St Midden 1 Saints 1 - League Table Here
Team : Main, Mackay, Grainger, Morris, Garters, Caff, Sheerinho, Davidson, Savo, Sammy, Morais
Subs: McLean, Irvine, Millar, Deuchar, Hardie, Reynolds, May
It was a case of a trip into the unknown today as we headed west to Paisley Junkieland. With Love St now just a pile of broken bricks and used needles, Saints headed to the unfamiliar surroundings of Ferguslie Park and the stadium we all know as the Paisley MethaDome. After the international break, it was a chance to see if we could notch up our first win of the season against a Buddies side who had yet to record a league win on their new patch - the legendary curse of the Hidden Saints top doing it's bit for the cause. Of course that meant that as usual we were setting ourselves up for a possible big banana skin job but at the same time this was the sort of game where the points at stake could count a lot towards securing our league position come next summer - never mind the psychological boost of resuming our rightful position above the Panda-molestors. With the Paisley mob on the market though, there was always the danger that they'd try to up their game in an attempt to try and impress any prospective Murrayesque sugar daddies.
The match itself turned out to be a disappointing affair from Saints' point of view with the main talking point being a refereeing performance which almost rivalled Dallas at his worst for incompetence. Bookings galore for Saints players, dives going unpunished, and some ridiculous ineptitude that meant the referee couldn't have been described as a "homer" more if he'd had yellow skin and a son called Bart. While we didn't take all three points, there was a bit of rustiness about the Saints performance but at the same time both the midfield and more importantly the front men didn't take advantage of the opportunities when they came their way. However, there's no doubt that the man of the match performance from Gallacher in the home goal has probably not only got the plaudits on Monday but probably a Scotland callup to scupper our international campaign again. On the plus side, the game again showed that there is little to worry about in terms of the skill level of the opposition and that should give Del plenty to build on.
The fortnight's break hadn't done much for the injury situation at the club with Mooner and Jacko still a long way off being fit. Peaso and Rustybitz were at least back in training and on the plus side it had meant an opportunity for the players like Danny, Mackay and Murray to recover from those niggling injuries that had been causing some grief in the last few games. The manager had also been given some additional problems with the likes of Liam putting in a decent show in the midweek Forfarshire Cup tie. In the end though, Del's team selection today saw the starting eleven go with Sheerinho in the centre of midfield while Sammy and Savo were the striking team up front. Yet again there was no place in the side or bench for the likes of Swankie and Liam Craig so no doubt that'll give the rumour machine something to talk about For the home side, the Midden were almost at full strength given the squad numbers of their starting eleven with Mehmet and Thomson starting up front.
There was a good travelling support despite the added hassle of circus-style ticket booths rather than cash at the turnstile - nice to see that honesty still exists amongst the new stadium's employees. As a stadium the MethaDome is a nice compact affair although given the urban little-Beirut appearance of the surrounding area, it's not difficult to stand out. The pre-match "entertainment" seemed to involve trying to drench the Saints players with the sprinklers although given the locale, it was possibly more a case of trying to wash the home fans in an anti- swine flu drive. The game started in lovely sunshine and Davidson was downed in the first minute to earn us a freekick (we should have made the most of it since we got sod all else all game). Morais' ball in was cleared although Danny set up Savo for a layoff but no takers in the box. St Mirren's early pressure came from a third minute freekick but Danny was there to hoof the ball clear.
It wasn't the most entertaining affair and the game was pretty much 50-50 in terms of possession with chances rarer than finding someone in employment in Ferguslie Park. We actually created the first real shot of the game and the fact that it didn't come until the tenth minute says it all. A Saints break saw Sammy set up Davidson on the right but when he cut in his shot was wide. Generally though, we were struggling to get going and lacked width while the centre of midfield was slow. With a series of soft freekicks breaking up the play, there was little to entertain the fans. Sammy forced a thirteenth minute corner but the inswinger was headed clear. At the same time we were making mistakes in defence with Jody and Caff having a mix-up but Mackay was there to clear the ball. The right-back had a good run up the park in the 19th minute but lacked support.
Our next real chance came in the 24th minute with a freekick that found Caff but at the back post but his header was cleared off the line. Grainger had a cross cleared and Morais sent a freekick over in the 26th minute which the Midden failed to clear. Davidson was in and shoved off the ball but no penalty was given and we settled for a Garters shot going wide. For the home side the half-hour saw us get our first real glimpse of wonderkid McGinn - well almost as all we really saw was a streak of pish as he took a blatant dive on the edge of the box. The freekick was sent just over the bar but it gave us the first inkling of the depths of shiteness that the referee was about to hit. We at least countered well from the freekick and broke up the park with Sammy's cross finding Sheerinho in the box on the byeline but his ball across the goal failed to find a blue shirt.
Thompson took a dive for their next freekick but Mackay cleared setting up Sammy who linked well with Morais on the right before sending a cross over - again there were no takers with Savo looking really slow.
