Temple Of Saints - Ouch

Clydesdale Bank Premier League 22/08/2009

Forces of Evil 5 Saints 2 - League Table Here

Team : Main, Irvine, Grainger, Morris, Garters, Caff, Davidson, Millar, Mackay, Sammy, Morais
Subs: McLean, Hardie, Sheerinho, Savo, Swankie, Reynolds, Heagney

Oh well - two games in and we have to face up to the reality of the SPHell - a trip to Little Beirut in the East End of Wegieland to sit behind a pillar (well some of the Saints fans anyway) below pitch level in a desperate attempt to see the boys salvage something from a game that, for the last week, most of us have written off as a no-pointer. Still if nothing else the support that made the trip to Parkhead had a nice chance to familiarise themselves with the top 40 of Irish folk tunes and catch up on one interpretation of history. Who'd have thought you could find somewhere that would make Firhill the most attractive football destination in Taggarts' homeland?

So going into this one with no expectations and up against a Sellik side that had just faced up to Arsenal this week we had a little bit of hope and while the final score turned into the sort of winning margin that has the likes of Chic and McLeod creaming their pants, it wasn't that bad a performance from the boys. Defensively we were let down at single moments and we struggled in midfield and up front there were some positives to take from the game for Del. On the downside the goals we lost were bad and we again showed a lack of discipline and concentration in the immediate aftermath of conceding a goal. Too many of the players aren't willing to put in the extra effort to win the ball or need that extra second on the ball - that's what's costing us just now.

After the unlucky draw against Motherwell last Saturday, Del had a chance to freshen things up a bit - and there was no point in trying to put the shutters up. Rusty and Jacko were still missing. Peaso and Mooner were still on the comeback trail and while Smithy missed out Chris Millar had been passed fit and was in the squad. Gary Irvine had been left out last weekend but he returned to his old haunt as Dave Mackay moved upfield to give the watching media the ex -OF player angle. Murray Davidson, who managed to impress not just the Saints fans but shock, horror, the tabloid reporters, was in the middle alongside Jody while the rest of the midfield saw Millar return alongside Morais. Sammy was the lone striker as Savo dropped to the bench while Swankie came into the subs as both the Doc and Liam were missing. For the Bigot Brothers (Green Branch), they were still recovering from the defeat to the Arsenal combined with Murdo McLeod's one-man attempt to win McGeady a move to Ingerlund. With 59,500 home fans and only 500 Saints fans the atmosphere before kick-off resembled an Irish folk festival (well it's Wegieland so what did you expect) - although some of the "best fans in the world" appeared to only consider themselves so when playing Arsenal given the number of empty seats in the home end.

Still the Saints fans kept going until kick-off. The opening salvos saw us start well enough although out attacks were limited by Sammy being stuck up front on his own (well he had Caldwell in support). Still the first chance came thanks to a Sammy run in the second minute. He was tackled but the loose ball was sent forwards again and this time Mackay was the unlikely recipient as he broke behind the defence but his lob was cleared. The Evil Ones went straight up the park and Fortune tried his luck (geddit?) only for a Saints body to get in and block his attempt. Sammy was making some decent runs though - a fifth minute cutback again found no blue shirts in support. Irvine saw a cross held while Main was kept busy holding a couple of easy shots. The next chance came for us in the 11th minute when Irvine released Sammy on the right touchline. He made a good run cutting in before being caught on the edge of the box on the right-hand side. Danny's freekick across the goal was powerful enough but blocked by Loo-vent.

The game wasn't overly physical but it seemed that every 50-50 decision went the way of the home side especially with Donati dropping to the deck whenever he got a chance. The Forces of Evil were causing some trouble with McGeady and Maloney on the wings and while Saints did well to close them down too often it meant putting two or three players on the Sellik "stars" leaving us exposed elsewhere. Still even so we had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 14th minute with a typical inch-perfect pass finding Morais who broke through on goal but took one touch too many and was caught in the box. Gradually though we began to be put under more and more pressure unfortunately too often due to our own making.

The Saints players were too guilty of standing off the Evil ones as they pressed forward. Thanks to that Fortune had room for a low shot that Main held in the 15th minute and then three minutes later McGreedy was given too much room to cut in from the right before sending a shot wide. Saints broke back up the park with Sammy again making room for a cutback and finding Morais but again he was too slow to react and the ball was hit back out for Davidson. He set up Sammy but this time the striker was crowded out too easily.

With the midway point approaching we were still soaking up the pressure. Main easily held a cross and Garters managed to recover from being tackled in the middle of the park to get back as Sellick shot wide. But in the 21st minute the first bad mistake came when Draco Irvine totally missed a tackle on the wing. Skinned, the ball was fired back in and found Fortune who hit a low shot past Main to make it 1-0. Strange how the best fans in the world managed to start singing (best effort was "St Johnstone yer having a laugh!" which doesn't even make an ounce of sense even if you're jacked up to the eyeballs on Buckie and methadone).

