So near yet so far in Cup semi

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St Andrews 1sts 1

Robert Gordon 1sts 2

 

After a thrilling 5-3 victory against Strathclyde 1sts in the quarter final, St Andrews 1st XI were only 90 minutes away from playing for silverware in the BUCS Conference Cup final. Between them and the final stood Robert Gordon 1sts.

A very respectable crowd turned out as the match began in glorious sunshine, but inside four minutes Saints had their first real scare.

After pinball in the box a RGU free-kick found the feet of their number 5, who forced goalkeeper Cummings into a fantastic reaction stop low down to his left.

The deadlock was broken after 26 minutes when a RGU cross from the right led to their striker heading at goal, producing a great close range save from Cummings, but unfortunately for the goalkeeper the ball fell to a RGU winger who drilled home a composed finish at the near post.

The St Andrews boys had been punished for their sluggish start but that setback seemed to spark them into life as within two minutes of the restart Mark Smith drove down the right and crossed for captain Fazackerley who volleyed wide from a difficult angle.

As half-time approached the tempo of the St Andrews 1st team intensified and their attempts to grab themselves an equaliser couldn’t have come much closer. With four minutes left in the half Fazackerley crossed from the left for Smith, but the right winger was inches from connecting and finding the back of the net.

New Director of Football Stuart Milne, who has transformed the club’s style and results this season, faced his biggest team talk yet as his team trailed 1-0 at half time.

Milne’s words clearly inspired his players as Saints were on the front foot from the restart.  The high tempo football reaped rewards as ten minutes into the half the Saints managed to get themselves an all-important equaliser. Fazackerley, a constant thorn in the RGU defence, ran down the right and squared looking for Smith, and fortuitously for Saints an RGU clearance rebounded off Smith and into the net.  With over 30 minutes left Saints were level at 1-1.

The jubilation of equalising soon diminished as within 10 minutes of equalising St Andrews found themselves behind again after a flowing from RGU. The move commenced down the left where a driving run and skilful one-two put the RGU winger in on goal, and he finished clinically high into the net.

St Andrews now had less than half an hour to rescue their semi-final. Committing more men to attack in search of a second equaliser left space in behind, and RGU almost grabbed themselves a third to seal victory. A clean strike from the RGU right winger struck the post and fortunately for Cummings rebounded straight into his hands.

The final 10 minutes consisted of sustained pressure from Saints but clear cut chances were few and far between. As the match entered added time Saints had a terrific chance to take the tie to extra time. Picking the ball up just outside the RGU penalty area, McGrath clipped in a delightful cross begging to be attacked but unfortunately Hopkinson couldn’t quite stretch his left foot to make contact with the ball.

With that St Andrews chances of making the final were gone, and the full time whistle was greeted with celebration from the Aberdeenshire side.

It was a cruel end to what had been a phenomenal cup run for the St Andrews First XI, but a run which inspires belief that in following seasons, with an enthusiastic Director of Football at the helm, the club will only go from strength to strength.

 

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