The men’s first team have been in fine form since the New Year. The side have yet to drop a point. They have had dominant wins against Glasgow 2s and Dundee 1s. Many of the players have hit the ground running in 2020. Freshers like Kai Panniwitz, Seb Ratzan, Jamie Scott, and Sacha Weiss have really established themselves in the starting eleven and have produced some fine performances.
For the side’s match against Glasgow 2s in the Scottish Conference Cup manager, Phil McGuire named a side not too dissimilar to the previous two fixtures. Had the temperature not been so cold, the setting for the game would have been ideal, considering it was an evening fixture under the floodlights on the rubber crumb. It was the last of three successive football matches to be played on the rubber crumb for the day.
From the kick-off, it was clear that the Glasgow 2s had travelled from Glasgow with purpose. They were not gonna roll over and hand the Saints a place in the semi-final of the cup. The team from Glasgow early in the game capitalised on St Andrew’s failure to clear their lines at the edge of the box. The ball fell to a Glasgow attacker who from around the penalty spot slotted it into the bottom left corner of the goal, beyond the reaches of a helpless Montanaro in the St Andrews goal.
For the remainder of the half the action centred around the middle third of the pitch. Glasgow were resolute and disciplined in defence. This was epitomised by the Glasgow back four, who despite being far from the most technically gifted players to play on the rubber crumb, were not going to allow the Saints to win a chance in the air.
The Saints persevered throughout the first half to break down the side by attempting to play quick passing, high tempo football. Unfortunately, unlike previous weeks, something was not quite clicking with the home side. All 11 home players were working hard, Ratzan and Bowler darted after the Glasgow centre-halves when they were on the ball, Kai Panniwitz and captain Findlay Tough worked hard in defence. But ultimately there were far too many individual errors, which greatly hindered the work rate. There also seemed to be a lack of intent to score. This ultimately meant that there was no clear cut chance in the first half for the first team to level the score.
The Saints went into the half 1-0 down. The Saints side clearly needed a rethink and time to compose themselves. At the start of the second half, the Saints had their first real chance. A freekick on the halfway line was played by Euan Smith. It subsequently led to a headed chance by a St Andrews attacker, but the Glasgow keeper made a good save low to his right.
Almost straight after the Saint’s chance the Glasgow 2s countered. Montanaro, who had been looking solid in goal, claimed the Glasgow cross confidently and thwarted their counter.
Whilst there was certainly increased urgency from the home side, there were really not many clear cut chances for the team in blue. It was not until the Glasgow 2s keeper picked up a back pass in the 84th minute that the Saints were given an opportunity of a lifeline. The keeper gave away the free-kick just beyond the six-yard box. But the subsequent indirect free-kick was blazed over the crossbar. At this point to many of the spectators, it felt as if the writing was on the wall for the home side: a disappointing exit from the Cup.
The saying goes, it is not over until it is over. Deep (goalkeeper coming into the box for corner kicks level of deep) into stoppage time, a rather tame ball was delivered into the box from 10 metres inside the Glasgow half. It looked like a comfortable take for the Glasgow keeper. The keeper though bobbled the ball as it was about to bounce into his arms. Alex McLaughlin, St Andrew’s answer to Javier Hernandez, was there to poach the loose ball into the back of the net. The Saints were somehow able to dig in and take the match to penalties.
Glasgow’s number 10 confidently dispatched the first penalty low to the right. Then, Captain Findlay Tough stepped up and converted his penalty. The next Glasgow player stepped up and followed number tens precedent, slamming home in the bottom right corner. Forward Flynn Gray then slotted his penalty into the bottom right corner, out of the reaches of the Glasgow keeper. The scores were all level in the shootout.
The next Glasgow player to take the penalty fired the ball high over the crossbar. Unfortunately though, the home side were unable to pounce on this opportunity. Tyler Gilmore stepped up to take the penalty. His shot was saved by the outstretched hands of the Glasgow keeper. After three rounds the scores remained level. Glasgow’s number 8 then hit one of the better penalties of the shoot out, burying it into the bottom left corner. Substitute Charlie Andrews followed suit and buried his shot into the opposite corner. Goalkeeper Robbie Montanaro then took matters into his own hands (both literally and figuratively). First through saving Glasgow’s final penalty, then stepping up to take the final decisive penalty. The Glasgow keeper dived to his right, but Montanaro chipped the ball straight down the middle of the goal before sprinting off in celebration.
This was far from the men’s first team’s best performance. Captain Findlay Tough said after the game that it was some of the sloppiest football played this season and the side were extremely fortunate to escape full time on level terms. But he then said that the work and effort that the side produced during the game, and greater still the season, got the side through this quarter-final.
I can certainly agree with this, as whilst the performance was not of the highest quality, the side won this fixture on character and perseverance. Overall, it was a thoroughly successful day for the St Andrews Football Club. Whilst in the previous week the Women’s first team were heartbreakingly knocked out of the British Cup in the round of 16, this week all three sides (men’s 1s, men’s 2s, and women’s 3s) who were in cup fixtures progressed to their next round. The men’s first team will play the men’s in the semi-finals of the Conference Cup in 2 weeks. This is bound to be a thrilling encounter, which will certainly be worth coming to see.