Stenhousemuir 0 Saints 5
Team : Main, Irvine, Grainger, Morris, Garters, Caff, Davidson,
Liam, Savo, Doc, Morais
Subs: McLean, Mackay, Swankie, Sheerinho, Sammy
Right - time for business. And with a repeat of our CIS tie last season, Saints headed for Larbert for their first competitive game of the season. No more talk about getting the fitness sorted, we had to go out and get a good win today both to avoid the banana- skin humiliation that comes with being an EssPeeEll team in the diddy rounds of the cup and to ensure that the confidence amongst the faithful ahead of the league opener in a fortnight didn't take any knocks. If nothing else, we had the perfect opportunity to see how much the squad has progressed over the last year when the corresponding fixture saw us win out comfortably in the end in the midst of one the poor start to the campaign.
Today's game though saw no danger for Saints as for the first time in ages it seems we went into a game against lower league opposition with no real nerves and brimming with confidence. And after the first goal went in there was never any danger of the home side getting back into the game. They were a tough side and played some nice football but this was a game that we dominated from start to finish with the strikers banging in some quality goals and all the new faces demonstrating how they've fitted into the Saints side. It's hard to take anything from such a one-sided match but if nothing else this has kept the confidence running through the side and set us up nicely for the coming season.
Going into this one we'd suffered the traditional upset in midweek when Rustybitz had to go off early at Cowdenbeath and had to sit this one out. With Jacko joined by Mooner and Peaso on the sidelines, Graeme Smith pretending he was still at the Death Star with a late call-off and the midfield picking up a couple of late injuries we had more than a few problems. But squad depth nowadays meant there was still plenty of experience for Del to call on. That meant the central defence saw Garters come in to partner Caff. Elsewhere and Gary at right-back was out to maintain his form from the end of last season and on the other flank the arrival of Danny Grainger as a permanent left-back was greeted with the sort of fanfare and heavenly choir that you'd normally associate with the Second Coming - mind you it seemed like we'd waited just as long. Midfield was going to pose a nice wee problem for Del with plenty of options to pick from - although the Stenny players were going to be spared the wrath of Mad Mental Martin ruled out yesterday along with Chris Millar. Del went for Filipe and Liam on the flanks with Murray Davidson brought in to partner skipper-for-the-day Jody Morris. Up front Savo's partner today was the Doc.
The game started well enough on a pitch which in terms of grass content was on a par with Chic Young's knowledge of Saints (and just as fake as well). There was a good crowd through backing Saints and after a small delay while the corner flags were put into position, Saints threatened first after a foul on the Doc - Morais saw his freekick held. Savo tried his luck chasing down a loose ball a minute later but McCluskey in the home goal came out to gather. The game though was a fairly scrappy affair with Saints seemingly intent on continually playing the ball up in the air for the Doc but coming up against a well-organised home defence.
Our first corner was easily cleared in the 9th minute and Liam saw a freekick for Davidson intercepted by the keeper. Danny Grainger, who looked very impressive and confident at left-back linked well with Jody and Irvine in the 13th minute but again the cross was held. Five minutes later we came closer after Davidson was fouled. A freekick from the wing was headed in the box by a Warriors defender but only to Savo who tried his luck with a volley that went just wide of goal.
Four minutes later though Savo got his reward as he latched onto a long ball from Danny, broke down the wing and cut inside before trying a cross cum chip shot that sailed into the box and over the keeper's head before dropping just under the bar to give us the lead. A nice classy way to start the season. Things got worse for Stenhousemuir with Lyle injured in the build- up to the goal forcing them into their first change of the afternoon. Still despite being a goal behind they managed to make it a bit nervous for us after Gary Irvine lost possession on the wing and the cross ball was only just tipped over the bar by Main. The corner was scrappy but Saints eventually managed to deal with it before breaking up the park. The Doc started the move spreading the ball out to Filipe on the right wing. He took it forward and played a brilliant cross into the six-yard box where the Doc ran onto the ball to power a header into the net. Two-nil up and there wasn't even half an hour on the clock.
The goal gave us confidence and suddenly Saints saw their play look more confident and smoothly. A long ball for the Doc was laid off for Savo who set up Filipe for a volley that went just over the bar. Stenhousemuir saw a corner cleared off the line but that was their only real chance. Morais was showing some wonderful close control on the wing to skin defenders and provide some entertainment and one piece of play ten minutes from the break led to a great cross for the Doc but he lost the ball in the six-yard box. It still broke for Liam but he somehow managed to stick the ball wide.
Danny chipped in next with a long throw-in for the Doc. His header on found Davidson who tried a looping header that the keeper just held. Caff saw a header held next from a Morais freekick. A corner was wasted and then a minute from the break Morais set up Gary for a great cross for a Davidson header that was blocked on the line.
The second-half had a fairly subdued start as Saints seemed to be slow to get going. It was the home side that created the first chance with a break and an angled shot that Main did well to tip over. The resulting corner got the same treatment before the boys managed to clear their lines. Filipe had a good break in the 49th minute before setting up Irvine but his deep cross went behind.
Del's first change came seven minutes into the half with Sammy coming on for Savo, who didn't look too happy at being replaced. Saints were controlling the game more and more though. Filipe saw a long-range effort held while Stenhousemuir's counter was a cross that went just wide of goal. Murray Davidson picked up our only booking of the afternoon for a clumsy tackle from behind just after the hour mark. Main pulled off a fantastic diving save from the freekick, while up the other end of the park a freekick for us saw Grainger fire in a low shot that was easily held.
More and more it seemed we needed a third goal and the Gods duly provided one in the 66th minute.Filipe tried his luck with a dipping shot that wasn't cleanly held and Sammy was in there for the rebound to win a corner. That was played deep and a header back across the goal saw Sammy get down for a diving header to make it 3-0. Four minutes later the fourth went in with a ball in from the left finding the keeper and defence going missing. A ball back across the goal found the Doc and he tapped it in for the fourth.
Dave Mackay replaced Gary for the last 20 minutes and five minutes after the change we rounded off the scoring with a cross from the left headed down by the Doc and out for Sammy who drove it into the back of the net.
Sheerinho replaced Morais and almost got our sixth after a freekick was headed back across the goal for the Wizard only for him to shoot over the bar - obviously the magic dust on his boots was suffering from the rain which by now was pissing down. Liam saw a shot go wide while Danny almost scored ten minutes from time only for the keeper to gather from his feet. The weather had deteriorated though and by now it seemed that Saints just wanted to play out the closing stages. A couple of crosses were all that we had to show for it while the home side won a corner at the death courtesy of Garters but that was easily dealt with.
Overall a good solid performance with plenty of positives for the manager to take into next week.It was good to see all the strikers getting on target with some well worked goals while the defence looked solid despite the missing Rustybitz. Midfield too had a bit of flair about it thanks to Filipe but MoM for me had to be Jody. Solid in the tackle and not a ball wasted - he's going to be a big player for us in the SPL.
It's nice to feel confident for a change!!
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