Temple Of Saints - The Nightmare Before Xmas

Clydesdale Bank Premier League 12/12/2009

TFOD 3 Saints 0 - League Table Here

Team : Smith, Mackay, Grainger, Morris, Garters, Ando, Mooner, Davidson, Millar JJ, Morais
Subs: Main, Irvine, Deuchar, Craig, Swankie, May, Durnan

Given we'd manage to blow five points in the last fortnight with less than spectacular performances against the timewasters from Accies and Killie, there wasn't exactly much expectation as we headed into the Troll Lands of Govan and a trip to the Death Star. But it is the festive period after all and the time of year when wishes (and miracles) do come true so for the few hundred Saints fans that opted to stick by the boys and show some faith it was a case of never say die. We could also take heart from our last trip to Govan on CIS cup duty a few seasons ago when a spirited win saw us end the Scottish managerial career of Paul Le Guen.

Wally is made of sterner stuff and after the final nail was put into the coffin of their European campaign in midweek and despite the ongoing financial mess that makes RBS look like a sterling example of financial prudence, the Forces of Darkness weren't exactly going to be a pushover. They'd won through against Falkirk last week with Fatboy Boyd getting a double and without even needing the aid of a referee. But after their own ineptitude in Europe this week by their own admission made things more difficult for Scottish teams going forward (thanks to their coefficient-bursting winless run), they were possibly more demoralised and stretched than at any other time we've played them.

For Saints this was a chance to start making amends after a series of games that had seen us huff and puff without looking like a winning team. We either start badly and struggle to come good or else dominate games and, thanks to a strike force that have all the accuracy of Tiger Woods behind the wheel of a car, fail to capitalise on our advantage. But with Del and the boys making plenty of noise midweek (well when you read between the lines in the papers past all the guff about the Death Star memories of the likes of Del, JJ and Smithy) and the knowledge that even a defeat last weekend almost saw us move up the league, and Kenny Deuchar resorting to a goals v weight-loss bet with his old man, Saints really had nothing to lose going into this one.

As it was the match turned into the Nightmare before Christmas at least for the makeshift defence with Garters and Ando as the Saints defence ballsed up big time while the strikers contributed little and the midfield huffed and puffed to little effect. Del has to take some of the flak with a negative one-man up front formation while the defence and players were all too willing to play the ball across the back or back to Smiffy rather than try to get the ball forward and cause the home troglodytes some trouble. Still at least the fans won the moral battle - amazing how difficult the home orcs found it to reply to a chant of "England disnae want you". It was some small comfort.

Most of the Saints players came in for some, at times harsh, personal criticism of their individual mistakes last week with Rustybitz and Kenny Deuchar both singled out. Unfortunately the skipper's chances of making amends to the fans were put on hold as a ligament tear in training has ruled him out until the New Year, while Sammy joined him on the sidelines with knee trouble and Caff was rated a doubt with a groin strain. I mean you'd have thought that we were giving the Dark Ones an easy chance. Still the enforced changes did mean a chance for some of the other squad members to make their name - Garters, Peaso and JJ all played well for ninety minutes earlier in the week in a win over the other half of the Bigot Brothers and were in contention for a starting jersey, while they were jointed by Chris Millar and Swankie who both missed out last week giving the manager had plenty of options.

Defensively the chances saw a central pairing of Ando and Garters as Caff failed to make the side. The midfield was packed with Millar and Morais on the wings while Morris, Mooner and Davidson packed the centre behind JJ up front. On the bench there was no place for Peaso but in came His Supreme Swankosity. For the Dark Orcs of Govan, Wally's Euro efforts and a trip to Tannadump this coming midweek meant he had to make some changes. McGregor decided to brick it at the thought of Kenny Deuchar and faked a hamstring injury, but they'd gone for the full trio of diving cheats as Miller, Boyd and Novo lined up.

With hordes of unwashed surrounding us like a plague of parasites the Saints fans penned into the corner were more than outnumbered. Still the atmosphere wasn't exactly electric from the home fans (probably another bill they can't afford to pay) with the Wegie fog not helping to dispel the Mordor-like atmosphere. Even the ten-minute blast from the PA system as they tried to get the home fans going seemed half-hearted and their TV pix make the McDiarmid scoreboard look like the ultimate in visual entertainment.

