St Andrews United: Saints’ long unbeaten run ended by leaders Whitburn in 'crazy' 5-4 loss

Micheil Russell Smith (left) was St Andrews United's best player against WhitburnMicheil Russell Smith (left) was St Andrews United's best player against Whitburn
Micheil Russell Smith (left) was St Andrews United's best player against Whitburn
St Andrews United’s unbeaten run ended at 22 league games via a 5-4 home loss to champions-elect Whitburn on Saturday, in front of 301 spectators at the Clayton Caravan Park Recreation Ground, writes Donald Gellatly.

Yet Robbie Raeside’s team took the lead in the third minute when Ryan Dignan headed in off the underside of the bar after Tom Milne’s cross.

The visitors equalised on five minutes when Mick McGarahan headed a Louis Maguire corner past Calum Brodie from an unchallenged position.

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Whitburn grabbed the lead four minutes later from a Ross Crawford penalty after referee Bowie had penalised Graham Hay for handling a shot by Andy Thomson inside the box, although Hay’s arm looked down by his side at the point of contact.

The away side moved further ahead in the 18th minute when Jack Henderson headed a Crawford cross from the left wing past Brodie to make it 3-1.

Brodie then made a good save from Henderson, who soon almost scored again with a low drive, before Ross Cunningham reacted quickly to clear a Crawford shot off the line from the resulting scramble, despite calls for handball.

Whitburn moved even further ahead in the opening minute of the second half when McGarahan found the net with a header from a fantastic long throw-in by Darren Liddell.

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And worse followed for United on 49 minutes when their rearguard allowed a long punt to bounce in a dangerous area and Liddell nipped round Scott Reekie before lobbing the ball over Brodie from just outside the box for 5-1.

Saints looked shell shocked at that point yet they kept plugging away as their opponents began to relax.

Micheil Russell Smith pulled a goal back in the 53rd minute when he calmly found the net with a side-footed finish following a good cross by Ewan White.

The same players combined again in the 65th minute as White beat a couple of defenders prior to finding Russell Smith and the latter beat Potts from 18 yards with the aid of a deflection for 5-3.

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The next chance of a very entertaining game fell to Whitburn’s Louis Maguire as he struck a good free-kick on target but Brodie made a smart save by diving low to his right, before McGarahan also went close with a header.

Home fans then started to believe a miracle recovery was possible when Mitchell Sharp scored his first goal at The Rec in the 80th minute, the young forward firing a dipping volley towards goal following good work by Kelly for 5-4.

United substitute Lewis Sawers almost grabbed a dramatic late equaliser as the ball spun loose in the box, six yards from goal.

However, McGarahan made a tremendous tackle to earn the ‘man of the match’ award and Mr Bowie blew his whistle to end the season’s craziest game a few seconds later.

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Saints, second on 71 points with two games left, trail Whitburn by six points and the leaders have played two fewer matches.

United’s penultimate league game is at Stirling University this Saturday with kick-off at 2.30pm.