Saints 2 Accies 3 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Mackay, Danny, Morris, Doobs, Garters, Millar,
Davidson, Savo, Sammy, Craig
Subs: Duffy, Sheerinho, Rustybitz, Jacko, Deuchar, Sheridan, Irvine
After the disappointment of the goalless draw failing to dump the Bairns in midweek Saints went into the final game of the season knowing a point would be enough to secure 7th spot and round off a pretty successful return to the SPL for Del's boys. While a lot of the talk has been about planning for next season with the likes of Jacko getting a six-month deal yesterday, the financial difference between finishing seventh and eighth could make the difference in terms of the squad plans for the coming year. Added to that we had a lot of professional pride to play for and while Accies have been getting plenty of plaudits for apparently playing football (instead of their usual timewasting), we still owed them for the defeat we suffered at New Douglas Park last time the sides met.
The midweek draw had seen us continue the poor form we've shown recently with the boys slow to get going and suffering from the end of season malaise which has seen us struggle to dominate games the way we did earlier in the year. But with Del planning to end the season on a high in front of the Saints fans, we at least had the hope for some entertainment - especially with Badger Reid's mob knowing they'd have to venture forward if they wanted to snatch seventh spot.
Accies have had a good season and seem to have established themselves in the SPL. Reid has them playing decent football when they stop timewasting and their defence has been one of the most miserly in the league this year.The loss of McArthur in the summer will no doubt have an impact but the money in the bank will at least help compensate them for a home support which at times has been woeful this season in failing to back their side - such are the joys of living in the shadow of the Bigot Brothers.
As a spectacle, the game wasn't too bad but unfortunately the talking points tonight will be all about the referee who put on the sort of performance that made Thomson in midweek look class. Aided and abetted by a couple of assistants who wouldn't have looked out of place in a DVD of how not to officiate a football game, two of the goals for the opposition came from controversial incidents while the Accies keeper only stayed on the park thanks to some dodgy photos of the referee he has in a bank vault somewhere. For Saints it was a sad way for some of the players to end their time at McDiarmid but for others they gave hope that Del has plenty to build on for next season. As for Accies - the quicker the SPL is rid of their cheating and timewasting the better it will be all round.
There were going to be more than a few farewells today with Doobs set to play his final game in Saints colours. The likes of Sheerinho, Swankie and co were also likely to be taking their bows today ahead of next week's expected clearout. Added to that there were likely to be additional changes to the Saints lineup. Fil Morais missed out again with a swollen knee while Liam was flirting with a suspension (surprise, surprise) so was rested in midweek. Murray Davidson started at Falkirk but had been ill and was soon replaced so he was another doubt, although the performance of his replacement in Josh Falkingham was one of the few positives to be taken from the game.
He was missing from the squad though and Del's starting lineup showed two changes from midweek with Ando replaced by Garters and Liam Craig restored to the midfield in preference to Sheridan while Savo started instead of the Doc he joined Cillian on the bench. For Accies Cerny was replaced in goals by Murdoch as Badger Boy started with Neil and the Piehole brothers up front with wonderkid McArthur in midfield.
The last game of the season saw a decent crowd turn up with the Accies support managing triple figures for a change. Saints started poorly though as Accies went on the attack from kick-off. We managed the first chance of the game though after McLenahan got the first of several challenges in on Millar. Liam's freekick found Doobs but his header was held by the keeper. But with five minutes gone the referee showed his colours. First up a Neil shove on Sammy went unpunished but almost immediately a Davidson approach to one of the Pieholes turned into a freekick to Accies. Smithy did well to tip a curling effort over the bar but from the corner, despite Davidson heading the ball clear, Accies took the lead when the ball was headed back into the box and McLaughlin who looked yards offside headed the ball over Smith into the net.
Within seconds Accies were in full timewasting mode (or the Billy Reid Book of Tactics as we know it). Accies were still pressing on occasion though and in the tenth minute Garters was beaten for pace by a Piehole but thankfully the cutback was cleared by Millar. But with Saints looking jaded and disjointed, Accies doubled their lead three minutes later after a break down the right saw one of them take a tumble on the edge of the box. Imrie blasted the freekick past the wall and a static Smith to make it 2-0 although to be fair there was little the keeper could do against such a good finish.
The goal almost sparked us into life but with Sammy and Savo up front we persisted with too many high balls forward and these were easily dealt with by the Accies defence. Sammy and Mackay managed to link up well on the right and Mackay found Davidson making a run in the inside channel but his cross was cleared. Mackay sent another cross in which won us our first corner. That ended with a nice Jody chip across the goal but the Accies keeper beat Doobs to the ball at the back post. We were unable to capitalise again on any set pieces - a freekick after Savo was taken out was cleared and Grainger failed to cause any problems with a long throw.
We almost took advantage in the 23rd minute after a poor kickout from the Accies keeper. Murray got onto the ball and released Savo who tried a first time effort from thirty yards out but the goalie got back to tip the low shot wide and the corner came to nothing. Davidson tried a cross in the 26th minute but Liam's headr was well wide of goal. Liam won us a freekick a minute later and when it was played into the box Davidson managed a tight shot that went into the side netting. Sammy won us a corner next and that ended with a Davidson header deflected wide. The second corner saw Liam lose out to Murdoch. We were creating chances but nothing clearcut as Accies sat back and defended in depth.
Another freekick on the half hour mark for us saw Millar played a good deep cross over for Doobs but his header went out for a corner - Mackay's inswinger was cleared. A minute later and the game almost boiled over. Weslowski went in on Millar "injuring" himself in the process and incurring the anger of the Saints midfielder. The referee came over to calm things down and warned Chrissy for his conduct - an action that set the tone for things to come. The freekick forward almost reached Jody but he was ruled offside.
