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Lochgilphead Red Star once again hosted the Argyll and Bute Cup – and for the second year in a row they reached the final, only to be outlasted by an impressive Oban Saints side.
The eventual finalists on Saturday August 4 met in their opening group game at the Joint Campus 3G with the sides playing out a high tempo 0-0 draw, with Kyle Selfridge going close for Star. Saints had the majority of possession in the second 20 minutes but the Star back line of Kyle Selfridge, Andy Weir and Luke Naisby remained resolute along with Luke Kalache in goal.
The other sides in group two were debutants Port Glasgow who ran out 2-0 winners against Neilston as two first half goals sealed the match in the Inverclyde men’s favour.
Red Star’s next game against Neilston was an entertaining affair. After a goalless first half, Star took the lead through Ian McGuinness before an equaliser from Neilston after some sloppy defending. Innes Meikle restored the Red Star advantage with a long range effort which he curled away from the Neilston keeper for 2-1. Star were once again pegged back however as a free kick into the box bamboozled Kalache in the box and ended up in the back of the net. Just as it looked like the points would be shared Gregor Peacock got on the end of a Cammy MacDonald flick on and headed into the net to secure a 3-2 win for the hosts.
Oban Saints and Port Glasgow took to the Astro next and the Oban side soon got into their stride and ran out comfortable 2-0 winners to move to the top of the section on goal difference.
Saints stayed on to play their final group match against Neilston and they continued to play some excellent attacking football with Donald Campbell scoring the pick of the goals in a 3-0 win to secure top spot.
This left Red Star and Port Glasgow to face each other in the final game to determine who would go through as runners up. Both sides were keen to secure the victory but the defences remained on top in a 0-0 draw and the Lochgilphead side made it through after picking up five points from their three matches with Port Glasgow finishing on four.
Over at the Ropework, Campbeltown Pupils opened up their campaign with a 1-0 victory over local rivals Tarbert. Kilsyth, making their tournament debut, also got off to an excellent start with a 3-1 victory over Dunoon.
Dunoon stayed on to play against old rivals Campbeltown Pupils in what turned out to be a feisty encounter with the Pupils running out 2-1 winners thanks to a Martin McCallum free kick in the final minute.
Tarbert then took on Kilsyth in a 1-1 stalemate, with Nikki MacDougall scoring the equaliser, before fighting out another draw with Dunoon to end the campaign with two points.
This left Kilsyth and Pupils fighting for the top two spots in the final match of the section and the North Lanarkshire side edged the tie 1-0 to secure top spot and a semi-final against Red Star.
The first semi-final saw Oban Saints take on Campbeltown Pupils, with Saints taking the lead in the first half after Fraser McFarlane was felled in the box. Up stepped Lewis Cameron to make no mistake from the spot.
Pupils weren’t lying down, however and got back into the game with a penalty of their own to equalise, and will be disappointed not to have forced a winner late on.
The match was decided by a penalty shoot-out and Saints eventually came out in top on a contest that swung back and forward, providing some excellent entertainment for the crowd that had gathered.
The second semi-final also proved to be an exciting affair as Red Star took on Kilsyth. The hosts fell behind early on when Kilsyth opened the scoring after their midfielder finished well from 20 yards to beat Kalache in the Star goal.
Red Star equalised soon after with a Ben Forbes wonder strike from 30 yards which thundered past the Kilsyth keeper. Star took the lead when Gregor Peacock was barged in the box and Andy Weir stepped up to fire the penalty beyond the ‘keeper to give the hosts the lead. Kilsyth were causing Star plenty of problems however and were level again before the half-time whistle when a scramble in the box saw the ball deflect in off the unfortunate Luke Naisby.
The winner came for Star early in the second half when Kilsyth couldn’t clear a free kick into the box and the ball broke kindly to John Kennedy, who volleyed home to secure the win and send Red Star into the final where for the second year in a row they would face Oban Saints.
Into the final and the Red Star side were clearly feeling the effects of their exertions as they struggled to contain a fluid Oban Saints attack early on. Saints had a couple of good attempts saved by Luke Kalache before Matt Rippon opened the scoring after the ball broke kindly on the edge of the box.
The Premier division side put themselves 2-0 up on the stroke of half time when more good play saw the ball fall to Shaun MacIver who bundled home.
The second half saw Saints stretch their lead through James Ford before Cammy McDonald pulled a late consolation for Red Star but it was Oban Saints who ran out deserved 3-1 winners and won the tournament for the second year running.
Saints also had the Player of the Tournament, which was awarded to Lewis Cameron who was excellent throughout the day.
Red Star would like to thank all the teams and officials who took part in the competition, as well as the Stag Hotel for their excellent hospitality.
Tomorrow Red Star round off their pre-season schedule with a home match against Helensburgh which will take place at the Ropework, with a 2pm kick-off.