Do not read too much into pre-season results. That is what the first XI of the St Andrews Men’s Football Club will be telling themselves after last week’s disappointing 3-1 loss to Dundee first XI in the first Varsity match of the year.
Despite a rigorous pre-season training schedule the Saints couldn’t manage to muster a win to please the supporting onlookers. They started brightly creating some good half-chances but the screwed finishes were symbolic of the tension some of the players were feeling. After a half-hearted penalty appeal was turned down mid-way through the first half the home team were in the ascendancy and should have scored. Tricky winger Yu Okamura was sent through with a delightful through ball and showed good composure – and honesty – to round the goalkeeper and stay on his feet but didn’t manage to complete the move from an acute angle as he hit the outside of the post.
Oh how costly a miss it was.
Gradually, the momentum was starting to shift. Dundee dragged a shot wide of the far post and before long it was 1-0 to the visitors. The Dundonian centre back stepped out from the back, unchallenged, and fed the forward who rounded the goalkeeper and did what Okamura couldn’t manage.
From then on it was always going to be an uphill struggle. Half-time came and went with no noticeable reaction from the Saints.
That man Yu then popped up on his own goal-line to clear from a corner but before long it was 2-0 as some scrappy build-up play was finished beautifully with a cultured, left-footed finish.
Following the current fashion the home team switched to a 3-5-2 and brought on Chris Mcrae to try and get more support up top but the tactical switch at the back proved costly as the vacated flanks were exploited by a strong Dundee team who had grown into the game.
At 3-0 St Andrews couldn’t be accused of a lack of huff and puff but were short on sharpness and ingenuity. They’ll be hoping, contrary to the fortunes of the red team in Manchester, that pre-season is a very bad indicator of things to come.
Hope there is though. The home team managed to put a smile on the crowd’s face as they scored what the best goal of a high quality, if scrappy and occasionally confrontational, match.
The ball was picked up in the middle of the park and pinged, almost Paul Scholes esque, out to the left hand side where one touch was enough to control the ball and get it out of the winger’s feet. The finish to follow was exquisite and rattled off the inside of the post to at least give the illusion of hope of a comeback.
It was not to be as Dundee saw the game out comfortably. On this occasion they were the better team, but revenge will be in the air the next time these teams face up to each other.