Saints 3 Falkirk 1 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Mackay, Grainger, Morris, Rustybitz, Garters,
Davidson, Craig, Deuchar, Samuel, Morais
Subs: Main, Caff, Hardie, Johansson, Millar, Reynolds, Kelly
After the high of taking another SPL scalp to progress to the CIS Cup semi-finals in midweek, it was back to league business today and the visit of bottom-placed Falkirk. While our performances have been okay this season, the results don't lie and that solitary win is starting to weigh on the shoulders a bit. We should have done better last Saturday at Kilmarnock but the worst display of the season so far saw us head up the road pointless and only 2 points ahead of today's visitors - that meant that this game had turned into an important match for both sides with Saints trying to open up a bit of a gap at the bottom of the table.
For Falkirk, they've had plenty of problems under new boss Eddie May this season with a lack of goals their main concern. Saints haven't had that issue - we've been scoring for fun at times - unfortunately we've also been letting them in at the other end in the same manner. But today we were at home against arguably the worst team in the league - the fans expected an all-out attack-minded performance to get us that second win.
For all the pre-match build-up, the game itself showed just how inconsistent we could be. From an excellent start and a first half we dominated for long spells, a switch to 4-5-1 caused us all sorts of problems in the middle thirty minutes as we sat back and let the Bairns into the game before a couple of killer punches were delivered and in the end it was a comfortable win. The effects of Tuesday were plain to see as the boys tired as the game went on while the players returning from injury didn't look fully fit. But defensively we were solid again and in midfield we looked good going forward while up front the strikers worked their backsides off to contribute to the win.
Going into the match the injury problem had cleared a bit. Sure Savo was out and Hardie and Sammy were major doubts but midweek had seen the arrival of JJ to the squad and the return of Rustybitz to the heart of defence. Elsewhere and Jody Morris was not only fit but had given us a nice pre-match boost on Thursday by putting pen to paper on a two-year extension of his current contract. On the downside Main had a knock as did Mooner. But even so, Del had plenty of options in picking a side to face the Bairns. Graeme Smith had made a decent debut in midweek and kept the jersey. Defensively the back four saw no changes although Caff was preferred to Ando in the dugout. In midfield, Jody returned in place of Sheerinho while Morais started on the right instead of Millar who was benched, and up front the strike pairing was Deuchar and the returning Sammy as JJ sat on the bench, with Peaso dropping out.
We started the game in excellent style and ninety seconds after the start our first real attack bore fruit with style as a cross from the left was fed back by Morais on the right wing to Dave Mackay and his cross low into the box went between a couple of Falkirk defenders (who should have done better) landing perfectly for Sammy and a low drive from eight yards out left the keeper flailing as the ball was blasted into the net. One up and the Bovril had barely been sipped. It got worse for Falkirk as McNamara had picked up a knock in the build-up and he only lasted a couple of more minutes before having to go off to be replaced by Finnegan.
Falkirk won an early corner in the 4th minute thanks to a long-range effort taking a deflection but man-of-many-roles Murray Davidson was back to head the ball clear. Saints were enjoying most of the play though and Samuel was soon released again pressing the keeper but McLean got back to clear. Mackay and Morais were having a field day against Twaddle on the right wing and another cross was held by the keeper as Saints kept pressing. Falkirk's chance was restricted to a seventh minute cross that was half-cleared before ending up in a cross that was headed straight at Smiffy in goal.
With ten minutes gone, we should have scored another as a long ball from Rustybitz found Liam on the left. A nice wee run and cross found Sammy and his looping header went just over the bark . Falkirk broke and tried a shot from distance but Smiffy got down to tip the ball clear. The better chances were falling to Saints and we should have doubled our lead in the 14th minute. Another forward ball from Rustybitz found the Doc and he set up Sammy on the right. A break into the box and a low cutback beat the defence and found an unmarked Liam Craig at the back post. All he had to do was tap the bloody ball and it would be in the net but somehow the ex-Bairn managed to forget everything he'd learnt since coming to Perth and screwed his shot wide. Worst miss of the season by a mile.