Still we kept up the pressure with a Millar run setting up Sammy but his cross was cleared. Liam had a break but instead of squaring to Sammy supporting on the right he went for a shot that blasted over the bar. There was another row in the 38th minute when a long ball from Danny in defence ended with Sammy taken out and needing treatment but the referee ruling that there hadn't even been a foul. But if we thought that decision was bad, four minutes from the break a seemingly harmless ball down the middle for Savo saw him just lose out as Murdoch came to gather - except that the keeper ended up with both feet outside his box as he caught the ball. The linesman refused to flag and the East Stand erupted in anger.
That as much as anything else possibly served to fire us up for the second-half but Del made an early change as Garters was replaced by the Doc with Liam dropping to left-back and Grainger moving into a more central role. Accies had the first chance of the half but Smithy held the ball easily. But three minutes after the restart a good ball from Mackay saw the Doc play a one-two with Savo to get into the box. The defence managed to block the shot and the ball broke to the right where Millar played a great cross in that was perfectly met by the onrushing Davidson as he ghosted into the box to head the ball in from 12 yards out. Game on indeed.
Accies tried their luck after winning a soft corner a minute later but that was easily cleared to McArthur whose shot was well blocked. Saints seemed to have the upper-hand though and a Mackay throw-in in the 51st minute was met by the Doc but his header was held. Two minutes after that and Liam and Sammy combined to win a corner that was headed behind only for the referee to give a goal kick.
Accies had another break in the 54th minute after a blatant handball was ignored by the referee (using the time old shrug of the shoulders). The got down the left and beat Doobs but the final shot went over the bar. Saints though were starting to control the midfield and next up the Doc linked well with the impressive Chris Millar who released Mackay on a run into the box but his shot was blocked. Millar was there for the follow-up but his effort was held. Millar had another run down the right again with a cross for the Doc headed behind by a defender - only for the referee to give a freekick to Accies. But if that was controversial, in the 61st minute the referee managed to top that. A harmless long ball forward was chased by Sammy into space on the right touchline only for the keeper to come out and gather the ball - normally this is acceptable but he was well out of his box again and even the referee had to give a freekick - although the anger came when Murdoch was shown a yellow card only for handling. The resulting freekick came to nothing. Davidson and
Sammy linked for a cross that found no takers before the 65th minute saw the game turn again. Morris played a long ball for Millar on the right and his cross for the Doc saw Murdoch bring down the Saints striker. Collum pointed to the spot but somehow managed to fail to produce another card. Liam took the spot kick and although the keeper blocked his first effort, he poked home the rebound to make it two-all. We could have had a third a couple of minutes later in what would have been the goal of the season (better than anything a Sheridan wannabe can produce at Fir Park anyway). Savo and Millar linked in the middle of the park with a Millar header for the Doc headed back to Millar who chipped it forward for the Doc and from fully 40 yards out Deuchar fired a cracking first time volley that went just wide of the goal.
Doobs set up the next move from a great blocking tackle in the 69th minute. His long ball found Sammy who settled for a throw-in with Liam winning a corner from the shy. That moved to a corner thanks to a Deuchar header and that was eventually played in by Mackay for Chris at the edge of the box but his good volley went just over the bar. Millar and the Doc linked up next to release Savo down the right but he was upended at the edge of the box. Jody was the surprise choice for the freekick and his low effort beat the wall only to be turned round the post. The corner was headed across goal by Doobs before the panicky Accies defence again cleared the danger. The second corner obviously had the referee worried and the whistle went for a foul against Doobs. Davidson picked up a booking for a late tackle although it was little worse than what had gone before.
Del made a surprise change in the 73rd minute with Irvine coming onto the right midfield in place of Millar and that seemed to reduce the effectiveness of the attack down that flank. We were doing enough though even managing to deal with the sudden hurry for Murdoch to take his goal kicks. Accies had a good break in the 76th minute with Doobs and Grainger missing out with their challenges. A simple square ball ended with a poor shot that went over Smithy's crossbar. Saints were straight back up the park and Deuchar had a shot from the edge of the box blocked and Davidson's follow-up run into the box was ended with a solid tackle.
But with 11 minutes to go a handball kicked off another Accies break and with Imrie down the right just outpacing Grainger, he managed to get to the byeline and played a low cutback into the box and Weslowski was there to slot the ball home to give them the lead and seventh spot - with an immediate winding down of their play and a return to the timewasting.
Del's final throw of the dice saw Sheerinho come on for Sammy. Savo had a good cross held by the keeper in the 81st minute but we were rapidly running out of time and ideas with the front men crowded out as Accies packed their defence. And with five minutes to go it boiled over in the dugouts as Del went into the Accies technical area to retrieve a ball. Badger Boy threw a tantrum and the end result was Collum going over for to send Del to the stand. We fought to the end and a long freekick in injury time was headed on by the Doc but went behind for a corner but that simply ended with the referee giving another foul in favour of the Accies defence.
The result was a sore one to take especially given the tactics of both the opposition and the assistance provided to them by the match officials. For all that Saints again struggled to get going and lacked a wee bit of punch up front with high balls for the likes of Savo and Sammy pretty much wasted. But there were plenty of positives - Millar and Davidson (my MoM) did well in midfield and the Doc provided a big threat when he came off the bench. More than enough to look forward to for next season. Finally it was good to see the players coming over to take their bows at the end with Doobs and Sheerinho saying their farewells.
And that was that.
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