As for the game we started brilliantly for all of thirty bloody seconds. Yup the scum had barely wiped the first slaver of drool from their lips than a TFOD break saw the ball fall to Garters. I didn't think he'd looked that rusty in the warmup but a nice sclaffy clearance went was played to Boyd and a low shot past Smith saw the optimism vanish like Rangers bank balance. Still we've been behind before this season but unfortunately this time we were just crap. A minute later Ando managed to lose the ball for Fatboy Boyd again but thankfully we managed to clear the danger. Kenny Miller managed a rare attack next staying on his feet but again the chance was cleared.

It wasn't until the sixth minute that we managed to create something with Mackay managing a run forward to the byeline but his cross was cleared all too easily. The home mob pressed back and a chip forward found Miller but his shot brought out a good save from Smith. Millar headed the first corner behind and cleared their second after Smith punched the ball clear. Beasley forced another corner in the 12th minute as he skinned Grainger again before seeing his cross deflected. Davidson was back this time to head the danger clear. Generally though we were far too defensive and JJ barely touching the ball. Beasley won a freekick after being tackled by Grainger but that was cleared. But with 15 minutes gone we almost got back into the game after JJ won a corner with a deflection off Weir's zimmer frame. It was cleared out but only as far as Chris Millar who took a touch before firing in a cracking shot that was tipped clear by Alexander - the second corner brought little joy as the defence cleared the ball.

The next attack by the Dark Ones ended with a cross that took a deflection that referee MacDonald turned into a handball. That freekick was played across the goal with a couple of bits of head tennis before it fell for Broadfoot who managed to head the ball over the bar from about two yards out. Saints next run came in the 21st minute but Papac up-ended Millar - the freekick turned into a total waste though. Miller had a shot for them in the 24th minute that went behind for a corner. Two minutes later we had another chance as a poor kickout from the Dark Ones fell for Mooner who went on a run setting up JJ but his shot was cut out.

But a minute later it was practically game over.The defence had been farting about all day with square balls and passbacks and we were finally punished in the 27th minute. A series of soft balls ended with Ando squaring for Mackay. He was too slow and in nicked a troll with Smith forced to go wide. One home orc on the deck and the referee pointed at the spot. In came Boyd and sent it low past Smith to make it two suicidal pieces of defending. The heads were down and despite some occasional flashes of skill from the midfield as Morris, Millar, Moon and Davidson all had their moment, we were simply not getting forward. Even when it was played to the likes of Morais on the left, he checked his run every single bloody time before trying to cut inside - not what we want to see from a winger.

We did manage to win a corner in the 32nd minute after a Grainger found Mooner and Millar but even that was cleared all too easily. Morais took another corner that was cleared at the near post and in the 36th minute Morris played a one-two with JJ before his cutback was cleared. The Forces of Darkness had another go in the 40th minute when a freekick was only half headed clear by Davidson to Miller who shot over. We were struggling to clear our lines and with JJ contributing the sum total of hee-haw up front. They should have scored again a minute before the break as a break down the left saw Miller given room to play a cutback for Boyd but his shot was well blocked on the line by Smith. They kept pressing though and there was a bit of a stramash in the six yard box before Grainger cleared.

After an interval spent listening to more bloody TFOD commercials (it felt like a Daily Record sports interview it was that bad) the second-half started with much the same form from Saints with a slow defence forcing Smith into a quick kick out as we were put under early pressure. Morais managed to win a corner in the 48th minute and the ball broke out to Garters who set up JJ for a flick in the box but the defence cleared the danger. Three minutes later and it was all over as another beak saw Morais lose the ball too easily. Beasley broke down the right wing and rode a challenge from Grainger before a cutback turned into a shot that Smith blocked only for that wee git Novo to get in with the rebound for their third.

