Temple Of Saints - Saints Blow It Again

Clydesdale Bank Premier League 13/02/2010

Killie 3 Saints 2 - League Table Here

Team : Smith, Mackay, Grainger, Morris, Doobs, Garters, Millar, Davidson, Sheridan, Peaso, Sheerinho
Subs: McLean, Connolly, Anderson, Liam, Deuchar, Swankie, Sammy

It's safe to say that this isn't a game that featured too highly on most Saints fans' must-see list this season. Killie have turned into our bogey team with two wins over Saints mainly due to the freak of nature that is Kevin Kyle (well aided and abetted by Alan Main's goalkeeping cock-ups). After losing the first game to the Ayrshire side we'd dominated the second match at McDiarmid without finding the back of the net. Today was a chance for some revenge over a side that's had mixed fortunes of late. Saints haven't been firing on all cylinders and the midweek trip to Paisley had seen another tired display from the boys as they battled for a draw against the Midden to keep us clear of the relegation zone. There had at least been some pluses for the fans that made the trip with Doobs looking more solid at the back and our overall attitude showing a bit more fight.

Killie meanwhile had undergone some changes since we last met with Jeffries quitting to be replaced by Jimmy Calderwood, adding a battle of the Tangomen slant to the dugouts today. They'd hit some form as well with a win over the Forces of Evil, progressing in the cup and dumping another pile of misery on Falkirk in midweek. So it wasn't going to be an easy game but at the same time there was the feeling that if Saints could shake off the lethargy that's appeared in our play since the win over the Jambos, then we'd be able to take something from this afternoon's encounter.

Ninety minutes of poor play later and Saints again end up the losing side against the Ayrshire mob. And from twice taking the lead we deserved to take a share of the points but our lack of finishing and some nightmare defending from the experienced members of the side cost us the game. The referee's ineptitude didn't help matters but in the end we only had ourselves to blame. The manager will no doubt get the stick especially with the controversial decision to start Sheridan (who is improving slightly) but the players are continuing to let themselves down with silly mistakes and a lack of fight on the park. Whether that's down to a lack of confidence or just the heavy schedule I don't know but it's something that needs to be addressed soon before we get dragged into the relegation dogfight.

Garters was available today after sitting out midweek but it was debatable whether or not he'd walk back into the team. Doobs and Ando had done well in midweek while Dave Mackay was another option for possibly returning to centre-half. Mooner's hamstring and the Doc's back kept them out of the game at Paisley but the latter returned to the squad and Sammy, who had made the bench midweek, was also there. Fil Morais was also a doubt after picking up a leg knock in a nasty challenge against the Midden. The Saints starting eleven then saw Smithy's defensive cover in the shape of Garters and Doobs in the middle with Mackay again at right-back as Irvine dropped out of sight along with Savo. Davidson started alongside Morris with Millar and Sheerinho on the wings and Sheridan and Peaso up front. Sammy again made the bench with the Doc as Savo missed out.

For Killie Burchill and Wright were missing but with Maguire and Kyle up front they had plenty of firepower and with Calderwood in charge they had undergone a change to their style of play with a more attack-minded approach to the game.

The pitch wasn't brilliant but that was no real excuse. The recent disappointments impacted the Saints support with fewer than 300 Saints making the journey. And the opening stages weren't exactly inspiring. Sheridan managed a rare header but his ball forward for Peaso was too far for the striker. The first shot vaguely near the goal came from Saints in the second minute with a Danny throw- in headed clear by the Killie defence but the ball fell kindly for Millar who struck a neat volley that went just over the bar. The style of game was set up in the first few minutes though with some niggly early freekicks coming to nothing - this stop-start crap isn't very entertaining and again it showed up how little initiative we're showing these days, especially when you compare it to how we played at the start of the season.

