Sheep 1 Saints 3 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Irvine, Liam, Morris, Doobs, Ando, Millar, Davidson,
Deuchar, Sheridan, Morais
Subs: Main, Rustybitz, Garters, Swankie, Sheerinho, Sammy, Jacko
It's been a long, hard season so far and while we look like being safe from the drop, the blip in the season last Monday night was a stark reminder how fine a the line is between success and failure in this league. Going into the final set of games before the split, the reverse against the Arabs meant that we were relying on Calderwood's Killie to get a win at Tynecastle to keep the hopes of a top six slot alive. That was killed off yesterday but with plenty of pride and financial rewards at stake for finishing seventh, we still wanted to finish as high up the table as possible. Besides at least the bottom six was going to provide a bit more drama than anything else.
Saints had to go all out this weekend for several reasons. The need to extend the gap between us and the bottom slot was paramount (I mean who wanted to be back in the First Division with Scumdee again). But in addition there was a feeling that we'd not done ourselves justice in the visit earlier in the season to the Granite City when some dodgy refereeing decisions and spoiling tactics from the home side saw them edge out two-one winners. And of course even allowing for all that, there was the comforting thought that a Saints win would hammer another few nails into the managerial coffin of Mark McGhee - I mean they weren't even trying against Walter's Wallys in midweek which probably says a lot more than anything else about how poor Aberdeen have been this season. Still the pre-match psychology of McGhee and his talk about relegation had ensured that the home support were more nervous than a Tory at a Scottish election count (and to be fair the reasoning behind their sphincter situation was pretty justified).
The Sheep had tried to ensure we'd all get out of our pits at the crack of dawn for this one with half-price admission on the cards to try and entice the Saints fans to make the trip north (not that Sunday's public transport timetables helped much). But even so there was a reasonable travelling support in the ground as the Saints fans tried to make a day of it - we outsang the home fans for the ninety minutes and showed them what backing your team really means.
The game itself had the air of anti-climax about it after yesterday's results but while we're now set for the delights of the SPL for the 2010-11 season, the home side are battling the drop. But the Sheep showed about as much fight as the Evil Ones did against County yesterday while Saints controlled the game for long spells and despite a referee that made the Gordon Smith look like a competent official, we never looked in any danger of losing the match - even when we went behind. There are plenty of knocks and tired legs in the Saints dressing- room tonight but even so the whole squad played their part in a victory that we thoroughly deserved. Del can plan for next season now safe in the knowledge that we have the core of a solid team that can more than hold their own in this league - the words "job" and "done" for this season spring to mind.
The on-form Danny Grainger was forced to sit this one out after hitting the "Naughty Step" points threshold. But he exchanged places with Murray Davidson who was back in the squad after missing out against the Arabs over Easter. Elsewhere in the squad and Sheerinho was over his ankle injury and back in the squad while we'd also managed a midweek closed doors run out against First Division mid-table strugglers Scumdee with Jacko and Sammy risking scabies and lice- infestations to mix with the Scumdonians on the pitch as they notched up goals for Saints. They all made the bench as Morais and Davidson came into the starting lineup. There was a switch about in defence though as Irvine moved to right-back with Dave Mackay ruled out through injury. Sheridan and the Doc started up front again. With Danny out Liam slotted in at left-back allowing Fil to start on the wing.
For the Sheep, EU child labour laws meant that Fyvie the Wonderkid was kept on the bench. Still they provided some entertainment for the Saints fans with ex-Coag Langfield in goal in front of us to provide the main focus of the Saintee songsheet. But even during the pre-match warmup the home players looked about as upbeat and lively as their manager's demeanour.
Saints started the game well with the midfield taking control early in the game. The Doc and Sheridan were running about all over the place. By the third minute Millar and Irvine linked on the right flank for the latter to send a teasing cross in that was headed behind for a corner. That was targeted at Doobs but Langfield got his grubby paws on the ball first. Sheridan had a good break a minute later but Diamond got in to foul the Saints striker. Fil's freekick was cleared. Aberdeen's only attempt in the opening stages was a couple of long balls - Smithy dealing with them comfortably. More good play from Saints in the 5th minute saw Sheridan release Fil on a run down the left but his final cross was again snatched by Langfield like a Coagie taking an OAP's pension book.