Time for the real controversy and in the 34th minute the Midden got into the box with McGinn again and he took a tumble after being "looked at funny" by Mackay. The referee pointed to the spot and for voicing an alternative decision to the referee Mackay earned the first booking of the game. Mehmet took the penalty and gave the home side the lead.
Still with the Saints support well fired up now we were soon back up the park as Sammy was downed on the edge of the box. Morais' freekick was well held by Gallacher. Play switched back up the park and a header was saved by Main. Saints were playing pretty well though and after Morais won a corner Sammy saw a shot cleared off the line. But with seven minutes to go a long throw-in was knocked clear only as far as Jody and the Loveofmylife took a touch before sending a low drive through a crowded box and past Gallacher to level the scores. Shut that bloody Panda up as well.
The goal lifted Saints and we pressed forward again with Sheerin and Davidson linking well with the latter going on a decent run but his shot was blocked. Morais was there to follow up but his effort went across the goal with the resulting corner being headed behind as well. Still the referee soon got into the act again this time on the edge of the Saints box and awarding a foul against Garters after he had been blatantly brought down - luckily the assistant was there to correct him but to get such a blatant decision wrong was simply ridiculous. The half ended with Sammy setting up Savo but Ross got over to clear the danger.
No changes at the break but Saints started the second period a much livelier side with Filipe pressing forward a lot more. Within a minute of the restart he'd broken down the right wing and sent over a good cross but Savo could only head it over the bar. Roles were reversed a minute later as Savo turned provided for Morais but his shot was held. Still, we could always rely on the referee to wind up the fans and a Murray tumble a minute later that earned a booking for "Clogger" Sheerin did just that. Main held a shot from a throw-in before Davidson became the next name to be the subject of the ref's handwriting practice as he caught Thompson, despite Sammy having been fouled just before that.
Del made the first change ten minutes into the half with Chris coming on for Sheerinho who looked knackered. We were enjoying a good spell of pressure with Morais going on a run before shooting over the bar and then Sammy breaking through and setting up Morais but his effort was blocked. Savo got a decent cross in from the right for Sammy but that was cut out and then Millar broke forward and set up Sammy with a great ball only for the striker to be clobbered again. No freekick but Savo got onto the loose ball with a volley that went over the bar. Gussy in the home dugout made his first change with Dargo replacing Higdon in the 62nd minute and a minute later Sammy went in the book as Murray tried to eat more grass.
Main was dealing the anything that came his way comfortably enough but we were still lacking that wee bit of luck as we pushed forward. Morais sent a cross over in the 65th minute for Sammy but his header brought out a great save from Gallacher. A minute later Del made his second change with the Mad Mental One coming on for Morais. St Midden had some pressure but the Saints defence had the luxury of one or two bad clearances as the home side failed to press home their refereeing advantage. Millar sent over a good cross for Davidson but his header went wide and then Murray was clobbered by Barron only for the cards to stay in the pocket.
With 18 minutes to go Sammy had a great break down the right and sent a cross over which Hardie met with a header at the back post. That ball went back across the goal and found Murray and his header downwards was somehow saved by Gallacher on the line as he tipped the ball onto the underside of the bar. Grainger sent it back in but Davidson's header went wide this time. Deuchar came on for the limping Sammy for the last fifteen minutes and two minutes after that he got onto the end of a Grainger cross but again Gallacher managed to get down and tip the ball wide for a corner.
There was more controversy in the 80th minute as off the ball Dargo raised his hands to Grainger leaving the Saints player on the deck. The referee didn't seem to know what was going on and after speaking to both players showed them both the yellow - this was despite his assistant being about six inches from the incident and seeing Dargo raise his hands. That incensed the Saints fans and the dugout with Del and Doc looking pretty worked up. It didn't stop Saints going up the park though and in the 84th minute we should have scored the winner as we pressed down the right. Savo took the ball to the byeline and played a perfect cutback for Millar whose shot was blocked by Gallacher. The ball spun into the air and Millar went in for the header only to see the ball come back off the bar.
Even then we kept pressing with a Grainger long-throw a minute later finding Garters but his header was easily held. Mackay sent a long-throw into the box that was cleared while St Midden's last throw of the dice was a cross that was headed well over. Deuchar and Hardie pressed down the left and ended with a Grainger throw-in that again found Garters and again was saved by the keeper. The game headed for a scrappy finish with Garters picking up a booking in the 91st minute for a late challenge as the Midden broke - they had the ball in the net as well which really pissed Gus off. Still they had a let off as the ref managed to piss us off one last time in injury time by awarding a foul against the Doc despite the Midden defender trying to take the shirt off his back. What an idiot.
Overall it was a good Saints performance although we lacked the final ball in front of goal with Savo especially suffering from a poor first touch. MoM for me was probably Dave Mackay solid at right- back and good going forward. Elsewhere in the side the midfield came onto a good game and while Davidson was breathing out his arse at the end, he still put in a lot of good work and looks like being an excellent player - and fully deserving of his place in the team. Up front it just didn't come off for Savo today although Sammy impressed with his effort. One thing is abundantly clear from this game though is that we have absolutely nothing to fear from teams in this league, and that bodes well for the Easter Rd double coming up.
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