Saints 2 St. Midden 2 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Irvine, Grainger, Morris, Doobs, Ando, Millar, Morais,
Deuchar, Sheridan, Liam
Subs: Main, Rustybitz, Swankie, Sheerinho, Sammy, Reynolds, Davidson
So with Saints now set for another season of high prices, token coverage in the media and a fixture list with kick-off times about as reliable as a Chic the Pric report, it was time to enter the relaxing part of the season. Yup the post-split bottom-six doldrums were on us although at least there was a chance to have some say in the closing games as to who would get the honour of coming to McDiarmid next season and who might end up at Dens (assuming the post-Jocky Fritzl era goes takes the sort of vertical mammary direction we all hope it will).
Del had been sure to state pre-match that there was still plenty for the Saints players to play for. No Aberdeen-type "turn up and do hee- haw" tactics from him - instead there was the financial rewards for coming seventh along with the small matter of more than a few players playing for new contracts. The win last Sunday at Pittodrie had been a memorable victory and had seen a lot of the hard work we'd put in over the season pay off as we dominated a Sheep side lacking in ideas and hope. And if we're talking about off-form teams then today's visitors in the form of the Paisley tinks were right up there. A bad defeat to Falkirk last Saturday had seen them dragged right into the mire and you could be sure that they'd be fighting and scrapping for every ball today - whether that would extend to the sort of dodgy-penalty winning antics that we'd seen at the Methadome earlier in the season remained to be seen.
So far this season we'd had the upper hand with two draws in Paisley sandwiching a nice win at McDiarmid. Given the recent form shown by the teams as well we were going into this one as favourites but you should never underestimate the sneakiness of a Gus McPherson side. It's debatable whether Saints fans would rather see the Midden go down instead of Falkirk, Killie or the Sheep but after some of the rivalry and run-ins between the sides in recent seasons, there was definitely an added spice to this one.
The match itself turned into the sort of niggly affair that typifies things when one team is fighting for their survival - and for the Paisley mob they meant that literally with battles all over the park. Saints perhaps took too casual an approach to the game and too many players seemed to be on their end of season holidays already. That meant a poor display from the boys but thankfully we showed enough spirit and fight to come back and take a deserved point. They deserve some praise for that but if we'd been in the sort of mess that the Paisley tinks are at the bottom of the table, the fans might not have been so forgiving. As it was, we did enough and the sight of the cloud of gloom descending en masse over the Midden fans was more than enough for me.
Danny Grainger returned after his spell on the naughty step last weekend. Del had a doubt over Dave Mackay but both Peaso and Savo were added to the squad after they came through training midweek. Added to that both Rustybitz and Garters were keen to play themselves into contention for new deals for next season while there was always the temptation for the manager to start blooding some of the youngsters. Del wanted to play his strongest side though and opted for one change at the back as Danny came in for Mackay. Sheridan and the Doc were up front while Fil went to the right and Liam took up the wing duties on the left. Peaso and Savo had to settle for a place in the stand. Gus' Gutless Wonders were without Jack Ross (a nice relief to the Saints physio there) but with the likes of Mehmet up front they had plenty of threat up front.
With the bring-a-friend offer on and some decent weather, there wasn't a bad crowd in the ground before kick-off. But the early signs of what to come were there from the second minute when Sheridan was caught from behind. Danny put the freekick over the bar. A minute later and Mair and the Doc clashed with referee Richmond starting his anti-Deuchar campaign and giving the foul to the Tinks. The opening stages were played at a fair old pace with St Midden obviously up for the fight and they began to put more and more pressure on Saints. But that came to nothing and in the fifth minute a Saints break from defence saw Fil sprint up the right touchline. A quick one-two with Chris and Morais took the ball into the box but instead of playing it on for the supporting Doc, he went for a shot and sent the ball over the bar.
There wasn't much open play with plenty of soft freekicks awarded all over the park. Morais was penalised for an alleged shove on Carey. That ended in a freekick sent over to the other side of the park where Danny made a rare mistake, thankfully the Midden shot went over the bar. Back up the park and Chris had a good run and tried to set up Sheridan but the striker had no room for the shot. Two minutes later Millar again pounced on a loose ball to set up Sheridan. He beat his man and squared to Kenny on the left but he put the ball out. There was no sign of the pace easing up although the likes of Liam and Jody were barely in the game. Chris Millar made up for it though and he looked really fired up.
The first real chance on goal though came for us in the 17th minute with a long throw into the St Midden box. It was headed on by both Sheridan and the Doc but neither could direct the ball on target and Gallacher came out to gather the ball. St Midden had their chance with a soft freekick against the Doobs (for alleged climbing) - Carey's drive cannoned back off the wall. The fouls were coming all over the park. A minute later and the Doc was bodychecked on the line. There was an attempt to play an advantage but Sheridan had no room to move so the advantage was pretty non-existent.
The best chance for Saints came in the 22nd minute with another long throw from Danny. The ball went into the box and the Doc headed the ball on. He found Doobs who headed it out for the unmarked Sheridan but his drive was a poor one that went wide of goal. By this time the Doc was limping after being on the end of several heavy knocks. The Midden had one corner that they wasted but came close in the 26th minute. Ando failed to clear his lines properly and they broke down the right playing a low cutback into the box where it reached the unmarked Dorman who turned and fired in a shot that clipped the bar and went over.
That should have served as a wake-up call for the Saints defence but as the half wore on we were losing more and more of the ball in midfield. The referee was at the centre of more controversy with a drop ball for a St Midden injury in the midfield while the Doc had to play on. But the next real piece of goalmouth action in the 33rd minute was even more depressing. The Midden broke down their right, cut in and beat Ando and a low ball across the goal went past Smithy and into the 6 yard box where Carey came on and managed to bundle the ball into the net to give them the lead.