The Sheep almost threatened with a cross of their own in the 9th minute but a sneaky dummy by Gary Irvine allowed Saints to clear the danger. Two minutes later an a powerful header from Doobs set up Sheridan who released Fil . He played the ball over for Millar on the right who went on a wee run before playing a cross in for the Doc but his final header went just behind the goal. With thirteen minutes on the clock the Sheep finally managed to cause us a smidgen of concern as a long ball forward for MacLean saw him almost get in on Smithy but like the 7th Cavalry, Liam cut in from the side to clear the danger.
But four minutes later we weren't quite so lucky. More Sheep pressure saw Saints struggle to clear their lines in the box and after Liam failed to clear a header, the ball was cut across the crowded penalty area where the unmarked Mackie was in to blast the ball into the net. The sweetie wrappers rustled in applause in the home end while the Saints fans just sang all the louder.
The referee was starting to show his colours as a late challenge from Marshall on Millar went unpunished. But with twenty minutes gone we finally got a freekick after Mulgrew went through on the Doc, Liam took the freekick from out on the right touchline and found the Doc in the box (well Davidson was being held) who sprang up like Zebedee on speed to outjump both the defence and the floundering Langfield. One looping header later and the ball was nestling in the net. The celebrations of the players and fans showed that for at least one side today the game meant something.
As you'd expect, the goal lifted the spirits and the early confidence was soon flowing back through the Saints side. Doobs went on a good run from the middle of defence before he was upended by Grassi in the 24th minute. But a minute later more good pressure saw Chris Millar play the ball into the box. It was half-cleared to Muzz and he went down injured after a Grassi challenge. But the ball found Sheridan. He was blocked and the ball ended up with Jody who played a lovely weighted through ball behind the defence. Sheridan ran onto it, got into the box and decided against a spectacular finish, instead opting for a low angled drive past Langfield and into the net to give us the lead.
Davidson recovered after treatment as we kept up the pressure. Millar saw a good pass to Sheridan intercepted before Fil went on a run and won a corner in the 28th minute. That was all too easily cleared as were follow-up crosses from Irvine and Liam. But even so, the Sheep defence looked as shaky as an ageing Welsh bloke singing "Green Door". When they did press it seemed that Irvine was the one being put under most pressure but while Gary was guilty of hesitating on the ball a few times, with Millar in front and the Godlike Doobs covering in the middle we were never really under any danger. Irvine was involved in the 33rd minute when Grassi decided to slide in on him on the touchline - the Aberdeen player earning a yellow card for his trouble. The resulting freekick was sent over and ended with a Fil cross into the middle for Muzz but his header went just wide of goal.
Two minutes later and a foul against Millar saw a Sheep freekick find Grassi but despite us showing plenty of sportsmanship and generosity his free header sailed well over the bar. Our next attack through the Doc was broken up too easily but when the Dons pressed, Irvine and Jody were there to clear the danger. Deuchar had another good run in the 41st minute but despite that being ended early after he was sandwiched by a couple of red shirts, the referee waived play on.
As the half drew to a close Smithy was finally called into action as an Ifil cross from their right beat Liam and was headed on at the near post - the Saints keeper reacting well to tip the ball out for a corner. That was headed goalwards but Smith held the ball easily. Saints went up the park and from a Doobs freekick we saw both the Doc and Davidson mishit the ball. The Sheep countered and despite the challenge being softer than an Andrex puppy on a bed of feathers, Doobs ended up with another booking to his name for his part in the affair - there's a definite case for victimisation there. Mulgrew tried a long- range freekick but Smith was again up to the job.
The second half got off to a quiet start (almost as quiet as the home fans in fact). Millar tried to set up the Doc early doors but Deuchar was just too slow to reach the ball. We had a freekick cleared after Grassi again fouled Davidson and then Sheridan almost beat Mulgrew to a through ball but Langfield was quick to come out to gather the ball. The Sheep got a let off with another soft freekick against Doobs at the edge of the box in the 52nd minute. Mulgrew's effort though didn't even beat the wall and when we broke from defence it was down the left in the form of Fil Morais. Felipe went for a sprint down the left touchline and ran almost the length of the pitch before a cutback was grabbed by Langfield just in front of Sheridan.
