Accies 1 Saints 0 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Connolly, Grainger, Morris, Doobs, Mackay, Millar, Davidson, Deuchar, Morais, Craig
Subs: Main, Irvine, Anderson, Swankie, Sheerinho, Sammy, Sheridan
This afternoon saw the last of our so-called "easy" games before the split, with a trip to New Douglas Park to see if we could get back to winning ways following the disappointing draw with the Bairns in midweek. While the consensus seemed to be in punditland that we were safe from the drop, there was still the outside chance of catching the Jambos in the chase for the remaining top six slot. To do that though we pretty much had to win today against an Accies side that were still fighting for their SPL place. So an afternoon of brilliant entertainment awaited? Nope more like the usual drudgery, scrappy play and timewasting tactics that are so obvious they make Steven "I'm no' givin' you the ball" Pressley look like an ambassador for Fair Play.
Unfortunately the midweek draw against Falkirk had seen us look more jaded and battle-weary than a Dundee manager that's top of the league. So, Saints went into their fifth game in fourteen days looking to get back on track. Last Tuesday hadn't been a total disaster and the boys were still putting in plenty of guts and sweat into their performance but the slick teamwork and extra pace we'd seen earlier in the season had been missing for large parts of the game - although ironically Morais' goal showed just what we were capable of. Things hadn't been helped by the injury situation and that showed no real sign of easing.
Accies meanwhile had struggled for long spells this season and had lost twice to us already in the campaign. But they'd been on a good run recently, losing only once in their last eight and a deserved midweek win at Rugby Park meant that they were sneaking up behind us. Combined with the Midden hammering another nail into Mowbray's Sellik career, it meant that the pressure was on Saints to get a win - still it was nice to go in as the underdogs for a change.
Unfortunately Saints managed to turn in an insipid performance lacking in any real inspiration, leadership or creativity. We were out-muscled, out-played and the players looked to be going through the motions. Too many of the side have got themselves into a comfort zone and look badly in need of a rest - Jody, Millar and Morais were all poor. Del had other problems with Deuchar forced to go off and a referee who dished out more cards than Clintons along with an Accies side that, surprise, surprise, indulged in the sort of timewasting that makes you want a refund on the admission based on a game only lasting about 20 minutes of real play. But that doesn't excuse the manner that we slipped up - we're not playing to our strengths and that is costing us points. Forget about top six, I'll be happy to see us get back to playing the sort of football that entertained us at the start of the season.
The treatment room was still full of walking wounded although spirits had been lifted slightly by the return of Sammy to the Saints bench. But the likes of Jody and Murray were plainly less than fully fit and the striking situation showed no real sign of improving - Jacko was back from his loan but already injured, although there was a wee boost with the return of the Doc after his ankle injury last weekend. Also back in the squad were Ando and Garters which did at least give Del the option of resting the arguably off-form Gary Irvine, although the right-back had been part of the pre-match hype and if he played he'd notch up his 100th game for Saints. Smithy had taken some undeserved stick for the kickout that led to the Bairns goal but his double-save at the end of the game ensured he kept the number one jersey. For the rest of the side it was a case of seeing who was fit and Del ended up making two changes to the Falkirk lineup. Irvine's 100th start went on hold as loan kid Mark Connolly got a start at right-back while the Doc replaced Sheridan up front.
Accies had porn star wannabe (well going by the name anyway) Trent McLenahan back in their side but he sat on the bench. Midweek goal hero Simon "Clogger" Mensing was in the squad along with Mikael Dundee Courier so there was always going to be plenty of entertainment for the Saints support that made the journey - especially since unlike the Tattiedome there was a reasonable chance we could sing what we wanted as opposed to reciting from the ApprovedBySellikFootballClub Songbook.
Saints fans saw a decent start from the boys with Saints playing against the wind. But chances were rarer than a Savo goal. The Doc in the third minute headed the ball on for Millar who tried to set up Fil on the right but he put the ball behind. Neil fouled Morris a minute later. Danny took a long freekick which Mackay headed back across the goal for Fil who played it in for Doobs but his header went just wide (shades of Tuesday there) for a corner - that saw referee Crawford Allan (or Mr Inept) give a foul against Murray. Liam saw a cross cleared next. The ball came for Danny who linked with Jody and Millar but again we couldn't find that final pass.
Grainger found the Doc on a run in the 8th minute but in a rare show of pace Cerny came out to gather the ball (proving in the process that he can move faster than a bloody snail). A minute later and Grainger had a decent break setting up the Doc down the left. He passed it back to Danny who squared to Jody at the edge of the box but his shot straight at the keeper. Accies managed their first chance in the 10th minute with a quick break which caught us flat-footed and a cross for Dundee Courier but his header went wide of the goal. Back at the other end Grainger saw a decent cross cleared as we struggled to get any linkup play going with the forwards. Deuchar won us a freekick in the 18th minute and Fil's effort into the box saw Mackay rise up at the back of the post but a defender got in to concede the corner - we managed to waste that brilliantly.
Hamilton mounted another attack and Paixao (in the sort of banana-skin coloured boots that no doubt contributed to the way he slipped and dived all over the park) broke into the box but Millar got back to make a great tackle. Easton broke down their left again as Connolly struggled for positioning but his cross only reached Courier and all he could do was head the ball wide. Another break saw Davidson back to make the covering tackle as we began to struggle for position.
