TFOE 3 Saints 0 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Irvine, Grainger, Sheerinho, Doobs, Mackay, Millar, Davidson, Savo, Deuchar, Swankie
Subs: Main, Connolly, Garters, Morais, Falkingham, Reynolds, Craig
After the good battling performances of the last couple of outings put us within touching distance of the top six, today was back to reality with a trip through the war-torn ruins of the East End of Glasgow to play the green half of the Ugly Sisters of Scottish Football. Mind you it's not as though they've had an easy time of it - I mean imagine having to settle for only second in the league. Still after dealing with Moaning McGhee on Tuesday night it was a chance to pile the pressure on another manager at a crisis club with Tony Mowbray today's target. He's had a pretty rough ride this season and after offloading most of last year's squad to the Premiership has only really kept the fans on side by signing another moneygrabber with the £2m per week Robbie Keane coming up here to see if he can score against Dave Mackay. It's only a loan signing but he's banged a few goals in and possibly created a dilemma for the Wegies as they work out whether or not it shows a lack of ambition or just a lack of cash if they don't make a move for him in the summer - although given Harry the Tax-Dodger's comments and Mrs Keane's reluctance to being forced to spend £70,000 a week in the Barras, the chances of a long-term move looked about as likely as Aiden McGeady staying on his feet for a whole ninety minutes.
Saints had plenty of their own troubles to seek - midweek goalscorer Cillian Sheridan's exploits had Mowbray bricking himself so the Evil Ones decided that he wasn't going to be eligible for this one (although the Cillian's comments during the week didn't do him any favours). We'd lost the unlucky Kevin Moon for the season and the knocks and ailments affecting the rest of the squad hadn't eased much. But a result today (and by God weren't we owed one over at least one half of the OF this season) combined with the right result in the Edinburgh derby could see us move into the hallowed territory that is the top six - the sort of area where even the tabloids start talking you up.
But the memories of the trip to Parkhead last August, back when pitches were green and bigoted fans could be oh so easily wound up, were still relatively fresh in the minds. Sure we'd scored two but the five let in at the other end told their own story and there's no doubt now that the current plague of Evil Ones seem to be scoring for fun. Mind you if we managed to keep eleven on the park today (unlike the McDiarmid encounter at the start of the year) there's no telling how things might pan out.
So much for the pre-match hype - in the end the weakened side, due to injuries and the upset game plan after the Doc limped off early doors, we lost by a margin that we probably didn't deserve. We didn't create many chances but neither did the Evil Ones with a freekick, a penalty and a late slip-up by Irvine giving them the goals. The players all tried hard and there was plenty of fight right to the end but we lacked that bit of quality and responsibility on the park that the likes of Sammy would have brought. We might not have expected to take anything from the game to begin with but at the same time the result sticks in the throat a bit especially after we turned down a couple of good chances at one-nil. Overall, it probably won't have that much of an impact on our season but that top six slot looks just a bit further away tonight.
There had been ten first team players missing midweek and with Mooner and Sheridan joining the list of absentees, it seemed Del had another selection dilemma on his hands - only Savo and Garters were given a chance of playing at Parkhead (well at least according to the token rumours leaked out of Fortress McDiarmid). There was the chance of resting some of the squad for the Falkirk and Accies games and risking the fringe players but at the same time that had to be balanced against the need to avoid a total gubbing and protect the goal difference. Tactically as well his previous choices had been to go 4-5-1 away to the OF but most of the fans wanted to see us play at least two up front - after all we had nothing to lose.
Del had managed to bring one new face in as 19yr old midfielder Josh "YouTube Dance King" Falkingham signed up until the end of the season to help cover for the absence of Mooner - he was thrown into the squad for today for a baptism of fire. So it was that we started with Sheerinho and Swankie in for Morris and Liam while Davidson came in for Mooner and Garters managed to make the bench. TFOE had Keane and Fortune up front with McGeady the diver on the wing and Boruc on the bench (scared by the might of his Swankiness) and Brown in the stand.
