Queen's Park 0 Montrose 1
A battling display at The National Stadium resulted in a very welcome win for Montrose who thereby gained their first away points of the season. After the disappointment of losing the previous week this win at Queen’s Park more than made up for it and in more ways than one. Firstly the Mo went into the game without the suspended and influential centre back Greg Pascazio who will also miss the game at Gayfield in two weeks time. Secondly the Montrose record at Hampden Park has been patchy to say the least and with the Spiders riding high this season it was always going to require a fully focused effort from the Gable Endies – and that is exactly what we got. There is little doubt that the side put together by Messrs Hegarty and Holt, whilst not being the finished article are nevertheless far more organised and resilient than in other recent seasons. That greater professionalism was there to see at Hampden as the team resisted vast amounts of pressure to hold on to their slender lead with 40 minutes still to play. The win was also significant because at the same stage of last season the Mo had 13 points after 9 games with the 9th game being a defeat away at Queen’s Park. This season the 9th game was also away at Queen’s Park but the win this time brought up the 15 point mark and the task now is to build on that for obvious reasons.
Replacing Pascazio at centre back was Andrew Steeves and young Ryan Kenneth stepped into the starting line up at left back. On the right hand side of the back four were Matty Allan in the centre and Ryan Ferguson at right back. That back four all had very solid games and restricted the home side to very few good chances and when those came along the fit and recalled Jordan Millar dealt capably with all that came his way. He is a big presence between the sticks and commands his 6 yard box as a good ‘keeper should do. The back four were well protected by a middle line of the recalled Terry Masson, Scott Johnston, Adrian Mallagaray and Graham Webster whilst Gary Fraser and Ross Campbell toiled away relentlessly up front. On the bench were Ross Salmon, Ross McCord, Gavin Malin, Jordan Reoch, Kyle McLeod and Lloyd Hester. Referee was David Munro and the crowd at Hampden was a surprisingly low 342.
Queen’s Park started the game brightly and at pace as Montrose were quickly on the back foot. The immaculate pitch surface certainly made for a good passing game and the sprinkling of Montrose fans held their breath under a first opening ten minutes of pressure from the Spiders who had the big presence of Chris Duggan and David Galt up top. There was an early shout by Queen’s Park for a penalty but it was rightly waved away by referee Munro to the early annoyance of the home crowd. That first 10 minutes of pressure came and went with stout defence from Matty Allan and Andrew Steeves in particular both of whom got even better as the game wore on. It was fully 15 minutes before Montrose launched a serious foray into enemy territory but that came to nothing as Queen’s Park came hurtling back yet they simply wasted good possession time after time even from promising looking set pieces. That was much to do with excellent covering from Montrose in all areas of the pitch as the visitors worked together as a defensive unit. In the middle of the park Terry Masson was doing what he was there for and that was ball winning and breaking up Queen’s Park attacks. That sums up Paul Hegarty’s decision to put Masson in there ahead of McCord – Masson was right for this game whilst McCord is more of a creative player which talent is arguably less necessary in a backs to the wall situation.
Half an hour gone and Montrose were creeping gradually more into it although young Ryan Kenneth did well just to concede a corner when the attacking player looked to be in on goal. Gary Fraser was lectured by the referee for complaining about some incident off the ball and from that point became the target for some home support anger. Montrose blocked another effort on their goal line and Matty Allan finally cleared the danger with a strong header. Millar then saved with his feet from Duggan but could only watch as a vicious cross from the right flashed across the face of goal with no takers thankfully. As the frenetic first half drew to a close there was still time for Ralston the home right back to be yellow carded for a late challenge and Fraser to be yellow carded similarly as the crowd bayed for blood.
The second half started with more Spiders pressure but Graham Webster got more into the game. It was not before time but his increased presence on the ball made a significant difference to the game. Scott Johnston as usual was tireless and magnificently tackled back twice before Masson was fortunate to avoid a yellow much again to the annoyance of an uncompromising home crowd. His tenacious tackling however were vital for the cause. Yet again Queen’s Park wasted good approach play and you sensed, well perhaps hoped for a good Montrose spell of pressure down the other end. Webster was making good runs into space whilst Fraser, Campbell and Johnston were pegging the home defence down with constant running which created more space for the intelligent Webster as Queens became more frustrated and perhaps lost concentration.
Then it happened. Masson broke it up in midfield and did well to hold on to the ball which found its way to GRAHAM WEBSTER inside the opposition half. He cut this way and that before unleashing a daisy cutter into the bottom left hand corner of the net with home keeper Muir well beaten. It was Montrose’s first shot on target and after 50 minutes. Against the run of play maybe but deserved in view of the fine defensive play at the other end. The home side must feel it was unjust but if you don’t score you don’t win games – simple.
Cue several substitutions and more pressure from the Spiders but still Millar was not overly tested except odd times from long range. McCord came on to shore up in midfield and replace the tiring Campbell with the equally tiring Fraser dropping back into the hole and the younger Mallagaray went up as lone striker for the last section of the game. Frantic stuff from the home side as the 80 minute mark came and went. Montrose had to keep their shape and concentration. They did so admirably and that is another difference between last season and this one. It wasn’t pretty at times as the ball was lumped out of defence late on but the ball at the other end of the cavernous Hampden Park was better than it being in our penalty box where in the past we have been caught in possession time and again. The big guys from the back joined in an arial bombardment as time ran out but Allan, Steeves and company did well with the remarkably cool Millar doing his bit as well especially in the time wasting department much again to the annoyance of the crowd one of whom exclaimed that he couldn’t even time waste properly! It was enough however as the game moved into stoppage time where the only action was a QP offside and a last ditch shot from distance which was high and wide of Millar’s well protected woodwork.
Man of the match was Matty Allan for a faultless performace but only just ahead of the more experienced Andrew Steeves. Ryan Kenneth must be mentioned as well as he worked hard under pressure and can be proud of his efforts. In all a fine team effort and this group of players are demonstrating good togetherness as a unit. Long may it continue.