St Midden 1 Saints 1 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Mackay, Grainger, Morris, Doobs, Ando, Millar,
Liam, Morais, Savo, Peaso
Subs: McLean, Connolly, Davidson, Sheerinho, Irvine, Sheridan, Sammy
With the cup competitions consigned to the drawer marked "Diddy Stuff" for another season, it was back to league action tonight and a chance to open up a bit more of a gap at the bottom of the table. Saints have come off best so far this season in games against the Paisley tinks but the matches had been close affairs and with Gus' mob on a high after winning their CIS semi and taking the Forces of Darkness to a Scottish Cup replay we were pretty much up against it tonight. For all that though this was the sort of encounter where grudges can be settled and the players needed little motivation to go out and give their all. And with an on-form Killie side to face at the weekend there was going to be plenty of work needed from the players to try and get some faith back amongst the Saints fans who had been forced to endure the sub- par performances over the last week.
On the plus side, the Midden at least play decent football and the Paisley Methadome is a decent venue, despite the surrounding area looking like something out of a 1950s documentary into Scottish slums. They've managed to hold their own this season and despite some close defeats, look pretty certain to continue to loiter around the SPL like a bad smell into next year. Mind you there was some nice dodgy PR for them with the news that the players were apparently not over the moon about their bonus for making the final of the Diddy cup - although how much of that is related to the cost of living / methadone on the West Coast is unknown. For Saints the cup defeats had knocked us back a bit and some of the frailties and issues with both the players' limitations and the questions around Del's tactics and selection were becoming more vocal on the forums, mainly due to the high standards that Saints have set with their form in the competitions in recent years. And while the quality of the opposition in the cup ties was possibly one excuse for going out, it wouldn't wash tonight with everyone wanting to see a good old-fashioned all-out attacking performance.
As it was the match saw the good and bad from Saints with some much improved performances in defence and midfield let down by the tired legs again as again we conceded a late goal and the point could have ended up going to either side with both teams missing late chances. However given the poor referee performance and the changes to the team, the result isn't too bad. Of course there were some poor shows from Saints with Jody off form and Sheridan still struggling to show he has anything to offer the side. I'd have taken a point before the game so from that point of view it was a fair result but the players need to lift themselves again and try and regain that bit of sharpness.
Garters had been dropped for the United game at the weekend and was again in the stand tonight although that decision had been forced on Del as the Irishman sat out the other game of his suspension. Elsewhere Sammy was back in contention after a run out against Morton on Monday but Mooner who missed out at the weekend with a hamstring strain was still unfit. Alan Main was set to miss out with a groin strain from Monday. Added to that the various niggles and strains that the two-games-a-week schedule was impacting on the players and Del was set to rejig the starting lineup again.
So in came Ando, Liam and Savo as the Doc dropped out, Murray went to the bench where he was joined by Irvine while Sammy made a comeback in the dugout. Up front Del opted for Savo and Peaso as the strike partners with Fil and Chrissy on the wings with Liam in the centre of midfield. Mackay dropped to right-back allowing Ando to come in and partner Duberry in the middle. For the Buddies, Steven Thomson was out suspended but otherwise Gus had a fairly strong squad available to him, although at least that diver McGinn had departed meaning the home side needed someone else to help con the ref.
There was the usual hardcore support through from Perth to provide the backing as Saints kicked off, although the crowd was a pretty poor one. The game got off to a quiet start with early fouls for both sides. Our freekick was too long for Mackay to chase on the right wing and in the 5th minute Morais had a decent run before being downed in the middle, but again we couldn't really create anything from the set piece. A Higdon dive in the fifth minute ended up with Doobs going into the book with referee Tumilty showing that Thomson's performance in the middle at the weekend wasn't going to be the worst we'd seen. Chances were at a premium though with only a Higdon header in the 9th minute easily held by Smith.
The home side were getting more of the ball and pressing more but lacked any real punch. For Saints there were too many wayward passes and a real lack of sharpness while Liam and Jody in the middle were displaying all the self- control of John Terry in a roomful of WAGS. We managed to create some pressure in the 13th minute but both Savo and Chrissy saw their shots blocked. St Midden went straight up the park with Mehmet playing in a dangerous cross but Grainger eventually cleared the ball. O'Donnell tried his luck next with a low cross from the right which took a nasty deflection before Smiffy got down to hold it. Play switched up the park with Morais going on another run and laying the ball off for Millar but his cross was held. Mehmet had a dive against Anderson but the freekick was easily cleared - suffice to say it wasn't turning into an open flowing game of football.
Still we did get some cheer after a nasty challenge from Mehmet on Ando earning the striker a booking. Liam had a chance in the 25th minute when he reacted to a pass from Savo but his volley went over the bar. Ross shot wide for them but as the half wore on we looked slower and slower. The strikers weren't gelling like they did at Fir Park on Boxing Day and in midfield there was little real support going forward. We forced a corner in the 26th minute but as usual it was easily cleared. Liam saw a freekick held. But if we thought it was going to get better we had another lucky escape in the 29th minute. Mehmet won another soft freekick against Ando. The ball was played in and a header across goal saw Smithy spill the ball but at least he managed to recover.
Doobs was forced into conceding a corner a couple of minutes after that and again the defence was all over the place before Grainger cleared the ball. He set up Savo and a ball off to Morais saw him go on a good break before laying it in for Liam who fired in a great shot that Gallacher tipped over the bar. The corner was played in from the right for Doobs at the back post. His header down found Peaso. His flick was cleared off the line but the ball fell for Mackay and he blasted in a cracking shot to make it 1-0.
