A sleet-soaked pitch and an icy gale would prove to be an influential combination when St Andrews men’s football second XI played host to Dundee and Angus College in a Scottish 4B title clash. The visitors came into the game having lost just once all season to their cross-town rivals at the University of Dundee, while the Saints were in similarly good form, having won their previous two games, and were keen to reverse the 3-0 defeat inflicted upon them in the reverse fixture.
With the snow – which had somewhat bleakened the game’s prospects -having thankfully ceased, D&A kicked off the first half playing into the unrelenting wind. Right from the off, it was clear that both teams were there to win. Just two minutes in, the visitors were the recipients of the first chance of the game, which was comfortably blocked and cleared from the Saints’ area. Not long after, a corner at the other end would demonstrate how great a role the wind would play in proceedings, with a cross which usually would be destined for the box blown out for a goal kick before it even reached the near post.
Barcelona it most definitely wasn’t, with neither side settling into any kind of passing rhythm, not least due to a pitch looking a touch worse for wear after a few months of tough Scottish winter. The game was scrappy and end to end, with D&A making up for their shorter stature with crunching tackles, and one of these led to the first real chance for the home side, a free kick 25 yards out, taken by Matthew Davitt, which was deflected behind. The resulting corner was defended easily, and not three minutes later the referee had a decision to make, with a D&A forward throwing himself to the ground in the Saints’ area. Thankfully for the hosts, the official saw the exhibition of pike and double twist for what it was, and it was a comfortable save from St Andrews keeper Joel McInally which prevented his side from truly rueing the passage of play.
Back up the other end, it ought to have been the D&A defence which were regretting their actions, with Saint’s striker George Apel one-on-one with the visiting keeper following a defensive breakdown. Alas, his shot was misdirected with the goal at his mercy, and the keeper made an easy save. Not two minutes later, another careless tackle by the visitors near the corner flag resulted in another free kick attempt for St Andrews. The cross, taken from an impossible angle, was once again taken by the wind, and left the bar rattling as it went out for a goal kick. No breakthrough, but a taste of things to come.
Now it was D&A on the offensive again, with a chance at a tight angle squandered behind from a corner. Then, the breakthrough finally came for the visitors, with a low cross following a subsequent corner being finally converted after two blocked attempts. Not long after, the Dundonians had a chance to immediately double their advantage, with a good save from McInally falling to an opposition striker, whose shot was thankfully blocked by the defence and cleared. It was then that the wind had its greatest influence, with a cross from Cameron Isenburg far on the right wing somehow finding its way past the baffled D&A keeper and into the bottom left corner. It would prove to be the last major action of the half, with the teams taking a break at one apiece.
Saints began the second half, now playing into the unbearably cold breeze. But it was D&A who started the half brighter, hitting the bar within minutes of the start of the period. Five minutes in, a speculative effort from just within the Saints’ half threatened to beat McInally on the wind, but he managed to turn it behind. The subsequent corner proved troublesome too, with the wind threatening to deposit the cross in the back of the net, but it was miraculously blocked on the line.
It was back up the other end now, with Apel beating the D&A keeper to a high ball but squandering another chance, heading wide. In the end, it would not have mattered. The referee had pulled it back for offside. He would get another chance to rectify his missed chances later in the half, through in on goal once more, but again he hit it straight at the charging keeper. In the end, they were chances which would have comfortably decided the game in favour of the home side. The rest of the half was a strong defensive effort on the part of the hosts. D&A, buoyed by the wind at their back, launched numerous attacks and the Saints often struggled to get the ball to their forwards into the gale. D&A remained belligerent, in-deed two of the visitors were booked after yet more crunching challenges, and tempers began to run high on both sides, towards both the referee and the opposition. Having kept out the Dundonians for most of the half, Saints launched one final attack in the dying seconds of the game. The first shot was turned to an attacker by the keeper: surely, he could finish from well inside the area? But no, another chance went begging as the shot went wide, leaving the sides locked at 1-1 at the final whistle.
Overall, it was a decent performance from St Andrews. Conditions were difficult and the physicality of D&A at times reduced the game to a crawl in terms of how many free kicks were being given, but the number of chances created shows that the gears that leave them second in the league are still well oiled after the Christmas break. Convert a little more, and there is a strong chance that this side will be lifting the league trophy come the season’s end.