Caff to turn and try a shot which took a bounce to beat Tufty and spin into the back of the net. Not the best goal you'll ever see but Caff and his teammates weren't bothered in the slightest. Suddenly Saints looked a lot more confident and almost doubled our lead a minute later when Sheerinho set up Savo for a run and his pass found Swankie. Despite slipping Gavin recovered to send a great cross into the box where the shining dome of Sheerinho arrived only to head the ball wide.

Partick almost got back into the game after 20 minutes after they won a corner from Holmes as he deflected a freekick wide. The corner turned into an inswinger for Main's near post and seemed to be deflected almost goalwards. Somehow the ball was cleared off the line and when it broke to McKinlay he shot into Main's hands. The wind was causing trouble for both sides and Swankie almost capitalised next with a shot that Tufty managed to hold. Saints were creating plenty of chances but weren't really troubling Tufty or his defence. We controlled the midfield comfortably enough and the defence was looking as solid as ever. The next chance came in the 28th minute as Craig, Hardie and Sheerin linked up beautifully on the left wing before Craig crossed for Savo who managed to miss the ball. It fell for Swankie but his shot was blocked for a corner and that was cleared all too easily.

Saints had a decent claim for a penalty a minute later when a Holmes cutback appeared to be handled (something Partick made a habit of later on). The referee, who had a pretty decent game booked Hardie next for persistent fouling and then in the 38th minute Partick came almost close to causing a minor problem for the Saints defence when a freekick was dummied to Maxwell and he fired in a low drive that had plenty of power but was still comfortably held by Main. The keeper's next problem was of his own making as four minutes from the break his kick out managed to go about 10 yards. Millar got back to head the ball back to the keeper but it was almost intercepted. The last action of the half was Craig try his luck from about thirty yards out but his shot went over the bar.

After surviving the conditions of the first-half, Saints had the wind behind them for the second period and there was some hope that we'd capitalise on the weather advantage. And two minutes after the restart we took full advantage of that as after Millar was fouled, Craig put a freekick into the box that was blatantly hand balled by a Thistle defender. The referee pointed to the spot but failed to show a card. Up stepped Sheerinho and placed the ball on the spot. He took his run up and placed a good effort only to see Tufty get down to hold the ball. A stunned silence ensued and I swear you could look up and see pigs flying past the moon. It was almost the end of civilisation as we knew it. But life goes on and Partick took some heart from the penalty miss with a high cross into the Saints box a few minutes later causing Main some problems.

Saints lost their shape a wee bit - we won a corner that Craig played too deep and Ruti was warned for a late foul, the freekick from which ended up in Caff managing to head the ball out for a corner despite facing up the park at the time. We should have extended our lead in the 55th minute as Main's long kick out found Swankie who released Savo but the striker's angled shot went just wide of goal with Sheerin coming through the middle. Roberston fouled Savo a minute later and this time Craig sent a freekick into the box only for Ruti, Caff and Holmes to see various attempts blocked. Savo had a go down the left a minute later as he got onto the end of a Holmes header but this time his cutback was held by the keeper. That was followed by Sheerinho trying a couple of efforts, the first blocked by a Thistle defender and the rebound held by the keeper.

We were still creating plenty of opportunities but there was a nagging doubt that the scoreline was a wee bit too tight for comfort. Holmes set up Savo again on the hour mark and he won a corner. The bounced about the goal a bit before it was cleared and you got the feeling that the Thistle defence was living on borrowed time. So it was a couple of minutes later that we finally got our act together. Swankie was caught and from the freekick the ball went out to the left. Sheerin showed some great control to release Craig and his backheel to Sheerinho was crossed into the box for Sherlock and he might have reached it as well if he hadn't been held by a defender. The referee pointed to the spot once more but again kept the cards in his pocket. Sheerinho seemed to go hide in a corner but he needn't have worried as Liam Craig showed the quickest turn of pace all afternoon to run and grab the ball. He placed it on the spot and made no mistake with the penalty kick sending Tufty the wrong way and giving us a slightly more comfortable two-goal margin.

Partick hit back with a corner that was cleared. It fell for a midfielder whose shot seemed set to go wide only to be caught by the wind. Millar raced over and tried to pass back to the onrushing Main except he sclaffed his clearance - luckily Partick weren't quick to react. Saints took the play up the park and Holmes and Savo combined well to set up Swankie but his low drive was spilled by the keeper. Savo was in to pounce but Tufty saved at his feet with Holmes in as well. The referee had blown for offside but with Sherlock and the opposition keeper squaring up to one another they both went in the book - possibly a bit harsh but it set the tone for what was to follow.

Storey missed a sitter after a cross found Irvine out of position and then Harkins picked up a yellow card after some dissent when McKeown fouled Irvine. The game was threatening to boil over but in the 69th minute we put the game beyond the luvvies. Craig sent a great ball forward for Hardie and he set up Holmes on the edge of the box who played the ball behind the defence for Savo to run onto and our favourite on-form striker made no mistake in slotting the ball under the oncoming keeper to make it 3-0.

Two minutes later it got worse for Thistle as a foul on Irvine saw Storey follow up with a bad challenge on the Saints right-back. He rightly saw red for the tackle but the incident caused a flare up with several players squaring up to one another (including the normally mild-mannered Paul Sheerin) McKinlay of Fissel and Rustybitz also went into the referee's wee black book. The change killed the game off as a contest and it seemed that Partick turned things into a damage limitation exercise. Del made his first change just after this with Holmes replaced by Peaso who combined almost straight away with Savo only for the latter's shot to be held. We kept pressing but seemed unable to create anything in the last third of the park as Partick went on the defensive.

The Maryhill side had a rare attempt in the 79th minute with a freekick that ended with Maxwell shooting over the bar. Saints had a few chances though and a Tuffey clearance ten minutes from time was shot back in by Peaso but seemed to be handled. There was no way we were going to get a third penalty and the ball ended up with Swankie but his cross was headed out for a corner which again was cleared all too easily as we failed to press home the advantage.

Swankie went off to be replaced by Mooner for the closing stages as we chased the traditional fourth goal. Savo had a long-range volley go well over (it was more speculative than anything) while Millar and Hardie showed some good skill around the Thistle box to set up Savo but again the ball ended up going wide of target. The last act saw Savo and Millar combine to set up Sheerinho but his shot was deflected out for a corner. That was half-cleared as far as Rustybitz and obviously inspired by his defensive partner he went for a cracking volley despite not even facing the goal only for the ball to go just wide of target.

Plenty of cheers at full-time and the plaudits were thoroughly deserved today. There was hardly a poor performer on the field and given the conditions they had to endure, the players (of both sides) deserve praise for putting on an entertaining game. For Saints the defence is looking more and more solid by the week while the midfield, with Millar looking very impressive, controlled the play today. Up front there were plenty of chances for both strikers and we could easily have had five or six. MoM for me was Liam Craig - plenty of tackling and his distribution was excellent throughout. And after seeing the end of civilisation with Sheerin's spot-kick miss it was a bloody relief when his effort went in.

Here's to keeping the run going next week in the big one.


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LEAGUE TABLE

Team P W D L F A Pts
Queen of the South 11 6 3 2 19 8 21
Saints 11 6 2 3 19 15 20
Dunfermline 10 5 3 2 13 6 18
Livingston 11 6 0 5 17 17 18
Partick Thistle 11 4 2 5 10 12 14
Ross Co 11 4 1 6 13 15 13
Airdrie United 10 3 3 4 10 9 12
Scumdee 11 3 3 5 6 13 12
Clyde 11 3 3 5 12 15 12
Morton 11 2 4 5 9 17 10

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