In preparation for their opening SIFL fixture this weekend, the Saigon Saints recently completed their pre-season schedule against the Viking Raiders at Tri Hai. The opening exchanges saw the Saints consistently probe the channels with the forward pairing of Rollo and Sweeney proving a handful for the Vikings backline. Somewhat against the run of play, however, they fell a goal behind when the Vikings found some space of their own in the channels. Despite a fine initial one on one save from Boyle, the rebound was forced home. Unbowed, the Saints continued to press high up the field with the engine room of McShea and Kirby providing impetus and ball retention for sustained periods, leading to an equalizer. Rollo found himself in space on the right hand side and delivered a fine ball to the far post, met by wing-back Grant with a controlled volley into the bottom corner. So far so deserved. A concerted spell of pressure followed and the Saints took the lead after Finnigan rammed home a loose ball from another good delivery into the box from a set piece. Despite Saints dominating much of the play- although perhaps at times looking to force it a little, with ten minutes to go before the break, the scores were level again as the Vikings forward wriggled away from his marker before dispatching a low shot into the net.
At the interval Gaffer O’Reilly was rightfully positive about the display and rallied the troops for a second half effort, bringing Glynn and Kirwan on for Cairos and Wickerama respectively, after good shifts from both starters. The changes were effective before too long, JK providing a cameo of hard work and steadiness and Darragh’s power and strength posing some new questions for weary Vikings. Indeed, about 10 minutes into the second period, the Saints’ advantage was restored after some interplay on the edge of the box resulted in a shooting opportunity for Glynn who calmly buried one in the bottom corner. Confidence high, the Saints began to assert themselves even further although Kane and Devine provided robust defensive cover when called upon for a few Vikings counter attacks. More wicked dead ball delivery from Grant led to a fourth goal, after Sweeney held off 3 Vikings and cushioned the ball with his collar bone in the 6-yard box, allowing Finnigan to confirm his deadliness from 4 yards, doubling the Saints lead in the process. With a two goal cushion, the game became stretched and more chances were created from both set-pieces and open play, with Clerkin adding some pacy threat and pithy chat down the left hand side, lapped up by the lads on the line. Vikings rallied and had a couple of good chances but Saints held firm for a well-deserved victory that showed that craft has to be built on graft, earning the right to play after being compact and well-organised from the outset.
As the finale to pre-season it was good to end with a victory as the Saints look to their opening league fixture this Saturday against Saigon Thunder.
Kick-off is at 18.15 at Tri Hai and as always your support is welcomed.