St Andrews United boss Robbie Raeside hails his 'incredible' side for winning four in a row to break into promotion places

St Andrews United gaffer Robbie Raeside has hailed his “incredible” stars for winning four consecutive games to move into the East of Scotland League first division promotion spots, with Saints now second on 45 points from 20 matches and with a title tilt firmly in their hands.
St Andfrews United manager Robbie Raeside (Library pic by Scott Louden)St Andfrews United manager Robbie Raeside (Library pic by Scott Louden)
St Andfrews United manager Robbie Raeside (Library pic by Scott Louden)

Last Saturday's 2-1 home success over fellow high flyers Camelon Juniors – thanks to goals by Scott Reekie and Lewis Sawers (penalty) was followed by Tuesday night’s 2-1 triumph at Blackburn United, when Saints struck through Lewis Payne and a second half Sawers winner, before Blackburn goalscorer Andrew Johnston was shown a straight red card for a bad foul on Owen Andrew.

“Our run has been incredible,” Raeside told the Herald and Citizen. "We’ve won our last four and I still get disappointed when I think back to that Heriot-Watt game (a 2-1 away loss on March 2), where the first ten minutes were ridiculous.

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"So it could be even better but let’s not get greedy. It’s a tight, difficult league and we’ve put ourselves in a great position. But we’ve not achieved anything. It really is one game at a time.

"Blackburn was a 150-mile round trip for 12 of my players and a lot of our rivals would have been looking at it thinking it was a potential banana skin for St Andrews. So winning that was fantastic, probably one of our best results of the season.

"It’s a difficult place to go. Although it wasn’t a great performance, we were the better team by far and created the better chances. It was a great finish by their boy for the equaliser but it was sloppy defending from us.

"The game was on a knife edge at 1-1 away from home. I raised my voice at half-time. Lewis Sawers is our star man and I told him I felt he wasn’t doing enough.

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"He answered my call with a fantastic change of pace and great finish.

"Overall, it was a really professional midweek performance by us.”

Tuesday night’s victory – which featured Saints’ new loan signing from Dundee, full-back Tobias Davies-Browne - came three days after the success over Camelon, whose manager Gordon Wylde departed in the wake of his team’s defeat.

"It took us 20 minutes to get used to Camelon’s high tempo,” Raeside said. “But when we did we were outstanding after that, went toe to toe with them and played great football.

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“When you look back at the start of the season and saw we lost 6-1 at Camelon, it was a phenomenal performance last Saturday. The sort of performance that got us the good Scottish Cup run, like in the home games against Haddington and Auchinleck.

"Scott Reekie was man of the match against Camelon, a brilliant defensive performance and a great strike from 25 yards for his goal. And Ryan McManus and Kyle Sneddon worked tirelessly in midfield and grew into the game with good use of the ball.”

On latest arrival Davies-Browne, who plays at left wing-back, Raeside added: “He picked up a yellow card near half-time against Camelon so I had to take him off.

"He’ll learn from it because he didn’t have a pair of studded boots. Coming from pro-youth football with Dundee, all the games are on astroturf, so he was wearing a pair of rubbers against Camelon, ended up sliding into their boy and was booked.

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"For a young 17-year-old coming into his first game in men’s football against a team at the top of the league, he did OK on Saturday.

"Our other full-back Lewis Lorimer, also on loan from Dundee is only 18 and he was playing against Gregg Wylde, who has played for Rangers and Aberdeen.

"In the Blackburn game, Tobias picked up another yellow card for a late challenge so I took him off with 20 minutes to go. But he did well, looked comfortable and he is starting to grow into it."

Another key man for United in recent games has been centre-back Ryan Roche, with the influential skipper never missing a clearing header against Blackburn.

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"Roche limped off in the warm-up last week at Arniston,” Raeside said. “He was carried off the pitch. He then met the physio and tried to do a bit of training on Wednesday and made himself available.

"His determination and willingness to win on Saturday and last night, playing with a not 100% ankle, was fantastic.

"When the ball goes into the box it’s as if it’s attracted to Ryan’s forehead, he just gets to everything.

"He’s been a collosus the past couple of games for us, considering he’s come off that ankle injury.”

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Saints continue their league campaign at Oakley United this Saturday, kick-off 2.30pm.

"It’s another very tricky game in this league,” Raeside said. “Every game is.

"Camelon were 3-1 down at Oakley with ten minutes to go a couple of weeks ago and only got a 3-3 draw, so there’s not a bigger warning sign than that.

"I was speaking to the Blackburn manager after our game and he was telling me that although they’d beaten Oakley 5-1, it was down to soft goals given away early doors and Oakley missed a penalty so it could have been a totally different game.

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"I’ve heard they’ve signed a couple of players that were at Rosyth so I think they are a stronger team than the Oakley team we played earlier in the season.

"We need to treat them with the same respect that we treated Camelon and Blackburn.