LSL Division 1
It was a scrappy game, the pitch and conditions didn't help, but it was a derby that had everything. It was frantic, passionate, tense, very competitive and when Craig scored the winner it was beautiful. The Saints took the lead in the 9th minute when David Somers scored his eleventh league goal of the season from the penalty spot after John Reilly was brought down with a rash challenge. The home side had a few half hearted complaints but it was a clear penalty, and the perfect start for the league leaders.
Verona equalised when a ball over the top deceived the Saints goalkeeper Warren Fee. Kenny Clinch rounded Fee to score with a good finish from a tight angle, despite Gavin Smith's last ditch attempt to clear it. Both sides struggled with the conditions and the opening half saw many moves breaking down and the half never really had any fluency. The Saints were denied a second penalty when the excellent Brian Fitzpatrick was bundled down and when the play continued Reilly skewed his shot over the crossbar with the help of a bobble. It was a poor decision not to award the penalty, maybe the referee was unsighted, although his assistant was standing in direct line of the incident.
The home side took the lead five minutes after half time when Fee was beaten by a powerful Ian Croft free kick that flew into the bottom corner from 25 yards. Croft was a threat from set pieces all afternoon, he drives them with power and pace and with a vicious swerve. Gavin Smith was replaced by Christopher Doran in the 53rd minute after a heavy challenge that might see the Saints full back out for spell. Smith will be assessed on Tuesday by his consultant and hopefully it's good news for Gavin. Doran defended well when he was introduced and he can be pleased with his performance. He was solid composed and played with plenty of confidence. Glen Crowe replaced Lee Dixon in the 57th minute and you knew, if the legendary striker gets a chance he will score.
The league leaders applied some pressure and the Verona goalkeeper made a fantastic save in the 67th minute to keep out a David Somers header. One minute later it was all square when Glen Crowe's volley flew over the Verona goalkeeper and into the roof of the net. It was a brilliant finish and class personified. That's Glen, one chance and it's a goal and he was the only player on the pitch who could have scored it. Fee made a top class save from point blank range in the 71st minute, after he parried away another brilliant Croft free kick.
Paul Mc Cullagh was introduced for his debut in the 76th minute replacing Stephen Deegan. Paul was exceptional when he came on and he went so close to scoring when his shot went inches wide after he went on a terrific run and evaded a couple of desperate tackles. He glides past players with ease and with the game stretched and tired legs he caused Verona all sorts of problems. Both sides gave it everything in the final stages of the game and the Saints could have wrapped it up when McCullagh went on a run and his pass just couldn't find John Reilly. The Saints were never going to lose with Billy O' Neill on the pitch, he was outstanding again today, he won so many tackles and was so influential all afternoon. The two teams were giving it everything and you could sense a late winner for someone. A winner did arrive thanks to Craig Sheridan who sent the huge away following delirious and home very happy.
It's another massive win for the Saints although it wasn't pretty and nobody really expected it to be, you don't care how you win a derby. Once it's won. A last minute winner. Well it doesn't come any better than that.
Team : Fee, Fitzpatrick, Smith ( Doran 54 )Harrison, C.Sheridan, Deegan ( McCullagh 76 ) O' Neill, Dixon ( Crowe 57 ) Lancaster, D. Somers, Reilly.
Subs : Crowe, Doran, Kelly, Brown, McCullagh, M.Sheridan, Doyle.
Match Report : Derek Nulty.