Temple Of Saints - Kicked in the Teeth

Bells League Division One 19/04/2009

Saints 2 Queen of the South 3 - League Table Here

Team : Main, Irvine, Ando, Craig, Rutkiewicz, Garters, Swankie, Mad Mental Martin, Savo, Samuel, Sheerin
Subs: McLean, Millar, Moon, Holmes, Barrett

After the joy of last weekend's performance at East End Park you'd have been hard-pressed to get the smile of the Saints fans' faces during the week. Our win combined with the Partick capitulation at the feet of today's opponents meant that the SFL trophy helicopter was prepping a flight plan to McDiarmid. And while nobody was taking anything for granted (especially amongst the playing and managerial staff), the plain fact was that a win today and a better- than-Partick result next week would guarantee us having to put up with the Bigot Bros. next season. The big question was how much Del had managed to keep the squad's minds focussed on the job in hand after a week when there seemed to have been talk of nothing more than how many coagies we can evict from their giro- funded season ticket seats next weekend. Mind you there was also the distraction of BBC Alba coming to town to watch us in action and while we might not be the prettiest team going (although Gary Irvine took on an Adonis-like persona last weekend) it did mean an opportunity for the boys to demonstrate their sexy skills for the watching dozens.

It was helped by the fact that the Doonhamers provided the opposition and while results between the sides have been even over the course of the campaign, the games have usually been open and entertaining. They've had a mixed season though and their league position at times has proved precarious although there was never really any danger of them going down - but after the cup heroics of last season, their overall performance has to be a disappointment. Still, they went some way to improving things with a convincing win over Keecher McCall's mob of luvvies last weekend with an added bonus for us in that it was ex-Saints players Pieman Dobbie and Psycho Tosh that got the goals. Pre- match as well Ruti had spoken about wanting to get a win over the only team we've failed to beat over the campaign and while it was going to be a tough encounter, there seemed little doubt that given the performance at East End Park last weekend and the prize on offer that Saints should have little problem in motivating themselves for a TV delight to match anything that Simon Bloody Cowell could muster.

As a TV spectacle, it turned out to be a nice game for the neutral but unfortunately for Saints fans it showed more similarity to Nightmare on Elm St complete with nasty surprise at the end. And if you were looking for similarities to any other title-challenging game for Saints just go back a couple of years to the kick in the teeth we had at Hamilton - it was that bad today. Sure we hadn't played well for the afternoon but after coming back from two down to look like taking a point a 93rd minute breakaway goal for the Doonhamers dealt us a fateful blow. We are still top and Partick need to keep winning games but Del has a big job to get the players focussed for the trip to Dens - motivation shouldn't come into it but it's time we concentrated on the activities on the park.

There were no new injuries in the squad after last week although both Mad Mental Martin and Mooner had been receiving injections, while Garters had also avoided any vehicular tree interface events. Longer-term worries, Jody (out since the last time we played Queens), Mooner, Peaso and Caff had all managed to train. But given the quality of the win last weekend, it would be hard to criticise Del for keeping the tinkering with the side to a minimum. As it was he decided to start Liam in place of Millar with Peaso and Kinniburgh dropping out to be replaced on the bench by Barrett and Mooner. For Queens all the pre-match talk about injuries didn't materialise to much with O'Connor and Lancaster starting and Dobbie turning up complete with wacky spiked hairstyle - probably used to stop his head sliding too much when he nosedives into the turf due to the apparently different centre of gravity he has compared to the rest of the human race.

From kick-off the Saints support were almost in a party mood - a bit like being in the pub for a quick one before going onto the proper do. That didn't last too long and even with the sun shining and a good crowd, we were soon in a tough game with the defence looking shaky early on. A second minute Queens freekick was headed wide as they threatened early while for Saints a Swankie cutback was easily cleared. Savo almost created our first real opportunity in the fourth minute as he got onto the end of a lovely through ball from Sammy but Robinson was quick off the mark to clear. A minute later and Savo turned into a climbing exercise for McQuilken earning us a nice freekick but Hardie's low effort again failed to test the keeper. The opening stages had been fairly even but for all that we were looking jittery with the centre of midfield struggling to get to grips with the game and Ando and Craig showing a total lack of understanding on the left flank.

