Saturday, April 19, 2014

Season 2013/2014: Match 13: Montrose 0 Clyde 2 (Scottish Professional Football League Two)

As my press corps colleagues and I departed the Basinside Bernabeu this afternoon, I canvassed some of my fellow punters for their choice of reports:

Punter 1: "What a load of shite"

Punter 2: "Pish. Pish. Pish."

I really have little more to add to those assessments. Montrose were dire today. Scarcely a shot on target. An insistence on thumping crosses into the box despite Garry Wood being carved out of granite and Kieran Sturrock making Martin Boyle look like a towering behemoth. Graham Webster in midfield. The list of complaints goes on...and on...and on...

Positives? Barely any. Montrose only conceded twice - is that a positive?

Terry Masson started on the bench as George "The Animal" Shields, caretaker managing Montrose for the first time at Links Park, selected Ross McCord and Graham Webster in the centre of the park, flanked by Bryan "Emmmm, but I'm a striker George" Deasley and Scott "And so am I" Johnston.

Even with the midfield being overrun in the second half, it wasn't the hapless Webster who was substituted, but the anonymous Sturrock. Terry Masson came off the bench and took two minutes to collect his customary booking.

Clyde looked good today - especially when we consider that it's very recently that they would arrive at Links Park and receive an absolute hammering (8-1 seems a long time ago). Their opening goal came from a surging run from Stuart McColm that, if it didn't quite evoke Gareth Bale's Copa Del Rey winner from midweek, it did rip Jonathan Crawford a new arsehole.

Their second came from the penalty spot after Colin Wilson decided to empty Stefan McCluskey in the box.

Positives? At least there's only 180 minutes of the season to go...

Man of the match: Slim pickings - even the usually dependable Stuart McKenzie struggled today. If forced to pick from the Montrose ranks, I'd reluctantly go for Bryan Deasley, who came closest to scoring for the home team and at least looked like he might like to win a football match.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Season 2013/2014: Match 12: Montrose 0 Elgin City 3 (Scottish Professional Football League Two)

Optimism and positivity tend to be in short supply in the stand, cow-shed and storm-ravaged terracing of Links Park, but today Montrose largely ditched their "launch it into the wind and see what happens" approach to the beautiful game and opted instead for slick passing and the creation of scores of chances.

They could have gone in at the break leading by four or five goals had it not been for some good saves from visiting goalkeeper John Gibson, some unlucky/poor finishing from Paul Watson, Scott Johnston and David Gray, and Bryan Deasley's inexplicably poor final balls.

Potentially four or five goals ahead at the break, but drawing 0-0 when Mat Northcroft blew for half time. Those of you aware of Montrose's recent history know where this is heading, don't you?

Montrose were still the better side in the second half, Campbell and Watson both coming close and Terry Masson shooting wide when it looked easier to score,

But it took only eight minutes for Elgin to score, Shane Sutherland (who was an international-class striker in Football Manager 2012) robbing Jonathan Crawford and poking the ball under Stuart McKenzie.

Two more goals followed, both scored by substitute Adam McLeod, and both after Montrose corners were cleared by long punts from the Elgin defenders.

So despite dominating the match, playing some attractive attacking football, regularly winning the ball and forcing Elgin into errors, Montrose contrived to lose 3-0 at home to the team second bottom of Scotland's lowest professional league.

Optimism and positivity tend to be in short supply...

Man of the Match: When Montrose were playing well today, they were as good as I've seen them all season - breaking fast, constantly pressing and looking for openings. Paul Watson and Terry Masson were the driving forces in the middle of the park, while David Gray created several chances and Bryan Deasley's work rate was second to none.

Leading them all by example was Scott Johnston, the youngster up front with Gray and a repeated threat to the Elgin defence. He seems to have bulked up recently, adding a previously unknown physical aspect to his play, as well as developing his final ball to be more effective.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Season 2013/2014: Match 11: Montrose 2 East Stirlingshire 0 (Scottish Professional Football League Two)

Jock 1:1: And lo, the wind did howl, and there was great misery upon the Earth.

Jock 1:2: And the people asked: "Must we watch Montrose in the storm? For we have seen them ship five to Berwick and they were poor".

Jock 1:3. But Garden spoke: "Venture unto the Links Park and thou shalt be rewarded".

Jock 2:1. The people heard the word, and it was true. For East Stirlingshire contrived to lose to a team battered by Berwick a week earlier.

Jock 2:2. Garden selected Gray, and there were great rejoicing, for he did open the scoring with a 30-yard half volley.

Jock 2:3. And the people were happy, for Deasley scored a second, poking into the net from six yards out.

