Bridge of Don Thistle 3 v 4 Banchory St.Ternan
Saints travelled into the Aberdeen Sports Village without Greg Smith, Craig Peters, Conran Wilson and Mark Reid for this Grill League Cup Group 5 season opener against a Bridge of Don side among the favourites to win this trophy and be challenging for the League title. Coupled with the fact Saints had not won an opening fixture for six years, a win seemed unlikely, but a fantastic second half display gave them the three points to head the four team table.
Saints Darren Reid had a half chance in the opening minute but drove the ball across the six yard box instead of taking a pop at goal. The home side took the lead on 5 minutes when a loose ball from a free kick was pounced on from close range. A few minutes later the home centre forward went close with a low shot that went just past the far post.
Bridge of Don continued to apply the pressure taking command of the midfield with saints struggling to make much headway. It was almost 2-0 on 23 minutes but Ross Salmon in Saints goal pulled off a brilliant one handed save at full stretch. Saints replied with an attack that came to nothing and the home keeper punted long down the middle with two corners ensuing.
On the half hour Banchory had a sniff when the home keeper dropped a cross and then at the other end Bridge of Don’s low hard cross across the six yard box found no takers. A Banchory free kick followed taken by Liam Cheyne and the home keeper saved easily from Aaron Thomson’s effort.
Bridge of Don hit the post just before the 45 minutes, but then on the third minute of added time Steve Travers blocked a close range shot inside the box with the referee adjudging that the Saints skipper had blocked the ball with his arm in an unnatural position. The home side scored form the penalty to make it 2-0.
Into the second half with Bridge of Don going close with a header over the bar on 51 minutes, but two minutes later the ball broke to Darren Reid 10 yards out and the Banchory midfielder hit a low left foot shot into the net. Four minutes later it was 2-2 when it was Ryan Whelan’s turn to net with Reid this time turning provider.
Straight from the kick off Bridge of Don moved forward with their right winger clearly a yard offside but the assistant referee gave nothing and it was now 3-2 to the home side.
This prompted a change from Manager Ewan Robb on 67 minutes with Dean Henderson replacing Joe Clark. Saints were now on the front foot and a free kick was almost deflected into their own net by Bridge of Don but the move was offside in any case. It was now time for another Saints change on 69 minutes with Mike Bruce replacing Ryan Whelan and what a substitution this was. Within three minutes a great move involving Liam Cheyne and Darren Reid set up Bruce to equalise. The combination almost worked again almost immediately but this time Bruce was offside.
With 15 minutes remaining, the injured Steve Travers came off with Conner Kelly making his debut. On 80 minutes the ball broke to Dean Henderson at the back post and he scored under the diving home keeper, but the referee had already blown for a foul and a penalty to Banchory. Bruce stepped up to calmly dispatch the ball to the keeper’s left and in off the post to make it 4-3 Saints.
A few minutes later it was almost five but Steve Young headed over from close range. Banchory held their own in the final minutes with Ross Salmon barely being bothered by any Bridge of Don efforts at goal.
The Saints’ boss was delighted with his side as we caught up with him after the game.
A good day’s work for us. I thought we started the game poor. Sloppy at the back, didn’t keep possession well and our decision making in the final third wasn’t great but we’ve gone in to the game with 3 or 4 players having missed a bit of preseason due to injury or holidays, and Trav carrying a knock so a slow start was maybe to be expected. To be 2-0 down at half time, and come back to win against the team that finished 2nd in the Superleague last season shows the character of this group of players. Our back line in the second half was immense and i felt we looked dangerous every time we went forward. The new lads coming into the squad over the summer are all settling in well. Jack at right back, up against last season’s Superleague player of the year in his first game for us. Conner was a constant thorn on the right side. Mikey has come on for Whelan and scored twice, then CK comes on and does well too. I think there’s plenty to look forward to but it is only one game. We’ve set ourselves a standard now and the challenge is to keep it up over the next 30 odd games.
Team: Ross Salmon, Jack Dalgarno, Liam Cheyne, Aaron Thomson, Josh Robertson, Steve Young, Conor Watt, Steve Travers (Conner Kelly), Ryan Whelan (Mike Bruce), Darren Reid, Jo Clark (Dean Henderson). Subs: Euan Rose, Grant Munro.
This Saturday 10th August Saints play their first home game of the season at Milton Park, with the final Grill League Cup game against Aberdeen University, kick off 2pm