There weren't too many Saints fans willing to splash the cash to sit behind a pillar - fewer than 200, which made for a steward to fan ratio of about 1:1. Still as usual there were loads of the Greatest Fans In The World (copyright them) who managed to find their way to the football today after apparently vanishing quicker than one of their European campaigns last weekend at Kilmarnock. Plenty of opportunity though for us to indulge in some non-sectarian banter in a chance to totally wind them up - especially with the memories of how "We're going to win 6-5" went down last time we sat in Castle Greyskull. God knows, the singing might even drown out their wonderful pre- match folk music.
The first minute saw Doobs play a header long for Savo but he was ruled offside. Sheerinho had moved to the left wing with Swankie on the right. The Tattie Field was about the quietest I've ever known it with hee-haw atmosphere from the home fans, and plenty of empty seats as well. Doobs tried to set up Savo again in the 4th minute but the striker was crowded out. A minute later the home side threatened as Keane put down his cash for a minute to set up Wilson but Grainger got over to make a good block on the shot. Keane followed up by Smith managed to get out to gather the ball from his feet. Irvine sent a deep freekick (yup we were awarded one in the surroundings of Leprechaun-land) and he sent it deep for Davidson to head back across the goal from the back post for Doobs but his challenge on the keeper saw him come off second best.
Moneybags Keane tried a run again but was well offside - it didn't stop him trying a shot that went wide although the referee was obviously feeling lenient at the ball being kicked away like that. Saints for their part were doing OK but the final ball was poor and we lacked the creativity from midfield. The Evil Ones were threatening more on the break with Fortune beating Grainger on a run in the 11th minute but thankfully shooting across the goal and wide.
A couple of minutes later and a Mackay clearance for the Doc saw him land awkwardly. It took a few minutes for him to get treatment before he limped off with what looked like an ankle injury. He was replaced by Stevie Reynolds but within a minute we'd gone behind. Sheerinho conceded a freekick on the touchline and the set piece ball into the box was headed in by Thompson although Smithy managed to get a hand to it. The goal knocked us a bit and with the Evil Ones seemingly in second gear we were up against it. Swankie managed to lose the ball in the 20th minute and a rash challenge to try and get the ball back saw him booked. The freekick was cleared but Savo and Crosas clashed for a head knock. We got a freekick out of it and Doobs sent it long for Davidson who headed the ball back across the goal again. The Celtic defence was in a fankle trying to clear the danger but there wasn't a blue shirt to try and capitalise on it with Zaluskas beating Sheerin in the end.
Grainger tried a long throw-in in the 25th minute for Doobs but his header was cleared. Sellik broke up the park and a good move opened up the Saints defence. We covered their strikers but the ball was played back to McGowan and he tried a shot from the edge of the box that went just over the bar. We were creating the odd chance. With half-an-hour gone Swankie laid the ball back for Irvine and his cross was met by a glancing header by Savo but the keeper wasn't really troubled.
We lacked any real punch up front. Three minutes later though Sheerinho set up Swanks for a run but for some reason he slowed up and we ended up with Reynolds having to settle for a throw-in. At least Grainger tried to make that count and a long ball found Millar who linked with Savo and Davidson but again we lacked the willingness to take a risk to get the ball into the box. Saints came closer a couple of minutes later with a good ball forward finding Swankie bearing through. But he went wide to the left, took too long over the shot and saw it deflected into the keeper's hands.
The Evil Ones put the pressure on with Irvine skinned by Fortune in the 37th minute to set up Keane but Mackay on 0.00004% of the wage got back to win the ball and cover. It ended in a Sellik throw-in with a cross for McGowan but he headed over. Saints were still fighting but we were losing the ball too much in the middle of the park - too often the likes of Millar and Swankie were content to lay the ball back to a defender than try and take it forward. Another Sellik break three minutes from the break saw a cutback from the right for Mackay who knocked the ball behind, with Smith picking up a knock in the process. The corner was well held by the Saints keeper.
More pressure a couple of minutes later but this time Doobs was there to clear the danger, although Fortune got a nice kick in on him off the ball. Millar tried to set up Swankie but he lost possession. Sellik broke up the park again and McGeady crossed from the right for Moneybags but his shot went just over the bar (possibly off balance due to the wallet in his back pocket).
