Montrose 3 Brora Rangers 1Garry Wood was the hero as his 80th minute wondergoal ensured Montrose retained their place as part of the Scottish Professional Football League.
Wood added the third after Scott Johnston and Marvin Andrews scored either side of Colin MacLean’s header as Montrose won the Pyramid Play-off Final Second Leg 3-1, for a 3-2 aggregate victory.
And the goalscorer admitted that the strike was both the best and most important one of his career.
He said: “I guess you could call it one of the best goals of my career. It’s a great strike; nine times out of 10 they go wide of the stand so I’m delighted that I saved it for the last day of the season.
“I got it from a throw-in, I turned the defender and saw the space open up - thankfully it’s hit the top corner of the net. I think it had to go into the top corner to beat Joe because he’s a really good goalie, he’s kept them in the tie in both legs with some amazing saves, he really excelled himself.
“I think that’s my most important goal. I don’t know what I’m doing next year but if that’s my last goal for Montrose, I’m delighted for it to be that.
“It was a blow losing the goal at the start of the second half. But I think we showed what we’re all about, we had a lot of character about us, and I thought we thoroughly deserved to win.
“It would have been a disaster for the club to go out of the league but hopefully we can bounce back from that and move on to the next level. It was a wake-up call.”
The kick-off was delayed by 22 minutes as an incredible crowd flooded into Links Park in support of Montrose, with many fans and representatives of Forfar Athletic, Brechin City and Arbroath in attendance in support of their Angus colleagues.
Montrose had a string of early half-chances through Ross Campbell, Andrew Steeves and Marvin Andrews but couldn’t properly test Joe Malin in the Rangers goal.
Garry Woods and Campbell were dovetailing beautifully and the latter narrowly missed out on converting the former’s cut-back across the face of goal after 11 minutes.
Dale Gillespie was put through on the hosts’ goal with a nice pass but a fantastic well-timed challenge from Greg Cameron denied his progress.
Graham Webster then hooked a long range effort just wide of the far post before Wood received a yellow card for diving - a harsh decision.
Campbell then headed a Scott Johnston cross right at Malin before Steven Mackay received his first booking after a dive, which again looked harsh.
The Gable Endies were ahead on 38 minutes when Wood burst down the right hand side - he fed the ball into Campbell whose shot was well saved by the keeper, but the rebound came out to Johnston who was able to rifle the ball into the roof of the net.
That goal levelled the tie but it wasn’t to be that way for long as Colin Maclean headed Brora level - and back into the lead on aggregate - with a deft flick from Gillespie’s free kick on 47 minutes.
Rangers suffered a blow when skipper Mackay received his marching orders following a second yellow card, this time for a bad challenge on Webster, just a minute after the goal.
Zander Sutherland made Stuart McKenzie pull off a glorious save with his 25-yard half volley on 52 minutes.
Otherwise Montrose were piling forward and enjoyed all of the ball, which saw Malin pull off a number of terrific saves from shots by Wood, Campbell and Johnston.
The introduction of Leighton McIntosh added an injection of pace and power to the hosts’ attack and only Malin’s heroics kept Brora ahead on aggregate.
But he was finally beaten when Andrews powered a header into the top corner from Steeves’ corner for 2-1.
And it was three minutes later when Woods let off a thunderbolt from 35 yards out after collecting a throw-in and turning on a sixpence; Malin had no chance of stopping it as the striker ensured his side retained their SPFL status.
The full-time whistle brought a fabulous out-pouring of emotion from the hosts as many fans stormed the pitch to celebrate with their heroes.
Players hugged the fans and took photos with them as the celebrations rolled on.
Match Report by Scott Binnie