Saints 1 The Forces of Darkness 2 - League Table Here
Team : Main, Mackay, Grainger, Morris, Garters, Ando, Millar,
Davidson, Hardie, Sammy, Swankie
Subs: McLean, Caff, Craig, Deuchar, Morais, Reynolds, May
After a week's break to watch Scotland commit ritual suicide in Yokohama, it was back to the bread and butter of the league and a lunchtime kick-off against the other half of the Bigot Brothers. Of course with Saints being just a wee provincial team we have to make the most of our games against the might of the Old Firm since we've been holding them back for so long that they're keen to head off to England (well all those Union Jacks and renditions of God Save the Queen aren't for nothing you know) taking the massive boost they give to Saints fortunes with them. And of course we'll miss the superstars that they put on show against us with the likes of Krissy Boyd and Alan McGregor no doubt eager to play on a big stage and not throw any daft wee tantrums about contracts / behaviour off the pitch. Yup the Forces of Darkness are nothing but a shining example to clubs like Saints in every aspect of the game - morally, financially and of course keeping up the Corinthian spirit of sportsmanship. Aye bloody right - today saw a chance for us to get our own back on two painful cup defeats in recent seasons (although an Ibrox encounter in the CIS cup does have more pleasant memories).
Fresh on the back of a good win at Hamilton a fortnight ago Saints were well up for this one. Of course our opponents thought they were on the comeback trail as well after managing to stick a couple past their fellow rats (as in leaving a sinking ship) but then again, as we proved so well, anyone can score against Gary Caldwell. Still it was good to see that with Saints on the "big" stage, we got a fair amount of coverage in the papers - I mean there was about two paragraphs in the Sun with Del compared to four pages of Wally 'n' Ally - that wouldn't have been too bad but most of the Del interview seemed to concentrate on his thoughts on just how great Wally 'n' Ally are.
The game though turned into another of those depressing encounters where again we dominated the play, had the majority of chances and lost out to a couple of rare Rangers attacks. I mean Christ only knows what we have to do to get a break in these games and when you've played by far the better football over the ninety minutes and had to put up with the so-called superstars of the OF timewasting for the last five minutes the phrase "kick in the teeth" springs to mind - still no doubt the patronising pish in the papers tomorrow will go some way to try and ease the pain. Saints can be proud of their performance - if anything we ran out of steam near the end but there were no real weak links in the side and given the way we were kicked all over the park we did well to finish with the semi-fit players that were on the park at the final whistle. It's another case of no points but frankly, the performances mean we'll get our rewards yet.
Going into the match any idea that our injury list was clearing was put to bed midweek. Savo's ankle ruled him out, Jody had barely trained thanks to a virus and while Rustybitz, Peaso and Mooner all continued their comeback from injury they still lacked match sharpness. Morais had recovered from his injury to play and thankfully Graham "Mr. Yellow" Gartland was still available to play although the odds on him not being eligible for a suspension by 3pm were about as likely as the Old Firm not blaming Albion Rovers for them being rubbish in Europe - especially with Wullie "I'm booking you for looking at an OF player in a funny way" Collum doing the man in the middle routine. And Kenny Deuchar had a wee bit more incentive to score today after becoming a father on Thursday. Elsewhere in the side and Ando kept his place at the back while a one-man strike force of Sammy was backed up by a five-man midfield with Murray back in the side and His Serene Swankiness and the Mad Mental One took up flanking duties in midfield. For the Dark Ones, Fatty Boyd and Kyle the Cheat were up front while the silky skills of Lee McCulloch was in defence - honestly you can just see the TV producers throwing the cash to see that lot play can't you.
There was a decent crowd in the ground for kick-off (that is decent in numbers - the disgusting behaviour of the unwashed followers of the Dark Ones was as bad as ever in the build-up). The game kicked off with the Saints support enjoying an early rendition of "Fuck off to England" to keep the bigots quiet (well apart from the oh-so-original and topical Rule Britannia giving a go). The Dark Ones and their orc followers were soon quietened though as Saints got off to a great start. In the second minute Morris and Danny linked well to try and set up Chrissy for a shot. He couldn't make and room but a minute later a lovely through ball found Sammy in space on the left. He got forward and sent a great cross over which beat the Dark Defence only to be met by a powerful header from the Mad Mental One at the back post. That had the beating of McGregor but not the woodwork as the ball rebounded. Still it was a nice way to open the game.
The Bigots first chance came courtesy of a poor clearance from Main to Rothen in the 6th minute but he chipped his shot over the bar. Mackay had a good run up the right end with a nasty tackle from Smith which referee Collum decided to award but kept his cards in his pocket. Thomson had a go at Mackay next and the freekick saw Morris send the ball forward for Swankie on the left wing but his cross was headed out for a corner - that ended up with an offside against Saints as we continued to press. Hardie saw a cross go out next while the Dark Ones were limited to a freekick from the edge of the box after Grainger was pulled into a foul - Main comfortably held the shot.
The game was being played at a hectic pace but Saints were controlling the game in midfield with a good break for Sammy in the 15th minute ended by a Papac challenge. Ando saw a cross held but with 19 minutes on the clock we finally got our deserved reward. Millar and Hardie combined in the centre of the park to play a through ball for Sammy who had outpaced the zimmer frames of Weir and McCulloch. Sammy tore up the inside right channel, cut into the box and with McGregor floundering like his club's European chances, Sammy coolly slotted the ball under the keeper. One-nil us and the bigoted chanting was silenced.
