Last week, St Andrews Men’s Football twos capped off league victory in BUCS Scottish 4B with a convincing 4-0 home win over Dundee twos.
Having confirmed their place as champions the day before after Dundee and Angus lost to RGU, the Saints were playing not only for pride but also to keep the relegation-battling third team in with a chance of staying up.
The game kicked off on a freezing cold, windy and rainy evening on the rubber crumb, in a match that was to be the last at BUCS level in Saints colours for the team’s eight leavers.
The opening exchanges were scrappy but the Saints, operating a 3-4-1-2 formation, were always in control. A penetrating run infield from right wingback Cameron Isenberg set up the first real chance of the game on eight minutes, the resulting shot just catching the side netting.
This set the tone for much of the first half as Isenberg’s pace and good link-up play with striker Kai Mackie brought about a number of half-chances. Saints keeper Joel McInally, who did not touch the ball until the 24th minute, was never troubled as Dundee struggled to keep the ball and mount anything resembling an attack.
A breakthrough was surely imminent and it came in the 34th minute from a set piece. Dundee failed to deal with a low corner driven in by Matthew Davitt and number nine George Apel was there to bundle it over the line.
With this impetus the Saints pressed for a second; a number of chances coming from Isenberg crosses. One found its way through to left wingback Sam Robinson, whose shot rattled the woodwork. Another ball was flashed across from the left but with goal gaping Apel failed to get the decisive touch. These let offs for the overwhelmed Dundee defence kept the half time score at 1-0.
The visitors enjoyed the first attack of the second half but any hopes of a comeback were soon put to bed. On 47 minutes a slick passing move from the Saints saw the ball fall to Will McIlveen on the edge of the area. His shot was scuffed but good positioning allowed Apel to slide in and redirect it past the Dundee ‘keeper for his and the team’s second.
From then on Dundee continued to look second best in every part of the pitch. Admirably, they continued to try and play out from the back despite inviting much unnecessary pressure. Any possession they did enjoy was squandered as they struggled to mount attacks, thanks in no small part to the commanding presence of Greg Cox in central midfield.
Around the hour mark Saints began to ring the changes; the fresh legs allowing them to continue their dominance of the game. On 71 minutes, wingback Isenberg was released down the right and surged into the Dundee penalty area before firing a shot low past the ‘keeper. His last action of the match, the goal was nothing less than he deserved for a superb attacking performance.
The icing on the cake came in the 79th minute. A teasing ball over the top from deep was caught in the wind and fell to Apel on the edge of the penalty area. Checking back and brushing off a foul from his marker, he finished low to cap off the win and a secure his hat-trick. All the surrounding Saints players came over to celebrate as the number nine brought down the curtain on his Saints career in fine style.
This was a commanding performance from the St Andrews outfit and showed why they were worthy of promotion. Attention now turns to the threes to see if they can escape relegation following this favour by the second team.