THE Young Saints travelled south to Dingwall this past Sunday, in a re-rescheduled fixture in the Under 17 Highland Football League North Division. Saints ran out victorious as 5-1 winners when the sides met earlier in the season, and a repeat win in the day’s early kick-off would bring the team’s points tally to 25 and bring them level with Lossiemouth, albeit with Lossie having a few games in hand and retaining sixth place in the table on goal difference.
The team were fired up for kick-off having been on a good run of form of late and took the lead within five minutes through number 7, Aiden Stainke. Though the goal was unsaveable, it came in bizarre circumstances. Some neat interplay down the right between Stainke and Kenny Patience put the former in a prime position to cross from the right with Nathan Corbett unmarked in the middle. What transpired however was that the midfielder’s floated ball dipped over the head of the home ‘keeper and into the far corner of the net. The opener gave Saints a platform on which to build themselves into the game and though it may or may not have been intentional, it was certainly a goal that instilled confidence.
Saints held the lion’s share of possession for the next quarter of an hour, but never managed to truly trouble James Bremner’s goal despite playing some clever and intricate attacking football. There were two half-chances for Saints to extend their lead in back-to-back minutes, first as a bobbling ball caused pandemonium in the Dingwall six-yarder but Bremner pounced on the ball just as it fell to the feet of the Nathan Corbett, who barring this last-ditch intervention would surely have scored. He was given another opportunity to test the home side’s rear-guard when played through by saints’ stopper Aneek Khan. A well placed kickout by the young ‘keeper was perfect for Corbett to run onto, but under pressure he could only volley wide from 30 yards as the visitors looked to turn their dominance into goals.
It was not until the 35th minute that the pressure finally told. A series of throw-ins and 1-2’s down the Saints’ left wing culminated in a corner. The corner was met well by Finlay Stewart however his clearance could only reach Saints’ Adam Coghill 15 yards out. An expert first touch was followed by a turning snap-shot which flew through a crowded penalty area and into the roof of the net. A striker’s finish from the Saints number 4 finally turned effort into results, and the #YoungSaints went into the break buoyant, with a deserved 2-0 lead.
Half time: Dingwall 0 St Duthus 2
At half time, the Saints coaching team (reduced to three today) looked to striker Taylor Anderson to come off the bench and keep the pressure on the hosts. Before he could get involved however, Saints had a strong shout for a penalty denied within seconds of the restart. Aiden Stainke felt that he was being held on the edge of the box. When the whistle went however, the decision was given against the midfielder for being slightly overzealous in his endeavours to hold-on to the ball under pressure. This was to be Stainke’s final major contribution to the game as he was sacrificed as part of a tactical change that saw captain Calum Robinson pushed into midfield, and Kyle Ubych – on for Stainke - entering the defensive line.
The Saints adjusted well to this change in dynamic, with Robinson offering up some Andy Robertson-esque crosses from the left wing, which had been missing somewhat in the early stages of the second half as Saints tried to play more direct football and were lacking in any width. One of these crosses was misjudged by Taylor Anderson as he lost his marker, but his ‘air-shot’ allowed Kenny Patience to have a ping from the edge of the box. His low half-volley was deflected and well stopped by James Bremner in the Dingwall goal, and the home side were able to briefly clear their lines. Saints attacked once again from the keeper’s clearance and a speculative 30-yard effort from Keir Carson had enough dip to worry the Dingwall team, but not quite enough to worry the top corner, as the ball flew a few feet over the crossbar.
Saints were not to be denied a third goal for long though. With 15 to play, Finn Macleod and Michael Fraser entered the fray in place of Adam Coghill and Kenny Patience respectively, in two like-for-like changes, and it did not take Fraser long to have a major impact. A slightly loose pass from Kyle Ubych was intercepted by Lee McGillivray, however Fraser was in well to steal the ball away from the Dingwall winger. Four touches later, and the ball was in the back of the net. Fraser played a simple pass to Gordie Bryce, who showed unbelievable vision to pick out Keir Carson with a perfectly weighted pass, splitting Gregor Dow and Ryan Mitchell. Carson lifted his head and calmly stroked the ball home, low across the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner of the net. This was the killer blow for Saints.
In the 10 or so minutes previous, Dingwall had started to see a bit more of the ball as Saints tired, but this goal put the game beyond any reasonable doubt and was worthy of winning any game. It may not have been as spectacular as the second, or as bizarre as the first goal of the day, but the skill and precision that was showcased by those involved in the move, made this goal the most beautiful of the day.
Saints were not done there though. Not to be outdone by his midfield partner, Scott McIver showcased his passing skills, playing a pinpoint ball out to his captain on the left wing. Robinson was isolated out on the flank so took on an early shot, but saw it curl a few yards wide of the goal from what was a difficult angle.
There was to be no grandstand finish for the #YoungSaints, but the work that they had put in over the full 90 minutes turned a driech day in Dingwall into a memorable one as they completed a league double over their hosts. The team was fully deserving of their victory and will look to carry their fine form forward, as they pay a visit to league-leading Alness United in two weeks.
Full time: Dingwall 0 St Duthus 3
Match report by Adam Borland