Arbroath 0 Saints 6
Team : Main, Mackay, Grainger, Sheerinho, Garters, Caff, Liam,
Hardie, Savo, Doc, Morais
Subs: McLean, Irvine, Swankie, Millar, Sammy
After the fun and games of being the underdogs at the weekend it was back to earth tonight with the trip to Gayfield for the CIS tie. Of course nowadays we're the favourites for these sort of games so while there was a fair bit of confidence as we made the journey east, there was also the warning note in the back of our minds that a bad result tonight would see Saints making the headlines for the wrong reasons. But our record against Arbroath hasn't been too bad in recent years and despite our opponents enjoying life at the top of the Second Division, there was little to really be worried about.
The game itself was almost nervous for us for the first 20 minutes but to be honest Main wasn't tested as the back four was as reliable as a Caldwell cock-up while up front the strikers turned on the style to have us four up by the break to kill off the home side and that was followed up by another couple in the second period as the game turned into more of a training exercise than anything else. While there might not be much to take from the game, the professional way the players went about their job tonight was a credit to Del and let's face it you can't complain at a six-nil win.
Del had the chance to freshen things up a bit and try out some of the fringe players and subs from the weekend in his starting eleven but given the need to get a convincing performance under our belts changes were kept to a minimum - a situation not helped by the continuing absence of Smithy, Rusty, Peaso and Mooner although at least Chris Millar had got back to playing at the weekend. He settled for a place on the bench tonight while Murray Davidson and Jody were rested. Main's kept his position between the sticks while the defence saw the central pairing of Caff and Garters partnered by Danny and Mackay on the flanks. In midfield the manager opted for Sheerinho in the holding role in the middle with Liam and Morais running wide and Hardie in the centre. Up front there was never any danger of Sammy doing a one-man show but there was a question as to whether he'd start or else the Doc 'n' Savo show would return to the first team. Del opted for the latter with Sammy rested on the bench. For the home side there were a couple of familiar faces with Steven Doris lining up front and Marco McCulloch driving them from the back.
There was a healthy Saints crowd through to back the lads, even at £15 a time to stand on a sun-drenched terracing - who says the Angus locals don't have a sense of humour when they refer to it as the "Pleasureland" end of the ground. As for the game, Saints started cautiously with the first chance not coming till the fourth minute after Hardie won a freekick on the right wing. Liam sent the ball over and it went out for a corner, that ended in a Mackay cross for Garters but he headed over. A couple of minutes later we won another corner after Savo got onto the end of a long ball. That one ended up falling for Caff who went for an overhead kick which went well over the bar. Sheerinho wasn't having the best start in middle and a loose ball from him a minute later let Scott through on the right wing and his cross for Hislop ended in an easy shot for Main.
That was about all that Arbroath had to offer but while Saints were dominating the game we seemed to be sticking to the long ball too much with Craig and Morais both turned into little more than observers. On the other hand, Danny Grainger was at the heart of a lot of our build-up play showing good control and composure. Doc tried a cheeky header on for Savo but he missed the ball completely and then the Doc had a decent claim for a penalty when he appeared to be pushed as he was going for a Grainger cross. With fourteen minutes gone Arbroath almost opened the scoring when Hislop broke down the right and skinned Garters (who may have slipped on the wet pitch). His cutback across the goal was blocked at the near post though for a corner with Main punching that clear and when it came back in the final Arbroath header went over the bar. Saints were soon up the park though and Savo chased and forced a corner. That was played over for Deuchar and his ball back in for Caff ended in the defender doing another overhead kick with the ball again sailing over the bar.
Filipe had a run next but despite beating the defenders he'd overran the ball allowing the keeper to gather. Then Savo set up Morais but he turned greedy and was crowded out. There was more good play from Saints in the 20th minute as some good play allowed Morais to play a chip in for Deuchar and his lay-off for Savo ended in a shot going out for a corner. That was played out to Liam and his cross for Garters was headed over. Another long ball four minutes later for Savo saw him turn neatly but ended up shooting over. It seemed though that we were sticking with the route one tactics and they weren't paying off.