The goal unsettled us though and a minute later a cross into the Saints box was headed goalwards only for Garters (?) to clear it off the line. Another Celtic cross in from our left was well blocked from Main and the resulting corner was knocked wide with Main nowhere. But in the 28th minute the second wake-up call came as Celtic won the ball on the right and sent a cross in for Maloney to finish and make it two-nil with the Saints defence again guilty of not putting in the early tackle. At least our heads didn't go down and despite getting no luck on the ball we tried to keep going. Morais had a decent run before again being crowded out as too often the midfield didn't get forward in numbers to support any attack.

Ten minutes before the break Caff managed to put in a decent cross for Morais but he headed the ball well wide. But two minutes later a nice ball through for Sammy saw him chase onto the ball and thanks to the ineptitude of Caldwell was on the edge of the box before firing a low shot past Arfur Bollox to make it two-one. It gave the 500 Saints fans a chance to have another sing-song as suddenly the home fans were silenced. The goal gave us a bit of a lift and a bit more confidence as the half drew to a close. Danny got on the end of a good attacking move but he couldn't get a final cross in. At the other end Grainger struggled to clear his lines from an Evil Cross but he dealt with it comfortably enough. The Evil ones managed to get the ball into the net in the 43rd minute but Maloney was a mile offside. The half finished with Morris and Sammy working a nice one-two going forward but the latter ended up losing the ball.

The second-half started quietly enough but it wasn't long before the Evil Ones were wielding their voodoo on us. McGreedy managed a cutback that Main blocked with the resulting corner headed over by their Aussie striker (a bigger whinger than Owen ever was on the park). Saints managed a freekick of their own as Sammy was downed going through on goal. Morais' freekick beat the wall but sailed over the bar as well. Eight minutes into the second half though and it was game over. Maloney ran up the park and given far, far too much room before cutting in without a blue jersey putting a tackle in. A shot on the edge of the box was hit low and Main was slow getting down as the ball passed him en route to the net.

Three-one down was a kick in the teeth but it got worse a minute later. Irvine saw a cross held and the Evil Ones broke up the park. McGreedy was again given far, far too much room and was able to get a cross in past Grainger. It went behind the defence but obviously the referee turned colour-blind for a while and ignored the miles-offside Fortune who got in for a low drive to give them their barely-deserved fourth goal. Saints made their first change with Hardie replacing the poor Irvine with Mackay dropping back to defence.

The game died down as the home side took their foot off the pedal. Morris managed a deep cross that Borox tipped over the bar. The corner was a deep one for Garters but went behind as it seemed that we couldn't get a break. Millar, who had come onto a good game despite not looking sharp early on, showed some nice touches to set up Morais but again the home defence cleared. We were lacking any real fight and it seemed that the creative touches that livened up the pre-season games and last weekend's opener were either missing or when tried, failed to amount to anything. Murray Davidson was brought down in the 68th minute but even then the freekick in was punched out by Boruc for Hardie but his effort went out for a corner - again no takers for the set piece. Hardie in particular seemed to be struggling with the pace of the game and more than once was caught napping in possession or failed to make the run for a forward pass.

Sammy had a decent snapshot go just wide before Del's next change in the 73rd minute. Swankie replace Morais but within a minute the home side had their 5th. Caff did well to cover a Maloney run to concede the corner. But with Saints sleeping a quick ball over was headed in by Moaner McDonald.

Still to the credit of the Saints fans we kept on backing our team even as the home part-time gloryhunters started heading for the exits. And two minutes later some pressure finally paid off. Millar too the ball wide to the goalline and cut it back across the Celtic area. In came Jody who somehow squirmed through their defence before a low shot beat "Wanker" Boruc (a nickname which somehow really got up the backs of the home fans today) and went in off the post to restore a wee bit of respectability to the scoreline. Hardie had a low shot saved and Swankie a cross held as we pressed for another but the Saints defence was just as bust with Garters going into the book for a late challenge. Sheerinho replaced Millar for the last few minutes but there was little real action.

The scoreline will hurt and expect the media to start writing us off but it wasn't the worst performance I've seen from Saints against the Bigots. Morris was my MoM but Sammy, Davidson and Garters all did well while Millar came onto a decent game. Main was rarely troubled and could do little at the goals but defensively we were too guilty of standing off the attacker - Irvine especially seemed to have a poor game. As for the "atmosphere" there were some Saints fans ejected (not sure why but it did cause a bit of a row) but for once I actually saw the Wegie polis ejecting a couple of the home fans and trying to calm them down a bit - still no doubt the reputation of the "best fans in the world" pish will continue for another week.

Jambos next - time for a win please Del.

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Team P W D L F A Pts
Celtic 2 2 0 0 8 3 6
Hibs 2 2 0 0 5 2 6
Motherwell 2 1 1 0 5 3 4
Dundee Utd 2 1 1 0 2 0 4
Rangers 1 1 0 0 4 1 3
Aberdeen 2 1 0 1 4 3 3
Kilmarnock 2 1 0 1 4 3 3
St Mirren 2 0 1 1 1 2 1
Saints 2 0 1 1 4 7 1
Hearts 1 0 0 1 0 2 0
Hamilton 2 0 0 2 0 6 0
Falkirk 1 0 0 1 1 4 0

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