Craigroyston were the first team to visit The Clayton Caravan Park Recreation Ground for a league match during the 2021/22 campaign but the vast majority of fans in attendance were rooting for the home team.  Indeed, there was a good atmosphere inside the ground as club legends Tommy Will and Romeo Borella took honorary kick off to mark the start of United’s official centenary season and the game began under a warm summer sun.

Craigroyston then created the first chance of the afternoon when Dean Horribine pounced on a slip by Kyle Sneddon but Kyle Moran made a wonderful save to deny the young striker.  St Andrews United’s first opportunity came four minutes later when Jack Wilson lobbed the ball over the bar from a good Sneddon pass yet the opening goal came from the next attack.  Jake Grady burst down the left wing prior to sending a low cross into the box and Wilson flicked the ball into the path of Matthew Irvine at the back post.  

The trialist student gleefully hooked the ball into the net with his left foot from close-range in the 19th minute and the goal gave the home players a massive lift.  Those players were wearing a special white shirt to help celebrate their club's centenary and they dominated possession as the first half drew to a close.  However, Craigroyston looked dangerous on the break so Moran twice made good blocks at the edge of his box, whilst the impressive Jack Rollo was lucky not to concede a penalty for pulling Owen Renton’s shirt just before the interval.  

United thus headed into the break with a one-goal lead, though the players remained on the pitch due to ongoing restrictions relating to Covid-19.  Unfortunately, the second half began badly for ‘The Whites’ because Craigroyston stormed down the slope to equalise in the 48th minute.  The home defence played a very high offside line throughout the first half but Gary Nicholson managed to beat their trap at the start of the second period as he raced towards Moran.  The young goalie actually did well to force his opponent wide of the target, which made shooting difficult, yet Nicholson managed to cross for Renton to slide the ball into an empty net from three yards out.  

Alas, that goal knocked the stuffing out of Saints for a while and worse was to follow because Jason Penman limped off the park with a nasty looking ankle injury.  Fraser ‘Scholesy’ Anderson therefore came off the bench to make his competitive debut for St Andrews United and he quickly impressed the crowd by showing some neat touches.  Ross Cunningham subsequently tested ‘Newman’ in the Craigroyston goal with a shot from a tight angle then Moran was relieved to see an effort from James Smith drift wide when the latter really should have scored.  

The action was switching from end-to-end at that point and the visiting goalkeeper did well to tip a cross-come-shot from Anderson over the bar before catching the ball from the resulting corner kick.  The next period of play resulted in the Craigroyston defenders passing the ball amongst themselves until another long ball easily breached St Andrews United’s high defensive line.  The lively Renton thus rounded Moran to give his side the lead for the first time in the 75th minute and the referee signalled for a much-needed water break immediately afterwards.  

That break came at a good time for Saints so the players were able to regroup in front of the home dug-out.

United therefore finished the match as the stronger side and Michael Fleming twice headed towards the target without troubling the goalie, whilst substitute Kai Pannwitz agonisingly failed to connect with a loose ball just short of the Craigroyston goal line.  Anderson then missed a glorious chance to equalise when he snatched at a shot from a good position and the last chance of the game fell to the same player when he fired a free kick wide of the visitors’ left-hand post.  

St Andrews United consequently lost for the first time this season but the players will be disappointed not to have taken at least a point from this keenly contested fixture.

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