All that changed in the 26th minute as we opened the scoring with a simple move. Grainger found space on the left to take the ball forward and a simple pass found Liam and he immediately laid the ball off for Savo who'd nicked behind a static Arbroath defence before slotting the ball under the keeper to give us the lead. Two minutes later Sheerinho and Grainger combined to set up Savo in the box but his chip rebounded off the woodwork. The confidence was flowing through the side though and a minute after that Morais doubled our lead. He picked up the ball in the middle of the park and finding himself in space let rip with a rocket of a shot from 30-35 yards which the keeper barely saw as it rebounded back out of the net - the sort of strike that if McGeady had hit it we wouldn't hear the end of it..
That wasn't quite game over but the game already looked beyond the home side as Saints brimmed with confidence. They did have one shot just after the half-hour mark but it was blocked and the corner easily cleared. Grainger and Liam linked well but the defence cleared and then Mackay went on a run on the right wing with a cross which Deuchar missed. Still we didn't have to worry as the ball fell perfectly for the unmarked Craig at the back post and with all the time in the world he managed to totally sclaff his shot. Five minutes before the break Morais had another run on the left wing and his cutback turned into a shot that cut across the goal. But the third goal wasn't long in coming and again it was a simple move. Mackay down the right wing played the ball back to Mad Mental Martin and his cross into the box found Deuchar who turned his marker and played a low shot into the net for the third.
A minute later and Deuchar forced a corner which ended up with the keeper punching the ball out as far as Sheerinho but his low shot was just wide of goal. But with the half drawing to a close there was a bit of controversy. Sheerinho played a nice ball forward from the centre circle for Savo who was in line with the last man. The linesman flagged for offside but Savo continued and finished the move with a goal. We all waited on the freekick to be awarded but referee Conroy decided to overrule his assistant and gave the goal. Four-nil up at half-time was pretty much game over.
No changes for Saints at the break but Arbroath made a couple of substitutions as they embarked on a damage limitation exercise. They had an early freekick three minutes into the half for a Garters challenge but Main easily held the attempt. We had a couple of early attacks ourselves but the Arbroath defence seemed to have mastered the offside trap. Deuchar had a decent run that set up Mackay but his cross was cleared and it seemed we'd taken our foot off the pedal. For all that though Arbroath almost seemed to have given up and we kept pushing forward. A through ball from Liam for Mackay in the box ended in a shot straight at the keeper when it seemed easier to score. Liam and Danny both had crosses cleared while for the home side there were a couple of long-range efforts that didn't really waken Main up.
Del put Sammy and Swankie on for Morais and Savo on the hour mark. Five minutes later we had a freekick when Hardie showed some skill and was clobbered for it. Liam took the freekick and sent in deep for Deuchar to header back across the goal past the keeper for Sammy but his downward header was somehow cleared off the line. Swankie and the Wizard combined next to set up Sammy but his low cross was held. But in the 68th minute we got number five. Swankie had a decent run on the touchline and a dribble before cutting the ball back for Mackay. He went into the box and showed some nice close control before a chip over to the back post was met by a diving header from Deuchar that the goalie could do nothing about.
While the game was over as a contest, there was no doubt that Del wanted us to keep pressing. Swankie won a corner next and when that was headed out Hardie was there with a long-range shot that the keeper did well to hold. There were still twenty minutes to go and the next attack gave us our final goal. Hardie sent the ball out for Liam and his inch-perfect cross landed at the feed of Sammy who turned in the box and despite a close challenge poked the ball past the keeper into the net.
Del's final change saw Danny go off with Irvine replacing him. Grainger, along with Mackay had picked up niggling knocks and with the introduction of Draco Irvine, Mackay moved to the left-back slot. Saints were still chasing a seventh although it seemed that the legs had begun to tire while the home side were also looking knackered. Sammy saw a shot go wide and a freekick from Hardie for Sheerinho was just chipped over the bar. Mackay tried his luck but the keeper held the ball and then Sammy set up Dr Goals in the box but his low drive was well held. The final shot came a couple of minutes from the end with Sheerinho setting up Sammy on the edge of the box for a turn and shot that the keeper again stopped going in.
While the second-half wasn't much of a contest really the overall performance was a solid professional one. Garters and Caff were rock-solid while Grainger is looking excellent at the left-back slot. Sheerinho just beats Hardie to the MoM for me with the Wizard rarely putting a foot wrong in the middle of the park while the strikers' scoring rate speaks for itself. That's fifteen goals in four games this season and that's decent form no matter who the opposition is.
Bet we get TFOD in the next round though.......
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