With Saints in the lead there was a lot more confidence pulsing through the side as the Wegie mob looked more and more shaken. Murray Davidson had a decent break next but his final pass to Chrissy was cut out by a defender. The Wegies got another freekick after Whittaker collapsed in the presence of Danny Grainger but Thomson could do nothing more than curl his shot over the bar. We had a decent claim for a penalty (yeah I know how likely it was to be awarded but even so) as Swankie and Jody combined on the left and the ball into the box for Sammy saw the Saints striker hauled to the deck. For the Wegies Lafferty managed to avoid cheating long enough to try a shot in the 25th minute as Garters covered but his effort was weak and Main saved easily.
We got another freekick on the half-hour mark as Lafferty was penalised for a kick on Murray. The freekick on the right wing was headed out only as far as Jody who tried a drive from the edge of the box which McGregor held. Swankie and Mackay kept up the pressure but their crosses were cleared too easily as we seemed guilty of not committing enough midfielders forward to support Sammy. Sammy had a decent break through behind the defence in the 36th minute but he went wide and allowed McCulloch back to clear (the shame of it). The midfield was playing out of their skins though and some of the one-touch play was fantastic to watch.
The Forces of Darkness were rarely seen as an attacking force. A 39th minute corner was easily held by Main but four minutes from the break they scraped together enough luck to force a goal. Papac had a run from defence and while we stood off him he had an attempt from the edge of the box. It was blocked but broke back and a follow-up shot took a couple of deflections into the box and broke for the poaching Teletubby that is Kris Boyd and he managed to get his arse in the way to sclaff the ball past Main despite Ando's best attempt to get across and cover. You'd have thought the bigots had won the league the way they celebrated instead of just scoring against one of us diddy teams.
The heads went down a bit after that. Morris lost the ball easily in midfield allowing Davis forward to shoot wide. At the other end Swankie set up Sammy for a shot that went wide and then Mackay released Sammy who forced a corner from Weir but Grainger's inswinger was held by the keeper.
No changes at the break but the obvious alteration in the opposition tactics saw them go for a more physical game with Millar on the receiving end of the first kick within a minute of the restart. Then a dozy Garters was caught out but Main recovered to block Kyle the Cheat's shot. Saints were still giving as good as they got though and Millar pounced on a loose ball in the 50th minute but his run and shot went wide of target. A minute later it got dirtier as a Lafferty foul on Hardie also saw him get a sneaky stamp in which left MMM struggling.
We kept pressing though and there was plenty of belief in the side with Mackay having a good run on the right before crossing for Murray but his header took a bounce off the deck and went just wide of goal after beating the keeper. Morris set up a break next for Sammy and Chrissy who went on a run and set up Swanks but he was tackled trying to round the defender. We had another good break in the 56th minute with Millar linking with Sammy on the wing but as he tried to set up Swankie McCulloch came in for a nasty challenge - at least it earned the Dark Defender a yellow card. The freekick was sent deep into the opposition box and Davidson headed the ball down for Swankie who play in Grainger on the left but his cutback was cleared off the line after beating the keeper.
The next break in the 59th minute saw Sammy break before cutting the ball in from the right but the ball went behind Millar - one yard the other way and he'd have been set up to score. The Dark Ones broke up the park and tried their luck from distance but Main got down to hold the shot. Davidson set up Sammy next but his low angled shot was easily held.
Filipe replaced His Serene Swankiness on the hour mark. The bigots had the next chance with Davis making a run down the right in the 64th minute despite the close attentions of Millar (he was pulled back for a yellow for that) but his cross for Boyd was headed wide - he was well offside anyway. Morais had a decent break a couple of minutes later but was scythed from behind by Papac - we didn't even get a freekick and despite Morais being down with a shoulder injury the Dark Ones broke up the park thanks to the Cheat but his shot went harmlessly across the goal. Morais was able to continue after treatment but his shoulder was causing him a problem for the rest of the game. In fact he nearly scored in the 69th minute as a freekick forward for Saints was headed down by Hardie for Morais but his shot back across the goal was somehow cleared off the line. The resulting corner was bundled over the line at the back post but the referee gave a freekick for a foul on the keeper with McGregor having words with Garters who actually needed treatment for a head knock after colliding with the post.
We kept pressing though - Mackay saw a header cleared from a corner and Morais had a shot from the edge of the box well held. Morais pounced on another loose ball in the 78th minute releasing Sammy but his shot was also stopped by the keeper. The final throw of the dice saw Novo and Miller come on to try and win the traditional penalty for them while Liam and the Doc replaced Sammy and Hardie for us with Morais switching to the right wing. Davidson saw a header from a freekick cleared, but with seven minutes remaining the final kick in the teeth arrived. Mackay had conceded a corner but Grainger cleared it unfortunately the ball was played back in and a Papac shot from the edge of the box rocketed past Main and into the net. Nae bloody justice - especially given his antics in the game until that point which meant he was lucky to be on the park.
We tried to get back into the game again but we were out on our feet. Mackay had a couple of crosses with Liam seeing a header held. Craig won a freekick after Whittaker tried to disembowel him and that left to another stramash in McGregor's goal with the ball seemingly crossing the line only for the linesman to flag for offside. The Bigots were almost Hamiltonesque in their timewasting antics as we went for route one to try and get a late equaliser. The best chance came from a freekick in the last minute which was headed down in the box for Morais but his volley went straight at the keeper. And deep into injury time the bigots almost got a third but a good block from Main against Novo saw a small piece of justice for Saints.
Another defeat but again it was a good solid performance from Saints. We needed to make the most of our chances and if risked two strikers of if Morais hadn't picked up a knock you never can tell what would have happened. We will survive in this league - the skills are there for all to see and the players worked their arses off for one another today. MoM for me is a hard one to pick but Sammy's goal and general play sees him edge out Ando and Jody. There is no need to be afraid - we are going to be fine and as for the bigots their time will come.
Time to turn effort into goals.
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