Del didn't hang about and made a quick change with Davidson coming on for Liam. It seemed a strange one but Liam had contributed little and looked well below his usual standards. As for the play, we tried to get back in - Irvine saw a cross held - but the discipline was dodgy as well with Fil picking up the first booking in the 38th minute. But a minute later there was more controversy as Sheridan broke up the right wing only to be flattened by an elbow in the face by Mair. The Midden defender was booked for his part in the incident but was lucky to stay on the park. Cillian meanwhile was off to get his bloody nose sorted. In his absence, the Midden managed a decent run down the left and a cross in and resulting header saw Smithy pull off a great block with his legs.
The half ended with a Millar cross for a Morais header in the 42nd minute but there were no takers. And the half ended with Davidson and O'Donnell mixing it in the middle of the park.
If we expected a foot up the arse at the break that illusion was soon dispelled. The Midden forced one corner within a minute but that was cleared. We had a freekick into the Midden area that met the same face. Then, five minutes after the restart a Grainger throw saw Sheridan held in the box. No penalty and meanwhile the Midden took the ball up the park where the defence of Ando and Danny were caught napping. Dorman broke through and with Smith coming out a simple chip was enough to see the ball end up in the net, them to go two up and Saints to look down and out.
Two minutes later and there was another flashpoint as a good move from Sheridan and Fil broke down with no takers in the box. The ball was sent up the park and found Mehmet flapping his way into the Saints box. Smithy came out for a fifty-fifty ball and he won the ball but Mehmet managed to go flying at the same time. The referee didn't hesitate in awarding a freekick to Saints although it looked a close thing - wee Billy meanwhile had a tantrum on the McDiarmid turf instead.
There were signs that we were losing our discipline though and I have to say that Jody's lack of presence on the park was noticable - he was having a bad enough game as a player, but as a captain he seemed non-existent. It seemed we had four or five passengers in the side although we weren't getting the break of the ball either. O'Donnell clobbered Grainger in the 55th minute but the freekick was totally wasted. Things weren't helped with Sheridan taking an apparent foot knock and on the hour mark he was replaced by Sammy.
As the half wore on we got a bit more of the ball. Irvine saw a cross go behind and Sammy and the Doc were providing a bit more movement and fight around the edge of their box. We actually managed a shot in the 68th minute with Sammy releasing Danny cutting in from the left and his low drive took a deflection off the Doc before the keeper held the ball. Morais had a good run and cross a minute later. He found Millar at the far side and Chris managed to bring the ball down, turn and fire a good low shot in that Gallacher tipped round the post. From the corner the ball was punched out for Jody but his shot went over the bar.
Davidson had a good run next setting up Morais and Danny but the final cross was cleared. There were signs though that we were getting a bit more of the ball and showing a bit more skill. In the 73rd minute, Irvine played a long ball for the Doc but he was again shoved off the ball and referee Charlie Richmond did his utmost to piss off the Saints fans by refusing to give us the freekick. Three minutes later and another ball forward saw the Doc header the ball on for Sammy and he set up Fil for a low shot but again Gallacher got down to hold the ball.
But with twelve minutes remaining we got back into the game. High feet from the irritating O'Donnell in the middle of the park on Danny (again no card was shown) won us a freekick, although Danny had to go off with blood showing. That was played forward into the box with a header down for Sammy ending in his shot. Gallacher got his hand to that to block it but the ball went wide for Davidson and his first time rushed chip over the goal fell perfectly for Doobs who got up to head the ball into the net. One back for us although Ando seemed to pick up a dead leg in the process.
Danny never reappeared so Del opted for the Wizard as his replacement with Sheerinho going to left-back and bringing his karma-like calming influence to the side. The Midden defence looked a lot more nervous as we entered the closing stages. They managed one freekick into the box that was headed over the bar but Saints were soon pressing forward again. Doobs sent a great ball forward for Sammy in the 82nd minute and he broke down and cut in from the right but his shot went across the goal and out. Sheerinho sent a long ball forward for the Doc next and he set up Millar on the right who run and got to the byeline only for his chip to be held by the keeper. Ando and Sammy linked up next to set up Fil on the left wing but he ran the ball out.
It seemed we were running out of time but finally the football gods showed that they really hate Paisley. The Doc was clattered again on the right touchline and when the freekick was played into the box it was headed out as far as Davidson who blasted a shot in from about eight yards out that was blatantly stopped by the arm of O'Donnell on the line. Everyone in the ground saw it but the referee obviously wasn't sure. With barneys breaking out everywhere, he eventually went over to the linesman. More debate followed before he came back on and started checking St Midden shirt numbers. Eventually he walked into the box, picked up the ball and plonked it on the spot. Jody seemed set to take the kick but the Sheerinho rode forward on his winged horse and with an air of supreme majesty took over. One touch of his magic boots later and the ball was blasted into the net to level the scores.
As you could predict tempers were hotting up all over the place and a minute later Millar was upended in front of the away dugout with Gus and Millen mixing it with the Saints players. Richmond saw sense and blew the final whistle only to be accosted by the likes of Potter as he left the park - amazingly enough the karma-like Zen guidance that the referee got from being in the presence of Sheerinho was enough for him to keep his cool and refrain from any further cards.
The Paisley mob with mump and moan but then they do that after every game. For Saints it wasn't a great performance but in terms of pluses, Sammy looked a bit sharper and we showed more fight nearer the end. Too many players - Liam, Jody, Ando, Irvine etc were well below par and we didn't deserve much more than a point. MoM for me was Danny Grainger who showed the sort of spirit in defence that the rest seemed to be lacking.
Ach well still four games to relegate someone.
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