Berwick Rangers 2 Montrose 1
Montrose Football Club league season got off to a disappointing start when they when down by the odd goal in three to Berwick Rangers who had defeated Championship side Alloa Athletic the previous week in the League Cup.
This was a close match with both sides having plenty of opportunities to score, but in the end it was the two goals from home striker Blair Henderson who settled the match in favour of the Shielfield Park side.
Montrose performed well and must look to take his performance into Saturday’s first derby of the season against neighbours Arbroath at Links Park.
The Gable Endies made one change to the side that had lost to Hibernian the previous week in the League Cup. With Terry Masson replacing Graham Webster who was unavailable.
This saw Montrose line up with Ross Salmon continuing in goal with Masson and Steeves once again the full backs. Reoch and Allan were again in central defence. Johnston and Ferguson providing the width with McCord and Watson in the middle of the park. Fraser and Campbell lead the line.
There were only six substitutes listed by Montrose, Ryan Kenneth, Dale Reid, Declan Milne, Kyle McLeod, trialist Danny Ross and substitute goalkeeper Jordan Millar.
Berwick Rangers got the new league season underway in perfect conditions at Shielfield Park facing a Montrose side wearing their new all blue strip for the first time.
A great cross field pass from Masson found Ferguson on the left hand side of the park and he won a corner kick. McCord swung over the corner kick but Watson’s header was cleared.
In the next minute Watson found Gary Fraser inside the box but the striker found space for a shot but could only curl his effort straight at Kevin Walker.
Berwick Rangers opened the scoring with their first real attack in the 11th minute. Finn Graham dinked a cross into the box and BLAIR HENDERSON got to the ball before Allan to stick out a foot and deflect the ball into the net past Salmon.
Five minutes later Berwick midfielder Dwayne Coultress tried to win a penalty kick when he raced into the box only to promptly fall down. Referee Duncan quite rightly waved play on.
Montrose got themselves back on level terms in the 18th minute. Johnston got himself in a good position inside the box only for Walker to turn his shot around the post for a corner kick. McCord played a clever low corner to Gary Fraser inside the box; he stepped inside Coultress only to be sent flying. Referee Duncan had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and captain PAUL WATSON stepped up to send goalkeeper Kevin Walker the wrong way from the penalty spot for the Gable Endies first goal of the new season.
The visitors kept up the pressure and Steeves and Fraser set up Ryan Ferguson but he fired well over the crossbar.
With 23 minutes gone Montrose had another good opportunity. Ferguson’s corner kick found Watson on the edge of the area and Walker managed to tip his netbound effort around the post.
On the half hour mark a strong run from Michael McKenna took him into the area only for Matty Allan to come across and clear the danger.
It was now the home side who were putting the pressure on Montrose with the Borderers out fighting the visitors in midfield. A simple throw in from Beveridge allowed Graham a run inside the box and Ross Salmon was forced to tip his volley around the post.
Berwick Rangers then forced a series of corner kicks and from the last one Darren Lavery got his head to Dwayne Coultress’s corner kick, the ball was netbound but Terry Masson was on hand to head the ball off the line and save Montrose.
With three minutes of the half remaining a punch from Salmon found Graham but he could only put the ball well over the crossbar.
In the following minute Fraser found Watson with a good pass but he could only curl his effort straight into the arms of keeper Walker.
McCord was then fouled giving Montrose a free kick in a dangerous position outside the area. The midfielder dinked his free kick to the back post where Paul Watson got up only to head wide of the far post.
Montrose had the first chance of the second period when Johnston was fouled on the right wing. Masson’s free kick was cleared only as far as Watson but his shot was blocked inside the area.
David Bango caught Montrose out on the counter attack after the visitors messed up a corner kick but thankfully for Paul Hegarty’s side, Steeves was on hand to belt the ball clear before it could reach Coultress.
The Gable Endies might have taken the lead in the 49th minute. Ferguson played out a great ball to Campbell who set up Andrew Steeves and he controlled the ball on the edge of the box before firing in a great shot which Kevin walker managed to tip around the post.
Matty Allan became the first booking of the match when he stopped a Berwick Rangers counter attack in its tracks.
Montrose had another good chance in the 53rd minute. Steeves and Watson linked up down the left out for the latters cross just requiring a touch at the far post by the inrushing Ross Campbell.
Two minutes later a cross on the run from Ewan McNeil found Henderson but the big striker headed over the crossbar.
Some great feet work from Gary Fraser saw him take the ball along the byeline his cross only required a touch but Campbell again couldn’t force the ball into the net.
On the hour mark the home side made the first change of the afternoon when David Morris replaced Dwayne Coultress.
Two minutes later Johnston was fouled giving the Gable Endies another free kick. McCord’s free kick into the box was hooked back by Reoch to Watson he dinked over a cross but again Campbell couldn’t supply the finish this time heading wide of goal.
A dangerous Berwick Rangers counter attack was stopped in its tracks when McCord was able to but Morris’ cross over his own bar. McKenna’s corner was headed well wide of goal by Henderson.
Disaster struck Montrose in the 71st minute when Berwick Rangers regained the lead. Montrose failed to block and cross and Ewan McNeil was able to send over a looping ball to the far post where BLAIR HENDERSON was on hand to bullet a header past Salmon and into the net for his second of the afternoon.
A long kick out from Salmon put Fraser clear for Montrose but Berwick managed to scramble the ball behind for a corner kick. McCord’s corner was cleared to Steeves who played it back to the midfielder but his cross was too deep and sailed out of play.
With fifteen minutes left Berwick‘s Beveridge was booked for holding back Johnston. Masson swung over the free kick but Watson was out jumped in the middle of the park.
In the 78th minute Montrose made a change with Declan Milne coming on for Campbell. Johnston moved up front with Milne moving to a wide right position.
Five minutes later the home side made another switch with Andy Russell replacing Lavery.
With six minutes remaining Montrose had another good chance to equalise. A Watson shot was blocked by Walker. It came back to Fraser who sent in another great low cross but Ferguson just couldn’t force the ball home at the back post.
Two minutes later a Steeves throw in found Fraser whose shot was blocked for a corner kick. McCord swung over the corner which was missed by everyone in the six yard area.
It was all Montrose and a great run from Johnston saw him slip the ball back to Ferguson who found Fraser but again the home defence was on hand to block the shot.
Berwick made one final change in stoppage time when the injured McKenna was replaced by Drummond.