The goal shook up the home side and they hit back with some more soft freekicks. One in the 35th minute was played in and missed by Ando but Liam cleared the lines, although the lack of command by Smithy in his box was a bit of a concern. Back up the park and a throw-in from Danny on the left found Liam and for once he played in a great cross for Peaso who got a header across goal that Gallacher did well to save. Next up was a cross from Morais and Savo got his head onto it this time but his header came off the bar and was cleared.
The game was still niggly with plenty of stoppages. Peaso got a warning for persistent fouling, which was almost ludicrous given some of the challenges he was on the receiving end of. St Midden managed a decent break in the 42nd minute but the cutback was cleared by Liam and Doobs. Ross tried a long-range dipping shot but Smithy easily held it.
The second-half got off to as bad a start as the first with little creativity or skill on the park. Both sides were cancelling one another out with Doobs and Ando doing well for us at the back but Savo and Peaso being too easily crowded off the ball at the other end of the park. Millar and Morris managed to get a cross in in the 51st minute but it was cleared, while Doobs did the same to deal with a St Midden cross. It seemed that if any more goals were going to come they'd likely as not be the result of an error or a set piece. Savo saw a decent snapshot go wide as he got onto a loose ball and then another break saw him win a corner after chasing a loose ball. Fil played it short to Savo who set up Liam for a cross for Mackay but his header went just wide.
The Midden had a break on the hour mark with Mehmet setting up Higdon for a shot that Smith held. That triggered a double substitution from Gus with Dargo coming on to boost their attack. They had a cross that clipped the bar but it had already gone behind. A poor kickout from Mackay caused us some problems next but Doobs was there again to clear the cross with our new signing looking well in control at the back. Savo saw another shot go wide before Davidson came on for Liam on the 65th minute and a couple of minutes later we had a real let off. A poor kick out from Millar was fired back in around the box before being shot wide as we struggled to clear our lines.
There was more controversy in the 68th minute with a Grainger throw-in finding Peaso and Savo with the latter held in the box. No penalty and somehow the referee gave the foul for the home defence. Savo showed his frustration a minute later with a daft booking for kicking the ball away at another freekick. That was played forward for a Midden shot that was blocked before the follow-up brought out a brilliant save from Smithy. The booking was enough for Del and Savo was replaced by Sheridan.
St Midden were pressing though and in the 71st minute Mehmet won a corner after a shot apparently clipped a Saints player as it went wide. The corner was cleared but they won another freekick. That was sent into the box and a deep header across goal wasn't cleared finding Higdon who headed home for the equaliser. Suddenly it was a different sort of game. There was more trouble for Saints after the restart with Fil needing treatment after being caught late. St Midden were enjoying more of the ball as we looked second-best. A 76th minute break in the Saints box ended in a cutback that went wide. For Saints a good move saw Chris, Fil and Murray link up to slip the ball to Peaso but his shot went wide. Davidson had another run just after that before being held which earned Dornan a booking. The freekick was sent forward for Doobs who headed the ball down for Davidson in the box only for the Saints midfielder to be held back by a striped shirt - it looked like another good penalty claim but as usual Davidson's luck was nowhere when it came to getting a decision from the referee.
We were creating some chances but unfortunately with the likes of Sheridan we were almost a man short. I don't like to slag off Saints players often but he offers nothing to the side - can't head the ball, positioning is poor, no pace and rarely finds a teammate with a pass. Fil was struggling after his knock and Sheerinho came on to replace him in the 80th minute and with his first touch of the ball he got onto a Mackay throw-in and fired in a 25-yard shot that brought out a good save from Gallacher. By comparison, a minute later another good Saints move saw Morris thread the ball through for Sheridan but all he offered was a weak shot that barely troubled the grass never mind the keeper.
Sheerinho saw a decent cross cleared but the closing stages saw the Midden go for broke. A Midden cross saw a good header across the Saints goal with Smithy nowhere but Grainger on hand to clear. Saints hit back and a Sheerinho cross was half-cleared. It was fired back in by Mackay for Sheridan but his weak header barely caused a murmur amongst the Saints fans behind the goal . Millar had a good run across the goal and got to the goalline before sending a cross over. It went deep but found Mackay who got back to fire in a cross from the other side finding Sheridan at the near post who headed the ball on where it was only just missed by Peaso from 2 yards out.
As the game moved to injury time Mehmet tried a run but Grainger showed some skill to tackle him. Ando saw a decent clearance find Sheerinho and he played the ball down the left for Peaso who was downed at the corner of the box. That led to a freekick about as organised as the Fil and Danny Show at the weekend. A short freekick to Peaso saw him half-asleep and his effort was blocked. It did break to Millar but his cross went over and out. Davidson and Mackay tried crosses that went out and then a break up the park in the 94th minute saw Millar release Peaso on the right and he fired in a good cross for Jody at the back post but he just failed to make contact with the ball. The Midden had some pressure but again Doobs, Ando and Danny were on top of things at the back.
Overall a share of the points was fair enough but at least for us the performance was an improvement on the weekend. MoM for me was Doobs who looked a lot more solid at the back. Ando and Danny also played well while Millar had a decent game in midfield. Jody looks more and more like he needs a rest though and we badly lacked movement and support for the strikers up front. We need the likes of Sammy back in the side to give us that bit of pace and some spark up front.
Still at least we've not lost to the Paisley tinks this year...
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