Written by Adam Borland
The #YoungSaints kicked on from last week’s hard fought victory over Lossiemouth Under 17’s with a commanding performance against Fort William that saw them earn three more points and run out 2-0 victors over the Highland League outfit. Saints’ performance was thoroughly deserving of the win and next week’s game against Wick Academy- the team’s first away game of the season- now has a real ‘must-see’ feel to it.
Having conceded in the opening minute of last week’s game, the lads were hoping to impose themselves early in the game and looked to do so primarily down the right wing through Scott Taylor and Aiden Stainke, with Stainke clipping a pass between two defenders for Taylor to run on to. Although the move broke down after a good block, this fast start by Saints got the ‘crowd’ on side early. The #YoungSaints were not the only ones imposing themselves early. The referee showed that no nonsense would be tolerated, penalising Fort William’s Ruaridh MacDonald and Saints’ Aiden Stainke for a coming together off the ball; and subsequently awarding the visitors a free kick for a foul by Keir Carson. This free kick seemed to cause brief panic in the Saints’ rearguard. A missed bicycle kick attempt by a visiting attacker meant that Saints could clear their lines through Kenny Patience who was playing at right-back today having started the previous two games in midfield, however not before a small game of pinball ten yards out from Aneek Khan’s goal. Patience’s clearance turned into a chance for the home side as Scott Taylor managed to control and carry the ball into the final third before being fouled by Kale Lacey on the edge of the box in a dangerous position. Calum Robinson took the free kick and tested Martyn Denny in the Fort WIlliam goal, who did well to palm the ball out for a corner. Though this free kick came to nothing, Robinson would have another chance two minutes later. Good work through the centre by Vincent Davies and Nathan Corbett led to the former being fouled by Euan Atkinson twenty yards out. Robinson’s effort beat the wall but curled just wide of the goal with Denny rooted to the spot.
Though they had not managed to find the net, Saints were on top and eager to do so. Scott Taylor came close after pickpocketing and rounding Kale Lacey, but could only win a corner which was cleared by Lacey, making up for his error. Aiden Stainke tried to play Taylor Anderson through on goal mere seconds later but his through ball was cut out by Kian Cameron as the visitors remained resolute. A bizarre double foul throw sequence, first by Fort William, and then by St Duthus nearly allowed Keir Carson to profit as he collected the third throw in thirty seconds and ran straight at the heart of the visiting defence before playing in Vincent Davies. Davies’ ball to Scott Taylor was intercepted well, but was not cleared allowing Calum Robinson to earn the Saints a corner after his cross-come-shot was deflected out by a very busy Kyle Lacey. Lacey needed to be on his toes from the corner as good work out wide by Davies and midfield partner Nathan Corbett put Scott Taylor through, but a last ditch challenge by the left-back gave his team a chance to reassess and regroup as Saints were really knocking on the door. In minute sixteen, all Saints needed to do was shoot and surely they would have broken the deadlock. Nathan Corbett, Taylor Anderson and Keir Carson all had chances to put their side in front, but a combination of good defensive positioning and a refusal to shoot from distance meant that Fort William were able to clear and counter attack. After what had been a quiet opening few minutes for Aneek Khan in the Saints’ goal he did well to claim a through ball intended for Ben Farr, however he wasn’t done. A fantastic high clearance bamboozled Johnny Forster as it flew over his head in the swirling wind, leaving a breaking Taylor Anderson with a one on one chance. Anderson seemed destined to score but Denny was quickly down to his left to block and leave the striker frustrated.
The next few minutes were controlled by Saints with Aiden Stainke at the heart of everything. His fantastic tackle on Max Henderson ended a promising run by the visiting number 7 keeping the pressure on the away side, and a mazy run of his own down the opposite wing played in Nathan Corbett who drew a good save from the ‘keeper. The resulting corner once again tested the stopper, whose punch only found Corbett, but his flick to Scott Taylor was short, and Taylor, under pressure, dragged his shot past ‘keeper and post.
The visitors countered but didn’t particularly trouble Khan’s goal, however they showed the #YoungSaints that they carried a threat on the break. A goal kick by Khan fell for Scott Taylor and after a neat one two with Vincent Davies he was well tackled by Kyle Dignan. Taylor came back at Dignan from the throw in that followed, but he was ushered backwards by the defender. Taylor found his fellow winger Keir Carson who in turn found Vincent Davies. Davies held the ball well, finding Taylor once again, but although on this occasion he was able to get a shot away, it was mishit due, in no small part, to a bobble as he looked to shoot. Denny was able to clear on this occasion, but mere minutes later he was not so lucky. A promising attack by Fort William (their first in some time) was once again mopped up by Aiden Stainke. He found Vincent Davies in an advanced position and a perfectly weighted toe-poke by Davies found Taylor Anderson on the edge of the box. Anderson had the sense of awareness to cut back onto his stronger right foot past a sliding defender before firing under Denny into the bottom corner. Saints had finally broken the deadlock, Anderson grabbing his third goal of the season, and this was met with rapturous applause from both the bench and the tea-hatch.
1-0 down after 27 minutes, Fort William looked to hit back instantly and a strong run by Kyle Dignan needed both Vincent Davies and Kenny Patience to maintain Saints’ advantage. Davies then advanced himself and shot wide from twenty yards as the game began to open up. Two free kicks followed, both for the visiting side and both cleared by the returning Saints captain Charlie Beattie. Beattie’s second clearance allowed a Saints counter attack and a chance for Aiden Stainke, who at this point was everywhere. Vincent Davies had a shot charged down following the break and Stainke’s instinctive volley from the deflection was itself deflected into the arms of the away ‘keeper.
