St Andrews managed to secure the league title and promotion to the BUCS Scottish 1A league on Wednesday 27 February with an impressive 7-0 victory over Abertay. They went into this match needing only a point, and did not disappoint, winning the match in some style at the Sports Centre.
On an unusually warm afternoon, it took the home side some time to get into their stride, and during the opening exchanges, St Andrews struggled to keep up a good passing rhythm. Athough they dominated the possession, they found it difficult to break through a determined Abertay defence.
Abertay, on the other hand, were content to try to soak up this pressure and then counter-attack when they won the ball, a tactic which caused a few early scares for the hosts, as it won two penalty corners inside the first quarter of an hour, but Abertay failed to convert either into a meaningful chance.
After the second corner, St Andrews seemed to gain the upper hand more definitively, attacking consistently and dangerously until a defensive mix-up let them in for their first goal on 17 minutes, scored by Ben Jamieson from close range.
After this breakthrough, St Andrews seemed better able to keep the ball on a slow pitch, using shorter passing and quick movement to work their way through the defence. The second goal came just ten minutes later with a penalty corner scored from just inside the D by Jamieson once more. He then added St Andrews’ third, completing his own hat-trick, only two minutes after that.
The pressure continued, and whenever the away side got anything like a chance, it was quickly snuffed out by the impressive St Andrews goalkeeper James Bowler and his defenders. When the half-time whistle went, the Saints had a 3-0 lead and looked every bit a team of champions.
The second half started brightly, and the insatiable Jamieson added his fourth just a minute in after some brilliant forward play, catching an Abertay defender unawares and robbing him of the ball, before beating another and calmly finishing into the corner.
Abertay kept working, but an own goal sliced horribly into the top corner followed quickly by a tap in for St Andrews’ James Rivers after some poor defensive play, both within 10 minutes of the fourth, meant that it was never going to be their day.
Both teams continued to try hard for the final 25 minutes, with St Andrews’ captain Rory Hayward constantly worrying the opposition defence with his energetic runs down the right, and Paul Ireland impressing with his skill in the centre of the pitch. Abertay refused to give up, and continued to pose some threat on the counter-attack, but were time and again foiled by a resolute defence.
Eventually though, fatigue and frustration began to factor, and just a few minutes before the end of the game, a second own goal summed up Abertay’s afternoon. Even a late penalty corner in their favour failed to produce any consolation, and the Saints managed to preserve their deserved clean sheet to add to their league victory.
After the final whistle, captain Hayward seemed pleased at the manner of the win, saying that he was “glad we managed to put on a show,” whilst repeatedly showing his gratitude for the enthusiastic support.
James Bowler, the Saints’ keeper, spoke about the slow pitch, and how unfortunately this meant that there was little opportunity for skill. Still, he was relieved that they had managed to “grind out the result,” something of an understatement from a humble side that outclassed their opposition on the day and fully deserved their promotion.