Saints 1 Burnley 0
Team : Main, Mackay, Grainger, Morris, Garters, Caff, Davidson,
Swankie, Sammy, Liam, Morais
Subs: McLean, Irvine, Moon, Ando, Deuchar, Savo, Peaso, Hardie, Sheerinho
OK, so perhaps today's game wasn't as meaningful as last week's encounter with the Premiership new-boys heading to McDiarmid, but it was always going to act as a strong indicator as to how we've improved over the last year. Besides at least this time there were a few more Scots to shout abuse at in the Turf Moor ranks and for a change Saints had opened both the East and Main stands to give us a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the surroundings. And a good crowd turned out today to see a very convincing Saints performance end in a well-deserved win for the home side, even if the winning goal came from the penalty spot. From back to front, the passing, movement and pace from Del's side were excellent even allowing for all the changes made as the second period wore on. It's hard to tell how far Burnley are in their own preparations of how strong their side was but even compared to last weekend's cup win, we looked a lot more relaxed on the ball with some wonderful build-up play to control the game.
With Ruti still out and Jacko and Millar missing, Del did make some changes to the lineup. Dave Mackay started at right back in an otherwise unchanged back four while Swankie got the nod along with Sammy instead of Savo and the Doc - Savo obviously suffering the mental trauma caused by his cracking goal last week being described as "flukey" by John "Excuses" Coughlin - aye and Dave Narey's 1982 one against Brazil was really a toepoke. The bench also saw the return of Mooner and Peaso as they continued their comeback.
With the game kicking off a two o'clock there was a healthy turnout with plenty of Burnley fans making the trip north. Saints started brilliantly though and as early as the first minute, Sammy latched onto a through ball to make a great run but his pass to Morris was a poor one. Two minutes later and a Davidson header sent Sammy through the middle although he unfortunately elected to shoot instead of the pass to the unmarked Morais and sent a well-struck shot just wide. We kept the pressure up with Swankie winning a corner that ended in a Davidson header being cleared. Next up Filipe turned provider setting up Swankie with a nice ball but Gav's shot was deflected over the bar. The resulting corner was sent over and headed back for Caff but his shot was held. Saints were looking sharp as they dominated the game with Sammy sneaking in behind the defence in the 9th minute but his shot was blocked. Then Morais tried his luck coming along the goalline from the left and had a shot held.
It was great stuff to watch and Burnley didn't even come close to testing the Saints defence until 15 minutes had gone when they won a soft freekick after a Grainger challenge. That came to nothing though and a corner four minutes later was easily cleared. The next real chance came for Saints in the 20th minute with another simple long ball forward found Swankie and a simple header inside for Liam ended with a cracking volley that the Burnley keeper tipped over the bar. That led to a couple of corners for Saints with the final one ending up in a Morais cutback for Swankie that was blasted over the bar.
Morais, who along with Sammy was causing a lot of problems with his pace, had a decent break next and forced the opposition keeper to come out of his box to head the danger clear. Then with 25 minutes gone Filipe had another great run and sent a great cross along the goalline which beat the keeper and found Sammy at the back post and his shot back in was somehow caught by the keeper when it seemed easier to score.
Burnley had a corner on the half an hour but Mackay cleared it easily as he looked solid in the right-back slot. Murray Davidson tried his luck next with a header from a Grainger cross that was held before Burnley came close after a mix-up in between Swankie and Caff allowed Burnley to get a decent shot in but Main made a great save. They had another good effort just before the break as they carved open the Saints defence for the first time in the game and made room for a clear shot from eight yards out only for Main to make a great block.
The first changes for Saints came at half-time with Liam, Sammy and Morais off to be replaced by Savo, the Doc and Sheerinho. And within a minute of the restart we almost took the lead thanks to a dodgy headed passback from the Burnley no 5 who managed to head the ball past his keeper and inches wide of the empty goal. We were still creating chances but Burnley looked to have received a kick up the arse from Owen - still the first chance came from us courtesy of a snap shot from Savo. Swankie won us our first corner of the half and a Sheerinho curler ended up at the feet of Garters but his shot was well held. Eight minutes into the game, Morris was held. Danny G took the freekick and hit it hard and lot with the keeper only just holding onto the ball as it seemed to threaten to spin over him into the net.
Davidson was fouled next on the right touchline and Swankie's ball over found Davidson at the back post but his header was miles off target. There was a chance for the Saints fans to get worked up in the 58th minute as ex-Scumdonian McDonald came off the bench to a lovely chorus of boos. On the park we were still trying our luck with Sheerin sending a shot wide. Del made his next set of changes on the hour mark with Mackay and Morris making way for Irvine and the Mad Mental One in a straight swap.
Burnley almost took the lead in the 65th minute as a ball over the defence ended up in a shot from close range that brought out another brilliant save from Main before Murray Davidson cleared. That was the midfielder's last involvement in the game as he went off to plenty of applause to be replaced by Mooner. Burnley's next chance came in the 70th minute as they won a corner off Irvine. That was cleared only for a the referee to give a foul against Swankie. The freekick was well struck but yet again the impressive Main was there to keep the ball out.
Oweny had made several changes as the half wore on and the English side were looking a lot stronger as we entered the closing stages. They had a header go over when it seemed easier to score and even managed to get the ball into the net in the 75th minute before the goal was chalked off for a foul on a Saints defender. We almost had a claim for a penalty in the 77th minute when there was a handball from a defender as the Wizard dribbled into the area but the referee decided the offence had been committed just outside the area. Martin Hardie tried his luck with a decent curling shot that went round the wall but just wide of goal.
Peaso came on for Swankie twelve minutes from the end and a minute later we came close when a loose Burnley header from the touchline fell kindly for Savo who let rip with a cracking volley which went across the goal and just wide of target. Two minutes later and Savo turned provider with a neat through ball for Peaso in the box whose progress was ended by a late challenge leaving the referee with no alternative than to point to the spot. Sheerinho grabbed the ball first and made no mistake to give us a 1-0 lead. Suffice to say the way Oweny kicked his water bottle perhaps indicated his feelings on the decision.
Ando came on for Granger next to get a runout at left-back as Burnley chased an equaliser, but Saints still finished well. Peaso tried to set up Savo only for a defender to clear before a lovely break four minutes from time engineered by Mooner saw the ball sent out to Deuchar making run on the wing but his cutback was just missed by Savo who needed just a tap in to score. Burnley had one late chance with a run which saw two of their players looking a mile offside, but the ball was overrun in the box and Main had an easy grab.
While we perhaps lost some of the fluidity in the team in the second-half, today's performance was excellent from Main being solid at the back right up to the strikers with nobody hiding and everyone putting in their effort for the cause. MoM for me was Danny Grainger who looks excellent at the back. Del has a bit of a dilemma ahead of the league opener given the performance of the likes of Mackay, Swankie, Sammy and Davidson today as to whether or not they'll get a start next week.
Pre-season is over now but the way we're playing we've got nothing to fear.
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