Mackay and Doobs were doing well in defence but with the best will in the world they're not creative players and too often the lines were cleared with a hopeful punt up the park. That's where Jody, Millar and co should come in but they were too slow and too easily bossed off the ball. Connolly lost the ball again in the 26th minute but Doobs covered and found the Doc with a long ball. He tried to set up Liam on a run but he was too slow and Mensing got back to clear. Connolly got caught again a minute later. This time Mackay and Davidson headed the cross out of danger but the latter was unfortunately near Weslowski and he dropped to the deck to con the referee. The freekick was fired straight at the wall, and when Curier played it back in (looking suspiciously offside) Smith was alert enough to get out and gather the ball.
We were causing little threat up front as the half wore on with a long freekick finding the Doc in the 34th minute but his header saw no supporting blue shirt and a daft foul from Morris broke up our attack. Connolly became the first name in the book a minute later for a late foul on Bananaman which was probably fair but when Davidson was upended a few minutes after that and the referee gave the freekick to the home side you could just see what we were up against.
It got even worse in the 41st minute as a perfectly fair ball-winning tackle from Doobs on Bananaman saw the referee not only give the foul to Accies but dish out a booking to Doobs. Accies MacArthur picked up a booking for dissent in the aftermath. Muzz headed the freekick clear. Saints took the play up the park and a good long ball found Liam in space. He opted for an early cross when he perhaps could have taken it further. The ball found Davidson but his header was cleared. Suddenly Accies broke up the park and the Saints midfield and defence sat back. That was punished as from the edge of the box Weslowski fired a low shot through umpteen blue shirts and into the bottom corner of the net although to be fair to Smith he almost got his fingers to it. Another messy goal to lose and the sight of Morris bollocking out Davidson as we waited to restart the game showed just how much the side is lacking discipline and responsibility.
Accies almost doubled their lead before the break with Imrie managing an offside run and cutback but Mackay was there to put the ball out for a corner. The inswinger was headed behind for another corner but Morais blocked this one. The half ended with another dive on the wing from Imrie that again went unpunished.
Deuchar had taken a head knock in the middle of the first-half and he failed to reappear for the second period, being replaced by Sammy. Del also switched the defence about as the disappointing Connolly was replaced by Ando with Mackay going to right-back. We started the second-half looking a bit brighter and a long freekick from Grainger in the 46th minute almost found Doobz but his challenge for the ball with Cerny saw the Accies keeper drop for the first piece of second-half timewasting. Accies were putting in a lot of fouls on Saints players but despite playing some decent freekicks forward the ball was still spending too much time in the air and with Sammy and Morais leading the line we were pretty much ineffective.
Liam tried to set up Sammy but his cross was cleared. Morais was clobbered by McLaughlin in an echo of the foul by Connolly on Bananaman but the referee kept his cards in his pocket. Accies had a corner off Davidson but that ended in a foul on Smith. The game was degenerating into a pretty turgid battle with little in the way of goalmouth action or scoring chances. A Mackay shy in the 57th minute found Morris who set up Fil to cut in from the right but his shot was deflected wide of goal and held by Cerny.
Come the hour mark and another shy forward saw Liam get into the box and try to chip Cerny but he tipped the ball behind for a corner. Grainger's effort was punched clear as far as Liam and his shot was deflected out for another corner. Morais' inswinger was cleared but we managed to win another couple of corners. The last almost came to something as a powerful one from Morais was almost headed in by Sammy at the near post before being headed wide by Ando at the back post. At least we got a bit more entertainment with some of the Accies players practicing their handbag throwing at one another, and Cerny warned for timewasting.
Morais saw a couple of crosses held by the keeper as we tried to chase an equaliser but it was Accies that came closer to scoring in the 68th minute with a cross from the left ending in a powerful header that Smith did well to tip over the bar. The corner thankfully came to nothing. Three minutes later there was more controversy for the referee as Bananaman slipped on some stray grease in the box in a desperate attempt to get a penalty. None was awarded and despite the dramatic reaction of Bananaman, the referee managed to keep his cards in his pocket - consistency was not his middle name. As the half wore on we were trying to press forward but it was looking less and less likely we'd achieve anything.
Liam, Sammy and Morais all saw crosses cleared with the closest we came to being rewarded being a Davidson header that was punched clear. Accies pressed and managed a break where both Mackay and Doobs were skinned on the left but thankfully Ando was there to clear the danger. Bananaman skinned Mackay again in the 75th minute but Doobs managed a half-clearance (well a total sclaff) to ease the danger before Danny cleared our lines. A minute later an Accies freekick was headed across the goal again and ended in a shot over the bar.
Del's final throw of the dice saw Sheridan replace Davidson with Fil dropping to the right side of midfield. We managed a couple of freekicks but couldn't find a way through the defence. Accies had a long-range shot go wide but the best we could managed was a Morais shot being easily blocked. More pressure saw Morais set up Sammy with five minutes to go but again there was no real movement or support to get the ball into the box. The final minutes saw the Saints discipline and the referee's patience clash with Morris and Grainger booked (the latter a bit harshly) followed by Liam Craig after the final whistle.
It was that sort of totally pish afternoon that we'd thought we'd seen the back of. Arguably our worst performance of the season - the injuries aren't an excuse especially for the lack of movement and creativity on show. The referee has to take some of the flak but we're starting to look jaded and tired. MoM for me was probably Doobs who rarely put a foot wrong but not many got above average. Maybe Del has to look beyond the usual faces to freshen up the squad - as it is we have three tough games before the split. We need to restore some of the faith amongst the fans by then so we can at least have some hope to finish the season on a high.
Starting with TFOD might make up for this afternoon.
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