A minute later another Saints freekick into the box wasn't headed clear only to find Davidson but his shot went wide of goal. The Dons got another free chance in the 57th minute when a Marshall challenge on Ando was deemed to be a handball by the referee. The freekick from the edge of the box though lived up to the home side's form as the ball sailed over the bar. Aberdeen were getting the benefit of the decisions as the game for a bit scrappier with another foul against Ando a minute later. The freekick into the box this time ended in a header going wide of target. Back up the other end and Morais saw a good cross that targeted Sheridan cut out by the keeper. Then the Doc hassled Foster to win the ball back on the edge of their box, setting up Millar who released Davidson on the overlap but his cross went behind.
Millar set up the Doc again a minute later and his header on for Sheridan was just behind Cillian. But with 64 minutes gone a Liam freekick into the box was headed on to the Doc. His header was blocked and tipped clear but only as far as Sheridan and he drove the ball into the net for our third . The ball obviously hit some magic button in the goal as a Pavolvian reaction was triggered in the home fans who rushed for the exits with all the haste as if they'd heard someone had dropped ten pence outside the ground. As for the Saints fans we just sang our hearts out.
The attempts got cheekier as it seemed the points were in the back. Deuchar had one good run from defence but was downed on the edge of the box - no freekick though. Sheridan tried his luck from fully 40 yards out in the 68th minute but his attempt was held. Then a Fil freekick from the left ended in a Saints header held by Langfield. McGhee decided to risk the wrath of Brussels and on came Fyvie the Wonderkid with the promise of an extra lollipop if he could salvage their season. He managed an offside run down the right in the 74th minute, cutting in and firing in a decent shot that forced Smithy into a good block. Smith held the corner comfortably.
Another couple of corners for them saw the Saints defence under a wee bit of pressure but without really looking like their goal was threatened. But Davidson broke up the park in the 76th minute riding out a cynical challenge from Kerr to set up the Doc on the right but the Saints striker was eventually tackled in the Dons' box. Fil was replaced by Sammy in the 78th minute as Del made his first change of the afternoon.
Then, with ten minutes remaining Fyvie managed a shot over the bar but it was just a pity that he'd fouled Liam in the build-up (although Liam's street cred at being easily shoved off the ball by a bairn also took a bit of a battering). The Sheep threw everything forward. Foster sent a shot well wide. For Saints, the legs were starting to tire and we were struggling to link up going forward. A Sheridan and Millar break ended up with Irvine fouled on the right. The freekick into the box was laid off by Sheridan for Davidson but a sheep managed to get a tackle in first. Sheridan picked up a booking after a clash with Young although the Dons sub escaped punishment for raising his hands in the incident as the game continued to get niggly. Sheridan went off five minutes from the end to be replaced by Sheerinho.
Fyvie managed to threaten enough of a tantrum that he was awarded a foul against Liam. The freekick in was headed behind by the immense Doobs. That led to a couple of corners as we reached the end of normal time but Aberdeen offered nothing in attack with Millar, Morris and the defence clearing everything. Jacko replaced the Doc for the few minutes of injury time and we ended the afternoon in their half again as Sheerinho forced a corner. Liam and Sammy played it short but the ball went out for a shy against the Sheep. Liam must have said something as he was booked in the aftermath. And that was it as the final whistle saw the Saints celebrate and the Sheep head off with their tails between their legs - when even the protests suffer from apathy you can tell all is not well.
Saints performance overall was more workmanlike than anything. We did well and won the game but we also tired a lot in the second-half. Doobs was immense at the back while Millar, Davidson and Liam all played well. But MoM for me was Sheridan who covered every blade of grass and scored another couple of cracking goals. Good to see Jacko back on the park and hopefully we'll get a chance in the remaining games to see some of the many injured players that have been missing for most of the season get a run out.
Mind you we can still help relegate the Sheep and Mark McGhee so there's still a lot to play for.
This Match Report is copyright Temple Of Saints - not to be reused without permission. Contact email@example.com.
Remember to vote on todays ref Callum Murray send marks out of 10 to firstname.lastname@example.org or just select a rating and press the button below ::