Killie's first attack was broken up by Grainger in the 5th minute. He set up Sheerin who went on a run and played Sheridan up in the box but although the striker did well he was well tackled in the area. Killie went up the park winning a soft freekick as Kyle clambered over Doobs. The freekick as curled over the wall and went just wide of Smithy's goal. Two minutes later and another break down the right saw Danny skinned and a low cutback just cleared, as the Saints defence looked pretty shaky. As an attacking force our most potent threat came from Danny's long throw-ins but even those were easily cleared. Then in the 12th minutes Killie's best chance of the game came thanks to some wonderful defending. Doobs half-cleared a loose ball and then Garters totally sclaffed a punt from the edge of the box with the ball spinning back and forcing Smithy to come across his goal and make a good save to tip the ball wide. At least the keeper looked a bit sharper at the resulting corner as he cleanly snatched the ball out of the air.

Kyle was warned by the referee after a shove on Garters for mouthing off. But as the game wore on there was little to get really excited about as we struggled to link the play together. Mackay saw a cross cleared before our next chance in the 14th minute. A long Smithy freekick was hit long and headed on by Davidson for Peaso who turned neatly and fired in a low shot that was well held by the keeper. A minute later the play was back up the other end and Kyle got behind the Saints defence and as Doobs stood off him he had room to turn and send an angled shot over the bar. The Freaky Kyle saw a header held while all we could offer was a Peaso cross was cleared.

We were generally too slow and the midfield were unable to support the front pair. Smithy gave us some entertainment by skinning Maguire in his box. Killie had a freekick into the Saints box in the 22nd minute but Davidson headed clear easily and Muzz was in action at the other end a minute later as he got his head onto a Sheerinho cross but his header was cleared. Hay had a long-range effort go just over Smithy's bar and then Saints had a great chance when Doobs threaded a great ball through for Sheridan on the right and he cut in but his shot was blocked by Bell.

Davidson cleared another Killie corner as more and more the game seemed to need a goal. Millar went on a good run in the 30th minute with Davidson and Mackay involved in a good passing move before the latter set up Peaso who forced a corner. That was headed clear and fell for Millar who fired a decent shot in only for Peaso to deflect it wide. But with 34 minutes gone we broke the deadlock with a nice piece of individual skill. Another Killie attack was broken up and Saints took the play up the park with Mackay getting the ball on the wing. Instead of firing in a cross he cut inside and played a low pass into Peaso on the edge of the box and he turned his man brilliantly and sent a shot to Bell's right that beat the keeper's flailing arms to end in the back of the net. One-nil us and suddenly the Killie defence looked really shaky. The bad news though was Peaso picked up what looked to be a thigh strain in the process and a couple of minutes later he was replaced by the Doc.

We kept the pressure up for a spell with several testing crosses fired into the box before it ended with a decent drive from Grainger that was well held. But with two minutes to go before the break Killie won a soft freekick for an alleged handball against Garters. The freekick was floated into the box. The header down was half cleared and then for some reason Doobs tried to clear his lines but only succeeded in sending the ball across the goal where Maguire was there to blast in from about two yards out. A daft goal that should have been preventable and the post-goal celebrations in front of the Saints fans were inflammatory to say the least.

The referee's inconsistency (well other than being consistently pish) showed up again at the start of the second-half with a decision against Millar who had fairly won the ball off Maguire. The wall blocked the freekick though. Doobs was clobbered by Kyle in the 50th minute but again no freekick for Saints and Killie were allowed to break down the left but thankfully their cross went behind.

Two minutes later and Saints won a freekick of their own at last after Invincible had a petulant foul on Jody. Grainger floated in the freekick beautifully and Garters got up to hit a glancing header to take the ball over and past a static Bell on the goalline, sending the ball into the back of the net and the fans into raptures. Not the best of goals but it would do nicely. The aftermath saw Killie lose their shape more as Saints got more fired up. Suddenly we were finding room for the maroon shirts to press forward.

Of course the home side had some cynical tactics of their own with Maguire going down very easily in the middle of the park against Danny. He got the freekick but still managed a kick out at the Saints player as he went past but somehow referee Finnie's narrow vision meant he missed the offence despite being about two feet away. Killie fired in one freekick that was headed wide of Smith's goal while for Saints the Doc managed one run into the box on the hour mark but his cross was blocked. Calderwood put on Salmon for Clancy just after that as he chased the game. We kept up the pressure with a Deuchar run into the box that was just cleared by the defender.