The chances at least kept coming with Mackay seeing a decent cross cleared and then Sammy and Morais linked well to play a cross in for Deuchar. His header out was played back in by Liam for Davidson but somehow he headed the ball over the bar - still looking back it was more a dress rehearsal for the second-half. Falkirk were dangerous on the break but even so the defence were looking good thanks to Garters and Grainger on top of their game while Rustybitz looks back to the top of his game. Davidson and Garters conceded an 18th minute freekick but Smiffy again easily held the ball.
Three minutes later and a Morais run saw him try to set up Davidson in the box but he was tackled. The ball broke to Morris who was up-ended. The freekick was played short to Grainger and he fired in a low shot that was deflected and cleared. Jody was on the receiving end of the next move in the 25th minute when Davidson had been elbowed. Rustybitz took the freekick and found the Doc and he headed the ball down for Jody who fired a shot over from about 20 yards out. The Falkirk keeper Olejnik provided some great entertainment as he took the goalkick as he ended up on his arse. The poor clearance fell to Morais and he went on a great run down the right wing but his cross was cut out too easily.
Lima of Falkirk picked up the only booking of the game in the 28th minute for a foul on Davidson. The freekick forward found Deuchar and his header down for Morais saw a good shot blocked. The ball was played wide to Sammy on the right and he got into the box and played a great cross over to the back post finding an unmarked Liam but his volley went wide of goal when he had plenty of time to bring the ball down and shoot.
After that though Saints seemed to sit back more. Sammy moved to the left wing and Liam came into the middle as we switched to a 4-5-1 formation - whether this was due to Sammy's injury playing up or not is unclear, but it allowed Falkirk back into the game. A corner in the 32nd minute for the Bairns ended up in a header that Smith held. Then a break down the right saw Grainger left for dead and the cross into the box was only half cleared before it broke to MacDonald and his shot from distance forced Smith into a good save. Saints weren't totally out of it and a Morais cross found Liam in the box but his header was crowded out. Falkirk tried a long ball and Garters was forced into conceding a corner and that ended in a header going wide of target.
A long clearance found Deuchar who set up Morais next and his cross for Liam was again put wide as Craig seemed to be trying too hard to make an impression. Falkirk had a freekick that went wide of target then another cross was headed wide of target.
Two minutes before the break Liam had a decent break again but the defence managed to clear his cross triggering another Falkirk break up the park ending with a shot that Rustybitz blocked for a corner. That saw Smith almost make his first mistake of the day but he was able to tip the inswinger on for Mackay to clear. Even then it wasn't properly cleared and when it came back in Grainger conceded a soft freekick on the edge of the box. Thankfully that was sent over the bar by MacDonald.
Half-time was cut short for the Saints players as they came out to do a quick training exercise before the start of the second period. The interval also saw Del make his first change of the day as Chrissy came on to replace Morais. That saw Millar come to the middle and Liam switch to the left as Sammy again stuck in midfield on the right wing. Sammy was struggling though and he seemed unable to chase any balls as the second-half went under way. Falkirk forced an early corner that Smith held but three minutes after the restart Saints were punished. Sure it's fine packing five in the midfield but as a Saints attack broke up, a long clearance from the Bairns' defence bypassed Jody and Co. and left Finnegan racing through with Rustybitz that the Falkirk striker won and a low shot from just inside the box beat Smith to level the scores.
That gave the Falkirk fans and players some hope as Saints struggled to regain their shape. We were playing too many balls forward for the Doc on his own and in midfield the likes of Morris and Davidson weren't getting the time on the ball. At least Chris Millar was looking inspired and he sparked us into life in the 51st minute with a brilliant run down the right wing but his cross for Murray saw the midfielder crowded out in the opposition box. Grainger saw a cross easily held as the fans' patience began to wear thin.