We tried to get forward or back into the game but lacked any creativity while both Mackay and Morais were disappointing as it seemed we'd forgotten the basics about how to pass the ball or move. We were taking too long on the ball and the amount of times that players received a pass but were facing the wrong way was ridiculous. JJ had a run in the 56th minute but the defence beat him to the final ball and two minutes after that we played the advantage after Weir and Papac caught Davidson. The ball fell for Mooner who took it forward but chipped over the goal.

Del's first change after that saw JJ replaced by the Doc. Two minutes after coming on he almost set up a goal with a Morais cross (see the effect of running to the byeline) from the left headed on by Deuchar for Millar but his header was saved. Back at the other end Ando almost cost us again as a poor clearance ended with a break for Boyd - luckily the fat git was well offside again. A bit more fight from the Saints midfield almost paid off next as Morris broke forward and sent the ball out wide to Mackay coming forward on the overlap but he elected to shoot over instead of trying a cross. Mackay was caught napping a minute later as Novo skinned him on the wing and cut across the goal - thankfully his shot was blocked. Deuchar and Davidson saw a header cleared and then a rare mistake from skipper Jody Morris allowed another break for them but again when the ball came across the goal, Fatboy was in again but again he was well offside.

Their next attack saw Morais totally humiliated by being skinned by Broadfoot but at least he only won a corner and we cleared it easily. Del's second switch came in the 69th minute as Morais made was for His Supreme Swankiness. A minute later a decent cross for Davidson saw his header held. Beasley had a run for them and cut inside but Smith made a good save from his shot. We managed some pressure in the 73rd minute with Morais, Grainger and Mackay all trying crosses but in general the final ball was too poor. Millar managed to get one ball forward but Alexander managed to come out and gather. Novo shot over the bar and after Mackay was skinned again Boyd managed another effort - Smith blocked it and the offside flag only allowed the Saints fans left in the ground to have a wee laugh.

Saints chance came in the 78th minute with a long-range chip shot from Mooner held. A minute later another ball into the Rangers box saw Deuchar and Davidson unable to find room for a shot in the box. Cue a break up the park for the home side and that ended with a shot blocked on the line and a cross headed over Smithy's bar. Davidson picked up a knock in a clash with Davis next and then in the 81st minute a poor headed clearance from Ando allowed another break from TFOD which ended in a cross and shot over the bar. Millar lost possession next and allowed them another break. Ando's challenge was skipped as he came wide to cover for the missing Mackay but thankfully Garters and Smith were there to clear the danger.

Millar and Mackay linked for a cross that was cleared before their next break saw a low shot played across an empty goal. A minute later it was the same story at the other end as Deuchar and Swankie combined for a cutback that saw a lack of support with Millar just too late coming through the middle. Irvine came on for Garters for the last few minutes and contributed a couple of crosses but that was it. Papac saw a shot go wide and in injury time Jody tried a nice chip forward for Millar. He cut the ball back across the goal and it fell for Irvine who squared for Deuchar but his shot was easily held.

That was it and there was really little to cheer up the Saints fans today. Defensively we were poor for most of the game although Grainger at least tried against the wing play of Beasley and Smith made a couple of good saves. JJ up front was almost the invisible man and while Deuchar tried his best he was on his own too much. At least some of the midfield tried with MoM for me Jody Morris linking well with Mooner and Davidson and Chris Millar putting in a good shift on the right for little return. There's no doubt though that with the injury problems mounting in the squad we will need some new faces in the transfer window and a striker has to be a priority along with another centre-half - Ando and Garters were both poor today.

Del has a job to do to pick up the squad or next week's game and we badly need a win and some goals to avoid being dragged down any further.


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LEAGUE TABLE

Team P W D L F A Pts
Celtic 15 10 3 2 33 16 33
Rangers 14 9 4 1 26 9 31
Hibs 15 8 5 2 22 10 29
Dundee Utd 14 7 6 1 20 11 27
Motherwell 15 4 8 3 19 19 20
Aberdeen 15 4 6 5 12 16 18
Hamilton 15 4 4 7 15 24 16
Hearts 15 3 5 7 13 17 14
St Mirren 15 3 5 7 18 24 14
Saints 15 3 4 8 20 29 13
Kilmarnock 15 3 4 8 11 20 13
Falkirk 15 1 6 8 12 25 9

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