After a disappointing defeat to Edinburgh Napier last week, St Andrews 1sts were looking to bounce back against Heriot Watt 2nds with a solid victory. They managed to achieve this in a hard-fought encounter and were able to hold on to a well-earned victory despite a late scare at the death from the away side. An entertaining game in which both sides had their chances ended in what was a fair result.
The match opened in a scrappy fashion; however, it was already evident after ten minutes that St Andrews were the stronger side. The breaththrough came in the 12th minute when Saints’ Ian Mackie managed to get on the end of a low corner to the near post which he successfully directed beyond the keeper’s grasp. A period of mixed possession between the teams ensued until Saints’ Adam Heron was fouled in the box after a crisp passing move by the Saints. Mark Smith stepped up to the penalty spot and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way with a powerful shot into the top right-hand corner. Worsening weather conditions and rising tensions between the teams did not prevent St Andrews from tightening their grip upon the match and they came close to scoring a third after two successive corners. However, towards the end of the half Heriot Watt hit back with some threatening attacks, one of which ended in a last ditch goal-line clearance from the Saints’ defence.
The early exchanges of the second half proved to be a more even affair. The weather also improved, allowing both sides to play more attractive football and the keepers at both ends were tested several times as both teams tried to get on top of the game. As the half progressed Saints once again began to dominate and were looking much more confident on the ball with an improved pass completion rate. Their persistence paid off in the 71st minute when Saints’ were controversially awarded a penalty after striker Guillermo Villanova was allegedly brought down by Heriot Watt’s goalkeeper on the edge of the box. The inevitable protests by the visitors were waved away by referee Derek Millborough, and Mark Smith duly stepped forward. Unfortunately for Smith his second penalty proved less impressive than his first and the goalkeeper was able to parry the ball it, albeit into the path of Saints’ George Welton whose shot nonetheless went wide.
As the match entered its closing stages, there was another twist when Heriot Watt launched an assault down the left wing and a low cross from their winger was converted from five yards out by their number nine, whose shot bounced in off the far post to take the score to 2-1. A mix-up in the away defence almost resulted in the Saints putting the result to bed when a stray backpass was picked up on the edge of the box by Kieron McGrath, whose well-judged pass across the box evaded the onrushing goalkeeper’s grasp and landed at the feet of captain James Fazackerley, whose shot was blocked by the by an excellent slide tackle by a Heriot Watt centre back. There was a final scare for the Saints in the 89th minute when a Heriot Watt free-kick from 30 yards out on the left hand side looped off the boot of a Heriot Watt striker and over backpedalling Saints’ goalkeeper Ally Cummings’ head, only for the ball to hit the crossbar. The Heriot Watt number seven was the first to react, but his headed effort from only two yards out went horribly wide, and his embarrassing miss was greeted with derision by the Saints supporters. To add insult to injury, only seconds later Saints’ substitute Lenny Fleck was able to beat his man on the edge on the box and pull the ball back to his captain Fazackerley who buried a powerful shot beyond the keeper’s despairing dive into the top-right hand to finish the game.
Speaking to the Saints’ captain after the match it was evident that he was satisfied with the result despite the shaky start. The Saints manager added that it had been a good game but one in which the players had made it harder for themselves than it needed to be. He was pleased with the Saints’ attacking promise but felt that, defensively, work needed to be done. He also added that the result sets the Saints up nicely for next week’s difficult derby encounter with Dundee University 1st team.