Backed by a strong travelling support of around 150, St Andrews Men’s ones created history by winning the Queen’s Park Shield for the first time since 1943 with a dramatic win on penalties over Strathclyde. After a tense 90 minutes, with clear cut chances few and far between, it was the Saints who kept their cool to win 6-5 in the shootout.
With St Andrews having gone 75 years without winning the trophy that they helped found, the pressure was very much on their players to bring the title home with them. The weight of the occasion was to tell throughout the game, with both sides contributing to what was a cagey affair. The early action centred around a couple of speculative balls into the box from Strathclyde, with Saints’ keeper Alec Cadzow dealing with the danger comfortably. The first chance of the game fell to St Andrews, with Maxim Bolotov volleying wide from a decent delivery. A big chance fell to the Saints, with captain Alex Dodgson threading a superb through ball to Max Balmford, only to see his effort roll agonisingly wide of the post. It was defence-splitting passes like this from Dodgson, as well as his ability to dictate the tempo of the game, that saw him deservedly pick up the man of the match award. Dodgson continued to show his class in the 18th minute with a superb delivery from a corner, only for Matthew Holden to head over under pressure from the Strathclyde defender.
However, Strathclyde had chances of their own. In the 28th minute they broke clear, with Cadzow appearing to sweep up the danger, only for the ball to squirm out of his hands allowing it to fall to the Strathclyde number seven. Perhaps surprised by his good fortune, he only managed to scuff his shot wide.
The last 10 minutes of the half saw two yellow cards for the Saints. First Lion Herfort saw yellow for a reckless, studs-up challenge, before Findlay Tough picked up a booking for cynically dragging back the opposition striker on the edge of the box. Despite being punished in this instance, Tough’s ability to break up play and perform the less appreciated side of the game was integral to the Saints’ shutout. On the rare occasion when Tough was taken out of the game, his defensive partner, Holden, was there to sweep up.
The second half very much followed the pattern of the first, with both sides struggling to break each other down. One of the next chances of the half saw a dipping shot from Bolotov pushed clear by the keeper. The next chance didn’t come until the 70th minute, with the referee ignoring what appeared to be a foul on Cadzow, only for Strathclyde to again shoot wide despite the golden opportunity.
The next 15 minutes were short of action with the next chance not coming until the 84th minute, as Cadzow did well to block with his legs following a Strathclyde one on one. Cadzow then saved again a couple of minutes later from a dipping Strathclyde free kick from 25 yards, doing well to turn it round the post. However, these stops were nothing compared to the one which he pulled off in the 88th minute. With the ball falling beautifully for the Strathclyde midfielder, he fired the ball towards the top corner from just 15 yards out. While the St Andrews faithful looked on, Cadzow somehow managed to turn the ball over the bar, to the obvious relief of his teammates. As the final whistle was blown seconds later, this save was critical to the Saints victory.
Tournament rules dictated that the game go straight to penalties, which was arguably a suitable end to a very even game. Both sides scored their first penalties, before the second shots were saved. After Tough had slotted the Saints’ 7th penalty home, the pressure was on Strathclyde. Perhaps fittingly given his last-minute heroics, it was Cadzow who saved the final penalty, giving Saints their historic win.
For first team right back and former club president Daniel Pilley, the win was years in the making. “It’s fully deserved. Four years for me, five for Dodge [Alex Dodgson, ones Captain] with very little to show for it. We sacrifice so much and to win makes it all worth it. To be the first St Andrews team to win it since 1943 is something special.” Pilley went on to praise the support the players received from the travelling fans, saying, “the team extends further than the 17 down on the pitch. The support we had meant so much. To have over 100 people on the side cheering us on is a testament not just to this amazing club, but this amazing university too.”
Pilley’s sentiments were shared by University Director of Football and Men’s first team coach Stuart Milne. Milne said that it was a “tremendous achievement winning the shield for the first time since 1943. The players deserve the success given the amount of hard work they put in week after week, season after season.”
He pointed to the win as demonstrative of the progress the football programme has made, saying that “this win, in one of the most prestigious competitions there is at university level, shows how far the performance football programme has come and will also inspire others within the Club.” On top of the ones’ victory, Milne highlighted the continued success throughout the club, with the women’s first team achieving their highest ever 1A points total, as well as the men’s second team winning their league and promotion with it.
This has undoubtedly been a brilliant season for the Football Club, and the first team’s Queen’s Park Shield triumph only serves to underline that.
For the leavers it was a fitting way to end their university football careers. For those that are remaining, the hope is that they can build on the efforts of this season and help the club continue to grow and fulfil their motto: “Our legacy. Be remembered.