The 9th minute saw Dobbie's first dive after a decent Ando tackle. McQuilken took the freekick but that went nicely over the bar. Two minutes later though the first party-pooper of the day occurred. Queens broke down the left and with O'Connor beating Garters and cutting the ball back to Pieman Dobbie, he managed to get a low angled shot in that outfoxed the defence and Alan Main before nestling in the corner of the net. One-nil down and suddenly the champers was heading back to the fridge.

Saints didn't collapse completely but at the same time we weren't showing the sort of initiative and fight that characterised the win last weekend with the middle of the park especially poor. Two minutes after the goal Sammy played a nice ball across goal but Liam's final right-footed shot was again little trouble for the opposition keeper. Swankie saw a cross for Sammy punched clear and then with quarter of an hour gone the referee (good ole Charlie Richmond, a man who typifies the crap we'll have to put up with when we go up) got in on the act. An Irvine freekick was played deep and headed on for Sammy who turned and shot over the bar courtesy of a deflection. The inswinging corner ended up in the net and at first the referee looked like giving the goal before judging that the keeper had been fouled. A pretty strange decision given the lack of protest from the Queen's players. That knocked us back a bit and for a while the play was as scrappy as anything we've shown all season.

Sammy tried a couple of runs but a lack of support didn't help him much while Ando tried his luck with a long-range shot going over in the 18th minute. Swankie saw a freekick easily held as yet again the ball was played too close to Robinson while Queens had a rare break with Burns in space down the right but luckily for Ando his cutback was cleared. Then it was time for the cock-ups to arrive. Some poor passing in defence (what is it about Saints that means they have to let themselves be closed down so easily) ended up with a candidate for Sclaff of the Season with a square ball from Ando curling back towards Main. Unfortunately with all his experience it meant that Main decided to be Mr Thicko and pick up the ball - cue a passback against him and a freekick for Queens just inside the box - luckily Liam was there to block Dobbie's effort. Suffice to say though that Saints weren't doing much to boost the confidence of the East Stand support.

The next chance for us came in the 27th minute after Ando and Liam managed to win a throw-in. Ando took the ball and crossed it perfectly for Hardie in the box but his header went straight at the keeper. Two minutes later we had more typical Saints play as a freekick was passed back to the defence who ended up putting themselves under pressure as they were closed down too easily and Ruti finished by putting the ball out. Hardie had another header go over but as the half drew to a close we seemed to have about as much clue as to how to score as Chic the Prick has about the SFL. Queens made their first change ten minutes from the break with O'Connor going off to be replaced by Kean. Hardie then picked up another daft booking for a reckless challenge - he'll be Mr Reliable at Dens won't he?

We had some pressure towards the end of the half but were far too guilty of playing a short passing game with no movement off the ball. Captain Beardy's frustration boiled over at the end with a run up the middle of the park - he lost the ball but at least Main cleared the danger when Pieman broke.

Del made his first change at the break with Garters replaced by Mooner. He moved to midfield with Liam dropping to left-back and Ando going to the centre of defence. Personally I thought Ando had a worse game in the first half than Gartland but at least Mooner looked sharp. Certainly we seemed to have had a bit of a kick up the arse and the start of the second period finally saw us play some better football - well everywhere but in the bloody Queens box. Sammy set up Sheerinho but his cross in the 47th minute was cleared.

A minute later Liam played a neat chip in for Sheerin who set up Sammy. His ball back to Mooner ended up with Moon and Savo having shots blocked in a crowded box before Mooner shot over the bar. Irvine and Swankie combined next with Moon before a good cutback from Swankie was stuck just wide by Sammy. Then Liam cut in from the left and played the ball in for Savo who dummied it in the box but Hardie was unable to make room to turn. There was more controversy a minute later with Sammy making a run on the right before crossing. Sheerinho came in at the far post with a volley that seemed to be handled as it blasted across the goal. Richmond waived away the penalty claims and gave us a corner which ended up in nothing more than a Mooner shot being held by Robinson.

Time for the party streamers to get put away then as in the 54th minute a seemingly harmless piece of play from Mooner and Ando ended up with the latter losing the ball to Pieman who broke inside the right and finished with a low drive past Main to make it two-nil. Saints were simply punished by a quick breakaway for being far, far too slow to play the ball and too casual in their approach - if anything that goal typified some of our play this season and explains why we're not currently relaxing having been crowned champions. It knocked the stuffing out of the crowd as well and suddenly McDiarmid was a very flat place to be.

