Saints narrowly lose heated cup final

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St Andrews 1st XI football team were unfortunate to lose 2-1 in the Wallace Wright Cup final after a late goal from Dysart FC proved enough to win them the cup in a feisty Fife encounter.

The Saints performed exceptionally despite the weather conditions and the patchy playing surface, and they can consider themselves unfortunate not to have taken victory in an eventful game which saw two red cards, a penalty save, and three excellent goals.

Whilst the game started tentatively, with neither side wanting to make a mistake in such an important match, the game soon became heated as desire overruled the teams’ reason. The Saints managed to carve out the first chance of the game, as Charlie Hopkinson met Kettlewell’s cross with a volley from the edge of the area, although he couldn’t quite find the target with his shot.

With free-kicks frequently being awarded for both sides, it seemed only a matter of time before one was converted, and sure enough the first goal of the game was scored directly from a Dysart free-kick. The ball was whipped into the box from out wide, and although no Dysart players got a touch to the ball, the cross was a tricky one which evaded both the Saints’ defence and goalkeeper to creep into the bottom corner of the net.

Although the wind was against them, the Saints were still managing to threaten Dysart’s goal, and were looking especially threatening from set-pieces. Dysart’s goalkeeper managed to ignore the heckles from St Andrews’ supporters to deny the Saints on numerous occasions, notably parrying yet another swerving half-volley from Hopkinson to deny St Andrews an equaliser.

Dysart were happy to play the counter-attacking game, but Cotter was leading the Saints’ defence with his typical composure and strength to deny their attempts to further their lead. Even when Dysart managed to squeeze a shot off, goalkeeper and captain Alistair Cummings was more than a match for everything thrown at him, and he even pulled off a stunning save following a Dysart corner to keep St Andrews in the game with half-time looming.

Just before the break the St Andrews striker Dan Sargent was provided with a couple of great chances to level the score – initially he was denied by the Dysart goalkeeper, and then moments later was sent clean through on goal, managing to beat the ‘keeper with a side-footed effort, only to see the ball trickle agonisingly wide of the post.

With Dysart on the back-foot, and now against the wind, they would’ve wanted to use half-time to calm the tempo of the game; the Saints, on the other hand, had other ideas. They carved out two great chances right from the whistle with the supporters still making their way out of the clubhouse, only being denied by the crossbar in their search for an equaliser. The pressure was mounting on Dysart, and this told as one of their players snapped, throwing a punch at St Andrews’ left back John Henderson, earning the player an instant dismissal.

With the advantage of the wind, an extra man and the momentum, St Andrews piled on the pressure. James Fazackerley looked particularly hungry for a goal, only being denied from scoring a sensational 40-yard free-kick by the strong gloves of the opposing goalkeeper. The Saints signalled their intent with an attacking substituion, bringing on Ramsay Ross for John Henderson in an attempt to invigorate the attack.

With the Saints piling men forward, however, they left themselves open to a counter-attack, and this was exploited by Dysart who managed to break away from the St Andrews defence, drawing a rash challenge in the penalty area to earn a spot-kick and a chance to double their lead.

Captain Allie Cummings stepped up to the mark, and pulled off a superb save from the penalty to the roar of the St Andrews supporters. This moment of inspiration proved to be the spark that St Andrews needed, and they finally managed to score the equaliser that their play had deserved. Dan Sargent whipped a dangerous ball into the penalty area from a free-kick which was cooly headed home by Charlie Hopkinson, and finally St Andrews were back in the game.

The team didn’t let up for a second, and just minutes later Dan Sargent’s volley from a long throw-in crashed against the crossbar.

With both teams desperate for the win, tackles started flying in hard, and a number of yellow cards were shown for reckless challenges from both sides. St Andrews made two further substituions, with Guillermo Royo Villanova and Nick Wallendahl coming on to try to settle the St Andrews team and provide fresh legs for a final push for the winning goal.

Fazackerley was proving instrumental to the Saints’ attacks, and with fifteen minutes to go he smashed a 40-yard half-volley just wide of the goal.

However, Fazackerly’s influence on the game cut prematurely short, as he was cruelly dismissed after receiving a second yellow card for a late challenge on his opposing midfielder.

The Saints were stunned, and before they could adjust to the loss of Fazackerly, Dysart had taken advantage of their surprise with a headed goal to put them 2-1 up with just ten minutes to go.

The Dysart fans were in jubilation, and although their chants were drowned out by the vociferous St Andrews support, they made their joy known through the medium of an inebriated pitch-invader with his trousers precariously balanced around his knees,  maniacally swinging his shirt around his head. Although he managed to extricate himself from the pitch before any unfortuante official was forced to intervene, the man lost his shoe in the process of his celebrations, and was forced to watch the remainder of the match precariously balanced on one leg, before the miraculous reappearance of his Nikes at the final whistle.

St Andrews threw everything they had at Dysart in the final ten minutes and arguably could’ve scored several times, with Dan Sargent, Ramsay Ross and Royo Villanova all looking dangerous. Goalkeeper Allie Cummings made a late surge up the pitch to offer his support at at last-minute corner, although he was just unable to repeat his heroics at the other end of the pitch.

The final whistle put an end to St Andrews’ cup hopes, although the admirable supporters never stopped singing throughout, despite their team’s loss, in tribute to the heroic efforts of the players who had controlled so much of the game and come so close to winning.

1st team manager Stuart Milne had nothing but praise for his side, saying that he “could ask nothing more from them”, and praising their “effort and commitment” in a match which they could easily have won.  Captain Allie Cummings was voted man of the match by his fellow players for his blinding performance in goal, which included a penalty save among a host of other saves.

This was the last match for a number of players who will be leaving St Andrews this summer, after helping this team become the first football team in St Andrews for 8 years to achieve promotion. Whilst it would’ve been fantastic to depart on a winning note, the level of performance was excellent throughout the game, and each player can be proud after what has been an ultimately successful season.

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