The game, still quite open, yielded many chances for both sides in the minutes that followed, most notably for Taylor Anderson. Calum Robinson’s clearance found Anderson alone and unmarked, but his early volley brought out a good save from Denny. Denny’s distribution then tested Scott MacIver as he was rounded by Max Henderson with Henderson having been played through by his goalkeeper. Henderson’s pass to Alfie Duncan allowed the striker to shoot, but his shot flew just high of the top left corner with home ‘keeper Khan in close attendance. Duncan then saw a volley fly well wide following more good work by his teammates to set him up as Fort William, for the first time, were on top. But this dominance didn’t last long. Saints attacked successfully, making good use of natural width. A delivery from Calum Robinson was met by Vincent Davies, but the number 6 was unable to divert the ball goalward under pressure from both Kale lacey and Kyle Dignan.
Aiden Stainke must have been feeling a sense of déjà vu as he once again had a volley deflected towards the goalkeeper and more nice pay down the right hand side by the #YoungSaints gave Nathan Corbett a shooting chance, but a second goal would not come, leaving Saints 1-0 to the good as the half time whistle went.
Half Time St Duthus 1-0 Fort William
The second half started very slowly, with several minutes passing before any event of note. It was almost as if both teams were going through the motions, however it was Saints who ‘woke-up’ first. Nathan Corbett won the ball and instantly found his captain. Beattie started a move down the wing that led to a corner for Saints after good work by Scott Taylor. The corner was won by the defending side, but Beattie was on hand to cut short any counter attack. His left footed strike was well scouted and ended up flying well wide of the target. Saints would not let the visitors out of their own half though as the midfield trio of Corbett, Davies and Stainke asserted their dominance, keeping them penned in for a good ten minutes. Stainke himself saw a fine shot fly just over before his captain let fly from half way and only managed to find the beach. The least said about that shot the better. Beattie made up for this misjudgement a few minutes later by playing a fantastic cross-field ball to Scott Taylor whose cross found Keir Carson at the back post. Carson took the ball down well, but his shot hit the side netting thanks to a deflection. The corner that followed caused a melee. With both teams swiping at the ball and the ball bouncing everywhere, Alfie Duncan was in the wrong place at the wrong time as his teammate’s clearance caught him square in the face and left him needing medical attention.
After this injury stoppage, Saints played a possession game. The back four of MacIver, Robinson, Beattie and Patience were calmness personified, playing the ball amongst themselves with consummate ease. At the hour mark the #YoungSaints were in total control and for ten minutes it remained this way, with the visitors seemingly happy to let the home side play.
Scott Taylor twice came close after being played in by Aiden Stainke and Vincent Davies, with the latter chance being more clear cut. Davies dribbled expertly towards goal and slipped the ball between Kian Cameron and Euan Atkinson for Taylor whose rasping shot was spilled by the ‘keeper and would have trickled over the line had Denny not made up for his handling error.
The visitors had their first real chance of the half in minute 70 when they were awarded a free kick thirty yards out. A smart, training ground move, gave Atkinson a chance but his effort skewed off the outside of his boot and wide of Aneek Khan’s left hand post.
At this point Saints looked to their bench. Michael Fraser, having started the previous games came off the bench for a very tired Keir Carson and almost instantly showed his value to the side. Nathan Corbett was hauled down in the midfield, and pinged a fantastic quick free kick out to Fraser on the right wing. Fraser’s cross intended for Anderson in the middle almost went in itself but thankfully for the well travelled visitors, it dipped just over the crossbar. From the goal kick that followed the visitors looked to equalise and, not for the first time, Aiden Stainke was left to deal with the raiding visitors. Stainke did exceptionally well to hold off three attackers and find Vincent Davies who had retreated in order to aid his midfield partner. Davies was able to turn and play in Taylor Anderson but Martyn Denny was out of his goal sharply to deny Saints’ top scorer and earn his troops a breather. It didn’t last long. Saints won a corner in rather innocuous circumstances in minute 80, and Michael Fraser’s corner was met perfectly by an unmarked Scott MacIver whose bullet header was almost saved by the ‘keeper but thankfully, for the hosts, he was well back into his goal when he did so. MacIver’s first goal for the Saints was well taken and gave the lads a cushion for the last ten minutes.
After a fairly quiet day in front of goal, Scott Taylor was substituted and Josh Murphy came on looking to compound Fort William’s misery. Another corner for Saints straight from kickoff gave the tall attacker a chance to do so, but this time, Fraser’s ball bypassed everyone and the visitors had little to worry about for a few seconds.
Vincent Davies saw an opportunity that no one else did with five minutes plus injury time to play as he looked to lob the ‘keeper from thirty yards after seeing him off his line. It took a good save to deny the midfielder and another a few minutes later to deny Kenny Patience after some nice work down the right with Murphy and Stainke. Some scrappy play followed from both sides with both teams looking fatigued in the Sunday sun. Saints made their final substitution with goalscorer Taylor Anderson being removed from the action in favour of Finn Macleod. The sub almost had instant impact, earning a free kick for the hosts. The set piece was taken by Fraser and Nathan Corbett had the ball in the net a second later, but the whistle had already gone for a foul in the box. Corbett wouldn’t give up though and it took a great last ditch tackle from Kyle Dignan to deny the midfielder his goal in the final minute of normal time. Saints had almost switched off at this point and the visitors looked to end on a high, but a clearance by Calum Robinson soon put an end to any hopes of a consolation goal.
The final whistle went after two and a half minutes of added time and the #YoungSaints celebrated their well deserved and hard earned 2-0 victory, with everyone looking forward to next week’s trip north and a date with the defending league champions.
Full time St Duthus 2 Fort William 0