We tried to get back into the game with Sheerinho and Sammy winning a corner but yet again Swankie's effort was easily dealt with by the keeper. That was enough for Del and on the hour mark Homer and Millar came on to replace Swankie and Hardie. A minute later we had a decent claim for a penalty when Sammy was barged down in the box but as usual Richmond was having none of it. A Scally foul on Millar was easily cleared but with half an hour still remaining the TV director must have been well pissed off as Robinson started timewasting for the visitors nice and early.

Not that we threatened much with plenty of pretty passing in midfield but a complete lack of end product to show for it. A foul on Homer in the 69th minute was taken quickly and the freekick found Liam but his effort went wide. Then Sheerinho played a great ball through for Mooner who flicked it onto Irvine just inside only for the linesman to flag Mooner offside - one of several poor decisions he made. We were getting some decent crosses in but not really threatening much and while Queens were comfortable to just sit back, it seemed that the likes of Sheerinho and Mooner could go all day without creating any chances for us. There was some entertainment in defence with a Rustybitz clearance coming off Kean's face - it let their physio on and the clock run down a bit more.

Millar and Irvine linked well in the 79th minute for a cross which Sammy headed down but the final shot from Millar was held. But with 9 minutes remaining the pressure paid off as a good break saw a lovely cross in from Millar on the right and for once Homer's head was pointing in the right direction as he made contact with the ball going in low to Robinson's right side. Two- one and you could feel the confidence take a boost with Sammy sprinting to take the ball back to the centre circle.

Suddenly it was all Saints and with Tosh on for the visitors it seemed like we were constantly in the Doonhamer's half. A long ball from Liam a minute later down the middle was headed across goal by Ando for Savo who was blatantly held. No penalty and when the ball broke to Homer his shot was well blocked. Millar and Irvine linked well again a couple of minutes later with the latter going through the middle before shooting wide - no repeat of last weekend's heroics. Then with four minutes remaining Millar had another run down the right. He played a seemingly harmless cross into the six yard box where Thomson suddenly appeared to somehow bullet a header past his own keeper. Stunned silence for all of ten milliseconds before the Saints fans went absolutely mental.

We kept chasing the game as well with the bit firmly between our teeth. Sammy won a corner next and while it was cleared Mooner played a decent ball back in as the Queens defence was kept under pressure. Queens had a late chance as well with Kean breaking - thankfully Liam and Main were there to block and concede a corner. That was well-worked as well with a ball out to the edge of the box volleyed over the bar. Saints went up the park as the game entered injury-time with Irvine playing the ball forward for Sammy who sent a low cutback across the goal for Homer but his shot was weak and held. Liam had a freekick held in the 92nd minute and then the fates played their last card.

All the phrases about not counting your chickens and tempting fate came back to haunt us with the sort of Grady-esque kick in the teeth that usually torments us at this time of the season. A long ball forward and there was Stewart Kean in space and apparently onside bearing down. Main tried to cover the angle but a low shot from the right went into the net. Three-two to them and a scoreline we didn't deserve to be on the end of. At least when the final whistle went there was still some defiant singing from the faithful.

All of the good work from last week was undone today and while we're still in front, there's no denying that it's a psychological boost for the Wegie luvvies. Saints just didn't perform when it mattered today - we lost three bad and similar goals and the midfield just didn't get going until the second-half. Too many players didn't make the grade today and while there were some players who put in a shift (Irvine, Sheerin and my MoM Sammy) the plain fact is that we looked like a side that had been reading our own press all week. The league isn't over yet and the quicker that point is hammered home by the management the better.

Come on Saints - don't blow it now.


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LEAGUE TABLE

Team P W D L F A Pts
Saints 33 14 14 5 47 33 56
Partick Thistle 33 15 7 11 37 33 52
Morton 33 12 11 10 38 33 47
Scumdee 33 12 11 10 29 29 47
Livingston 33 13 6 14 52 53 45
Dunfermline 33 12 8 13 46 42 44
Queen of the South 33 11 10 12 48 44 43
Ross Co 33 12 7 14 38 43 43
Airdrie United 33 8 12 13 27 39 36
Clyde 33 9 8 16 37 50 35

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