With us only one down at the break Saints came out playing more of a 4-5-1 for the second-half with Reynolds moving to the left. The opening stages were pretty quiet. But our best chance of the game came seven minutes into the half when Swankie went on a run and forced a corner. That was cleared as far as Davidson who was upended as he prepared to shoot. The freekick from the edge of the box was curled low by Swankie, round the wall and seemed to clip the post before going wide.
That was about as good as it got for us. Within a couple of minutes McGreedy was up the park shooting well wide. Then another break for them ended in a cross that Smith missed. The ball broke again and another header came in and seemed to come back off the bar before the Saints defence cleared their lines. Smith was caught out again with another cross in the 57th minute allowing Fortune a free header but he stuck it wide. Del made his second change just after that as Liam came on to replace the tiring Sheerin while Sellik brought on one of their Far East Merchandising Figures for Crosas. Savo had a decent run on goal in the 59th minute but the new Boruc cleared the danger.
That led to another break from the Evil Ones and a tackle from Davidson - a decent tackle but being at the Tattie Field he had to be booked. Sellik had a corner that Man-Mountain Mackay cleared and then Davidson was caught on the ball in the 62nd minute (although there was a lack of support for him as he was crowded out). That led to a Fortune run and shot which was cleared before the rebound fell for McGreedy who curled a decent shot just wide of the post. Another Celtic run saw Grainger make a challenge that the referee decided was a foul and gave advantage to the Evil Ones McGreedy ran and tried a shot that a Saints body managed to block. Grainger picked up a booking for his involvement in the build-up.
Millar went on a good run in the 65th minute but for some reason pulled up. He managed to find Reynolds on the left but he was well crowded. out. Sellik went up the park and a deep cross ended n a shot that Smithy saved. They quickly brought the ball back in and Fortune went on a run in from the right into the box where Smithy came out and upended him. Cue a penalty and cue Moneybags Keane putting down his bling long enough to score from the spot. Two-nil down and it was damage limitation time.
Fortune had a weak shot held as the Saints players tried to reorganise. Del was forced into his final change just after that as Savo (who had been struggling for pace with a strain) went off to be replaced by Fil. That at least had a positive impact as it gave us more pace up front. Liam and Morais linked well for the latter to send a cross out for Swankie. He laid the ball back to Irvine and his cross was punched out by the keeper but only as far as Liam but he was unable to control the ball for a shot. Samaras came on for Fortune with fifteen minutes remaining.
Mackay had to clear a Sellik freekick Grainger tried a long ball in the 77th minute finding Swankie but his Swankosity was too slow. He had better luck a minute later but Braffhisheid up- ended him (escaping a booking). Liam's freekick was headed out as far as Doobs but the less said about his shot the better. We were still battling away but there was no luck and no real creativity. Reynolds, who hadn't really done much wrong since coming on, set up Liam in the 83rd minute. Liam's cross in was headed half-clear as far as Davidson who went for a spectacular volley but sent the shot wide of goal.
The dying stages of the game (by which time the Greatest Fans in the World had pissed off to queue up for a commemorative Robbie Keane souvenir replica wage packet) saw Saints tired legs finally punished. Swankie won a throw-in but that ended up with a one-two with Irvine with the right-back offside. It got worse for Gary a minute later as Samaras skinned him on the wing although thankfully Doobs was there to concede a corner. That went out but the second corner in saw Samaras again get forward and set up McGreedy for a cross that Millar cleared.
Two minutes from time though and Irvine was totally skinned on the wing by Samaras again. The striker took the ball into the box and sent a narrow angled shot past Smith (who perhaps could have done better) into the net to make it three-scud to the Evil Ones. Saints tried to press in injury time but the best we could offer was a Morais cross for Davidson and Liam to get their heads to with the latter sending the ball wide of the goal.
That one move possibly summed up the afternoon as we had little luck and lacked the skill and ability to break down the TFOE defence. Ironically the defence played fairly well given the pressure they were under with both centre-backs having good games and Mackay just getting my MoM. The rest of the players all looked knackered which for the likes of Millar and Davidson is perhaps excusable for but players such as Swankie it's harder to forgive. He had another chance to prove himself today and while he did well with the freekick it's hard to see him still being round Saints next time we go to the Tattie Field.
Now for the important games.
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