St Andrews will appeal against their defeat on Wednesday at the hands of Abertay in semi-finals of the BUCS Scottish Cup. The defending champions lost 5-3 on the day, but had already signed a “playing in protest” form beforehand, due to Abertay fielding four ineligible players.
St Andrews had a very similar lineup to the players involved last week’s league-sealing victory, albeit without regular keeper James Bowler, who was at a national trial. Instead, Charles Riley started his first match in almost a year, and played well, making a number of excellent saves.
Abertay, on the other hand, had a very different side from the one which played a week earlier, losing 7-0 at the Sports Centre, and their new-look side looked a lot better from the first whistle. They put together a number of promising moves, but some last-ditch defending kept them out.
However, just 15 minutes in, Abertay broke well with four players, eventually finding the net after some quick passing. This seemed to be the wake up call that St Andrews needed, as they immediately came into the game again, pressuring Abertay high up the pitch.
This pressure led to a short corner for the Saints just two minutes after the goal, which they were unable to convert. Shortly after this, however, another penalty corner was awarded, and Paul Ireland managed to score from the edge of the D, levelling the match.
This was quickly followed by a second St Andrews goal, this time turned in by James Rivers. However, this lead was to be short lived, as Abertay broke quickly, and a drilled cross from the right was poked home into the far corner. At half time, the score was 2-2, with St Andrews having looked perhaps the better side.
The second half was a different story, with the Saints constantly struggling for space, seeing their passes intercepted and missing tackles. A degree of frustration certainly began to set in as time and again St Andrews failed to put together meaningful chances.
Just five minutes into the half, Abertay’s number 10 intercepted a poor pass in the St Andrews half, ran to the edge of the D and then struck his shot firmly into the top corner, giving Abertay the lead once more. Moments later, a penalty corner for the visitors was well worked and stroked home from close range, leaving the Saints two behind.
The following ten minutes were hard fought, with St Andrews constantly unable to craft out good chances. Abertay’s defence was well organised and, perhaps, a little luckier than the Saints on the day, and they managed to hold off continuous pressure. Eventually, another counter attack led to a scrappy finish and a fifth for Abertay, ending the match as a contest.
A late spell of pressure saw St Andrews finish strongly, with Rob Sellars scoring a consolation in the final minute, but it was not enough to book a place in the final. To top off the Saints’ torrid afternoon, captain Rory Hayward was forced to end his game early through injury.
The Saints may yet find themselves defending their trophy in Aberdeen due to Abertay’s ineligible players, but there was a distinct mood of disappointment around the pitch after the final whistle, after a lacklustre performance and the end to a season-long unbeaten run at home.
Captain Rory Hayward was frustrated at the end of the match, accepting that “the basics just weren’t there,” echoing the thoughts of his coach. He seemed optimistic about their appeal against Abertay, four of whose players are not matriculated students, a pre-requisite for BUCS competitions.