Jock 3.1. Lo, the storm did blow, but Montrose were strong, and the people were happy.

Jock 3.2. Though the Shire had chances, they could not have scored in a Babylonian brothel. And Garden was happy. And the Mo rejoiced.

Man of the Match: David Gray scored a belter of a goal, Jonathan Crawford gave possibly the best performance I have ever seen from him and Ricky McIntosh was superb at left back.

But yet again, Stuart McKenzie was a formidable presence in goal, keeping a clean sheet as Shire and the wind did their best to find goals in the second half.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Season 2013/2014: Match 10: Montrose 2 Albion Rovers 1 (Scottish Professional Football League Two)

Could the playing and coaching staff of Montrose FC please consider alerting paying punters if, in future, they intend to cram all the interesting bits of their match into a five-minute spell in the second half.

That way, those of us who aren't always blown away by the avant-garde performance art of Messrs Crawford, Deasley, Johnston and Campbell can find something less arse-numbingly dull to do, then turn up for the good bit.

Today's match turned in a chaotic five minutes early in the second half when Albion Rovers - who have ditched their Melchester Rovers strips for Spanish national team knock-offs - took the lead through Gary Philips' header at the back post.

That lead lasted two minutes, Bryan Deasley taking a break from shanking wild shots wide of the target to send a square ball to Scott Johnston, who poked the ball into the net from two yards out.

The home side then took the lead a further two minutes later, Terry Masson applying the finishing touch to a smooth passing move involving Deasley and Gray.

Montrose also had two headers cleared off the Albion Rovers goal-line, and by the end they were feeling so confident that Jonathan Crawford decided to take a wander to left back, dropped his shoulder, cut outside the Albion Rovers right winger and pinged a 45-yard pass down the touchline. It may prove to be the high point of his career.

The second half of the second half (fourth quarter in Americanese) was possibly as good as I've seen Montrose play all season. But nonetheless, someone sitting near the back of the stand called for Stuart Garden's resignation on the final whistle.

Up to sixth in the league, only five points off the play-offs? I must not be optimistic...I must not be optimistic...I must not be optimistic...

Man of the Match: There were two stand-out performers in my opinion - Scott Johnston and Stuart McKenzie. The striker scored one and gave a typically hard-working performance up front, but the goalkeeper kept Montrose in the match with a series of point-blank saves and generally strong command of his box. He also picked up my vote for player of the season in today's poll.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Season 2013/2014: Match 9: Montrose 1 Queen's Park 0 (Scottish Professional Football League Two)

There really is no logic to football, particularly in the end-of-line bargain bin we know as Scottish Professional Football League Two (or Division Three in old money).

Montrose were battered by both the excitable North Sea wind and their Glasgow-via-Airdrie opponents, but somehow managed to emerge at the end with all three points, keeping them in the heady position of eighth (or third bottom) of Serie Z4.

Shockingly, they also kept a clean sheet, which is more than can realistically be expected from a back four containing Jonathan Crawford, Alan Campbell and a striker masquerading as a centre back.

The whole match turned on a 60-second spell around the hour mark, when Queen's Park had a goal disallowed for offside. Montrose reacted quickly and fired the free kick up the park. Bryan Deasley was fouled on the edge of the box, but referee Mike Taylor waved play on. The ball fell to Paul Watson 25 yards out, the midfielder emerging from an hour-long period of anonymity to lash a left-foot drive into the bottom corner.

That Montrose were able to get a result here bordered on the incredible, given that Queen's Park had two shots cleared off the Montrose goal line and missed a couple of sitters in addition to having their offside effort chalked off.

There are still serious question marks over the squad, not least in the strength in depth (or lack of) throughout the squad. With no discernible fullbacks, Garry Wood shoehorned in at centre back and the hapless Jamie Reid bamboozled in an unfamiliar central midfield role, Montrose struggled to keep possession and to string any passes together.

Even with a relatively solid spine of Stuart McKenzie, Alan Campbell, Terry Masson, Paul Watson and Bryan Deasley, they struggled to find a rhythm, and too often smacked the ball hopefully and hopelessly into the wind, only to find it bearing back down on them within seconds.

Six points is far from an insurmountable gap between Montrose and the playoff positions, but if we are being realistic, that chance is fast slipping away (which sounds like an odd thing to say after a win).

But this was a victory against the odds and against the run of play - realism and pessimism are effectively the same thing when watching Montrose...

Man of the Match: Another calm and assured performance from Stuart McKenzie in goals kept Montrose in this match, while several of his outfield colleagues put in tireless shifts. Chief amongst those was Scott Johnston, whose drive and determination kept Queen's Park on the back foot during Montrose's attempted attacks.