Millar had a shot blocked in the 61st minute and the ball broke out to Morris who floated the ball back in for Sheridan who was held by two defenders but as is usual these days the referee turned a blind eye and ignored the penalty claims. Killie went up the park and thanks to a Mackay slip broke down the left winning a corner off Doobs although Davidson headed that clear. But with 63 minutes gone, Morris was guilty of a daft tug in the middle of the park. The freekick was taken short and turned into a break from the left from Hay who unchallenged fired in a long- range shot that had Smith well-beaten to level the scores.

Suddenly the confidence was evaporating from Saints again as the home side pressed more. We managed a nice move in the 65th minute with Sheerinho (who had a quiet game) setting up Deuchar but his shot went just over the bar. Killie replaced Invincible with Taouil as both sides chased a winner. A good Mackay cross from the right in the 68th minute saw a good volley from Deuchar deflected behind. At the other end Killie had a decent deep cross that Smith did well to get up and punch with Mackay clearing the lines. Another Killie break down the right ended with a square ball for Kelly but he shot over.

Liam replaced Sheerinho in the 73rd minute. He linked with Grainger two minutes later but the latter's cross was held. A long ball from Grainger next found the Doc and he won a corner but Grainger's effort was cleared. The left-back had an even worse time a minute later as Taouil broke down the wing and skinned Danny. A cutback from the goalline to the far post and there was the ugly sight of Kyle getting up to head past Smith for their 3rd. That was bad enough but the restart was delayed with Mackay having words with the referee, possibly indicating that he was fouled for the goal - all he got was a warning.

Saints were up against it now. A Davidson mistake let Killie break in the 79th minute but Grainger got back to cover conceding a corner. Del threw on Sammy for Sheridan as we chased an equaliser. Another Grainger throw-in was cleared to the Doc but despite being fouled he managed to feed the ball to Jody who shot over.

Mackay set up Davidson in the box next and his ball over was headed on by Sammy who found Deuchar but his shot was cleared off the line although Saints had a strong claim for a penalty for a foul on the Doc as he took his shot. Millar had a run next which was ended by Bryson and again the card stayed in the referee's pocket. Danny's freekick came off the wall although there was a big claim for a handball on the wall but all that got us was a booking for Jody for dissent - perhaps showing how worked up the players were but they weren't showing it on the ball.

Bryson at least got a deserved booking in the 88th minute as we got another freekick. The ball was cleared and the ball went up the park with Garters seeing a pass to Mackay intercepted. Smith saved the final shot though. Sammy tried a long ball to Millar but that was cut out and with Garters sent forward as a makeshift striker we pressed for an equaliser as the game went into injury time. Garters was fouled at the edge of the box but Liam sent the freekick round the wall and just wide of the goal. Then the last throw of the dice saw Grainger send in a good cross for the Doc but his header was held despite the keeper taking it over the goalline denying us a corner. But that's just the way the game was going for us all day really.

There was some applause for the players and to be fair to them some of them worked hard with Grainger, Davidson, Millar and Deuchar putting in good shifts - Murray getting my MoM for his effort in the middle. But the general flow to our play that we had before Xmas is missing from the side. Losing Peaso didn't help and he'd been playing well beforehand. Sheridan is no replacement but did ok, although I still don't think he's good enough for the side. As for the rest of the side, there was a lack of discipline at times and we've lost some of our pace. Sheerinho struggled for pace but did well going forward. Liam and Sammy came on and showed some touches but not enough to turn the game. Del has some work to try and lift the squad and possibly the only thing in his favour that the games coming up are against teams we're possibly not expected to get a result from.

On the plus side at least we don't have to face that git Kyle again - well not till it really matters.

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Team P W D L F A Pts
Rangers 24 16 7 1 55 15 55
Celtic 25 14 6 5 50 28 48
Hibs 23 12 7 4 37 21 43
Dundee Utd 25 11 9 5 37 34 42
Motherwell 25 8 11 6 31 30 35
Hearts 25 8 7 10 23 29 31
Aberdeen 24 7 8 9 23 29 29
Kilmarnock 25 6 7 12 21 33 25
Saints 22 6 6 10 32 41 24
St Mirren 24 5 6 13 23 35 21
Hamilton 24 5 6 13 18 35 21
Falkirk 24 3 8 13 19 39 17

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