Saints 0 Arabs 1
Team : Smith, Irvine, Grainger, Morris, Doobs, Mackay, Millar,
Davidson, Deuchar, Savo, Morais
Subs: Main, Peaso, Connolly, Sheerinho, Sheridan
With the midweek defeat at Hampden now another one for the "bridesmaid" file, the focus today was on the other, arguably more meaningful, national cup and the fourth meeting with the Arabs of the season. While we'd only taken one point in the two league encounters, we had taken their scalp in the CIS cup. The last league game at Tannadump ten days ago had been an entertaining affair but the main hope for the faithful today was that we'd at least learnt our lesson a bit and would be able to focus for the full ninety minutes. The other concern though had to be fatigue after a tough game in the snow at Hampden and several players already carrying minor knocks and strains. The league might be our priority but after the poor performance at Hampden a lot of fans were looking to the team to try and make up for that disappointment with a run in the real cup. It wasn't going to be an easy tie despite the home advantage.
The Arabs aren't sitting near the top of the table by accident and while Peter "Cheap option" Houston's managed a relatively smooth transition to manager, their form in the last couple of games hinted at defensive weaknesses with two draws and seven goals shipped. On the downside for us it also meant they'd scored seven while for us the goals seemed to have dried up a bit (although not the chances). But despite losing to the Forces of Darkness, we'd notched up a good win against the Jambos last Saturday and there was every chance of us sending Spencey home weeping tonight.
The result though saw the tired legs from midweek finally take effect on the boys and with a lack of concentration and bugger all luck as well as inept strikers and a midfield that were well off the pace it rounded off a crap week. Poor defending for the goal didn't help either. If you're looking for positives there weren't many but at least Doobs looked solid in defence. But by Rod, Del has his work cut out to get the players lifted and ready for the trip to Paisley.
As I said there were a few knocks going about with Mooner a doubt due to a hamstring strain and the Doc recovering from his back injury. Garters was still available before his suspension kicked in while Connolly looked to be in line to take some part in the game and we'd been given a boost with the inclusion of Collin Samuel in the squad. Rustybitz had managed to train but his lack of match fitness and the news that Caff would be out for six weeks after a groin op. All of which meant that Del had gone out to strengthen the defensive options by signing Michael "Jody's ma pal" Duberry (apparently known as Doobs) and he'd driven for 7 hours to find McDiarmid and make himself available for today's game.
All of which meant that Del made several changes to the starting line up with Garters and Liam out as Doobs and the Doc started. Sheridan dropped to the bench where Connolly came in for Ando and Sheerinho brought his wizard skills to replace Mooner. The Arabs had a doubt over Webster and unfortunately Kovacevic was out meaning Garters mate Dillon got a start, while CasilCheato was apparently not going to use his hands today to helped his side progress in the cup.
There was a good crowd and a proper cup atmosphere prior to kick-off (at least compared to the vacuum of Hampden) and things were inflamed in the first minute after an early tackle by Irvine on Conway earned Gary a booking despite the Saints player winning the ball. The freekick was easily dealt with but the booking led to a nervy performance from Irvine in the opening stages with Conway getting too much room on the wing. It wasn't helped by an apparent lack of understanding between Irvine and Doobs with the new boy on the right side of the centre pairing and Mackay on the left.
The opening stages were played at a hectic pace and unlike the game at Tannadump, the Arabs were hitting us from the start. A Badfanny run in the third minute was only stopped by a combination of Morris and Grainger. The United striker caused us more problems in the 5th minute as he skinned Doobs and tried an effort along the goalline but Smithy blocked it. A minute later it was our turn with a good cross from Millar finding Fil but his header was cleared although there was a suspicion of handball - not that the referee was bothered. United had another break in the 9th minute but Daly was well offside. We hit back with a good move seeing a Morais run set up Chris on the right and his deep cross was headed down by the Doc for Savo but he couldn't find the room for a shot instead playing it back for Deuchar but his shot was blocked.
Kenneth conceded a freekick next but Morais sent a decent effort over the bar. There was more controversy in the 14th minute when we won our first corner. Morais sent it over and Doobs saw his header blocked and when the ball broke for Davidson he was downed taking the ball into the box. An absolute stonewaller but the referee ignored our protests. United kept up the pressure and looked more dangerous on the break with Swanson and Badfanny seeing shots blocked in their next attack. Our next chance came from the Doc and Savo fighting to win the ball on the edge of the Arabs box. They released Irvine whose cross was headed down by the Doc but again Savo and Davidson couldn't make room for the shot.
As the half wore on Irvine was more and more exposed on the right, drifting in and giving Conway too much room and the Coag used these opportunities to great effect. A cross for Daly was headed behind. One for Swanson was held by Smithy, Davidson cleared one and then in the 21st minute Conway skinned Irvine before cutting the ball back for Buaben who easily beat Doobs but thankfully his shot was held. A long freekick from Doobs in the 24th minute found Savo whose cross found the Doc but his shot was blocked. Morais won the ball but was upended on the left. Danny took the freekick finding Doobs in the box but his header was saved. Badfanny sent one over the bar for them after outpacing Danny.