Liam tried his luck in the 55th minute getting on the end of a good ball in the box making a good turn and firing in a low shot that was saved. Mackay and Millar linked up well with another good run from the latter on the right forcing a corner - this time Davidson saw his header held. Del made his second change in 57 minutes as Samuel went off to be replaced by JJ. Immediately we went back to a 4-4-2 formation. It was Falkirk that created the next chance though as Grainger was skinned for a change on the left. The ball into the box though fell for a Bairns striker who pulled off the sort of sclaff that Liam would have been proud of.
Saints were getting more chances though with two up front and Davidson created another in the 61st minute as his persistence in the middle of the park saw him win the ball and take it forward having to settle for a corner. Liam sent the ball in and it broke to the back post where Mackay chipped the ball back in for Deuchar who put the ball into the net only for the goal to be chalked off for a foul on the keeper. But two minutes later we got it right with a long ball from defence finding Deuchar. He was fouled but Saints played on and the ball was spread from left to right finding Millar coming through on the overlap and he fired in a beautiful low angled drive past the keeper and into the net. The weight was lifted from the shoulders once more.
The confidence rose with the second goal and Grainger set up the Doc next with a long ball that he headed on for JJ only for Twaddle to have finally managed to get his act together and catch us offside. But in the 66th minute a clash on the touchline left JJ and a Falkirk player off getting treatment with the Saints striker getting his Caffesque headband fitted. In the meantime Liam sent the freekick in from the right touchline into the box. It went deep for Olejnik to get but he could only half-punch it into the air and when the ball came back down there was Murray Davidson there to head the ball into the empty net to make it three-one. That was enough for some of the away end and with twenty minutes to go they were off home.
Falkirk weren't totally out of it and they tried to hit back while for their part Saints were starting to look tired. Rustybitz conceded a corner. Nothing came from that but in the 72nd minute another break down the right for them ended in a cross that saw Garters involved in a tackle in the box that had the Falkirk fans screaming for a penalty but Dougie MacDonald (who had a pretty decent game overall) waived the claims away. Back up the park we went and Jody set up Millar for a ball into the Doc in the box but the striker was tackled. A break from JJ earned us a throw-in as he ran the length of the pitch after a Falkirk corner but the best we could get from that was another good Millar cross that the defence cleared.
A Liam freekick in the 76th minute broke to Mackay and his cross for JJ saw the striker's header cleared allowing Liam to win a corner. That found Rustybitz but the skipper could only head over the bar. Falkirk had another attack but they were stuck trying their luck from distance with Davidson and Grainger blocking a pair of shots, followed by another Bairns attack breaking up as Jody put in a great tackle in the Saints area. We were still chasing a fourth goal though and with ten minutes left JJ released Chrissy for another sprint down the right but his cross ended up going out for a corner - even that caused some trouble with Olejnik forced into punching the ball clear.
Two minutes later a foul on the Doc on the right side of the box saw Liam's freekick find Garters. He had his back to goal so tried a Savoesque hook shot but only sent the ball over. We were all over them now with JJ setting up Millar again. This time his cross beat the opposition defence but the Doc also missed the ball. A long ball from Grainger next saw Millar turn the defence easily before a chip into the area was headed behind for a corner. Garters was up for this but the defence beat him to it as the ball was headed behind. The next corner saw Rustybitz manage to only head the ball over the bar. With only a couple of minutes remaining Mad Mental Martin came on for the knackered Davidson who was suffering from a head knock in a challenge with the keeper early on. There was no more luck for us but Falkirk tried for a consolation in injury time with Finnegan managing to do little more than shoot into the side netting.
Overall we thoroughly deserved the win and arguably should have been three or four up at the break. But given the effects of the cup tie in midweek and the obvious lack of training some of them had been able to take part in (Jody and Sammy looked off the pace) we did well. MoM for me was Murray Davidson who was everywhere today but credit too to the Doc and Chris Millar with the latter showing a turn of pace we'd never seen until now. This was a good morale-boosting three points - all we have to do it build on it. As for Falkirk they're not perhaps as bad as you'd expect but at the same time look like the worst team I've seen this season.
Right - time for the sheep...
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