The game was end to end but it seemed we were just a bit short of ideas in the final third of the park with the Arabs defence rarely troubled although that didn't stop Dods fouling at every opportunity. The former Saint was finally given a warning in the 28th minute for a foul on Savo. Morais freekick was cleared all to easily though. As the half wore on the Arabs threatened more. Doobs had to look sharp to block a Conway cross but from the throw-in Buaben took a shot that was deflected out for a corner and that ended with an inswinger blocked by Irvine in the six yard box before Smithy (whose command of his area was poor all afternoon) gathered.
Another Dods foul, this time on Deuchar gave us some hope in the 32nd minute but Danny's curler was well held by the Penis between the sticks. Two minutes later Danny and Fil managed a rare piece of linkup play with the former sending a cross in from the left for Murray at the near post but his header was poor. Next up a Deuchar header on saw Morais get into the box but forced to settle for a corner. The Penis could only punch it but the Doc couldn't follow up settling instead for a second corner. This time the ball found Doobs. His header was cleared as far as Jody and his shot from the edge of the box broke for Morais on the right but he couldn't control the ball and sent a shot over the bar - it was turning into one of those days.
Conway saw a shot held. Then with five minutes to go, Morais managed to lose possession at a Saints freekick. Badfanny got up the park, but thankfully Smith narrowed the angle and he was forced to go wide before sending over a harmless cross. It got worse as a minute later Doobs and Smithy had a mix-up with a passback and Smith ended up seeing his attempted clearance blocked. Mackay had to look sharp to make a last-ditch tackle on a Daly break but our luck ran out in the 43rd minute. Millar was back covering Irvine and conceded a corner. A simple inswinger into the 6yd box seemed to be spilled by Smith and Badfanny was first to react shooting home from about three yards out. A pathetic goal to lose and compounded by some aggro in the East Stand as some illiterate Arabs (obviously unable to read the words "Home Support") made their presence felt although for a change Tayside Police reacted fairly promptly.
Del freshened things up at the break with Peaso replacing Savo - bit of a surprise really as Deuchar had been poorer in the opening forty-five. The switch meant Morais pushing forward and Millar going to the left of a three-man midfield. Peaso picked up a head knock after a Dods challenge as his welcome to the game. Still we at least looked a bit livelier with Irvine and Morais sending in early testing crosses. But it was the Coags that threatened with Smithy called into action to stop a deflected Swanson shot. Then we lost possession on the edge of our own box allowing Buaben in but thankfully he missed an absolute sitter.
Our first real chance of the half came in the 54th minute when a throw-in from the right was neatly flicked into the box by Jody for Peaso who turned well but his final shot was weak and held by the Penis. Four minutes later we should have done even better when Morais threaded a great ball behind the defence for Peaso. Through into the box he rounded the Penis but again his shot was weak and an Arab defender was there to clear the ball off the line. It was depressing stuff and perhaps showed how much we're lacking that bit of sharpness up front.
The game started to get niggly although the referee wasn't helping by some strange interpretation of the advantage rule. Jody and Swanson got warned for a handbags moment. Back on the pitch Morais had a decent shot go over but it was as close as we came despite forcing several corners - on the plus side Doobs looked pretty useful for those winning several balls in the air. Davidson was replaced By the Wizard in the 64th minute as we struggled to find an equaliser from somewhere and seven minutes after that Del made his final gamble with Sheridan coming on for the Doc. We were throwing everything at them. Danny saw a long throw-in headed clear before United hit us on the break winning a couple of soft corners.
They made a change as well with Casilcheato coming on for Badfanny. Danny picked up a booking eleven minutes from time as a United attack was broken up by a Doobs tackle - referee Thomson deciding to bring play back. The freekick was cleared but the Saints players looked knackered. Millar and Danny won us a corner that was headed behind. With six minutes of normal time remaining another long ball from Doobs was played back and Casilcheato went on a run on goal but shot over. Sheridan saw a header held by the Penis and then a series of crosses from Jody and the Wizard found no blue shirts in the box.
Dods clobbered Sheridan in the 88th minute but Grainger's freekick was deflected out for a corner although at least it was on target. That ended in a downward Doobs header that Mackay just failed to make contact with. That was the story of the closing stages. A series of corners and crosses kept on finding a lack of blue shirts where it counted. United had a final chance in injury time when Casilcheato found himself in space but his shot came back off the bar.
There was still time for Mackay to be booked and a final chance from a long Smithy freekick forward which was crossed in by Danny only for Sheerinho to head the ball over the bar.
The result is probably a case of what ifs - what if we hadn't had to play midweek, what if the referee had applied the rules of the game and given us the penalty. Anyway MoM for me was hard to pick with no real outstanding candidates but Doobs gets it for managing to avoid a booking / disaster on his debut although Irvine and Grainger weren't too bad especially allowing for Gary's early booking. Del has his work cut out to lift the team but we badly need the strikers to get their act together and the midfield to return to some of the form we've seen in recent weeks - a bit of service for the front men wouldn't go amiss.
So cups no more - means we can concentrate on winning the league then doesn't it?
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