East Stirlingshire 0 Montrose 3
For this Irn Bru Cup first round tie manager Paul Hegarty made four changes to the starting line up to freshen things up after a poor performance against Cove Rangers the previous week.
In came Ross Lennie to midfield, Iain Campbell at left back, Ryan Ferguson wide left up front and Alan Fleming in goal. The latter was more a case of giving Fleming valuable game time which is not so easy in the goalkeeping position where substitutions during a game are usually unwise. Iain Campbell signed an initial short term deal with Montrose and provides more experience to the back four and of course still has that left foot which is useful in set piece situations.
Fleming in goal, a back four of Keiran McWalter, Gregor Anderson, Andy Steeves and Iain Campbell with a midfield consisting of Webster wide right, Ryan Ferguson wide left and Terry Masson plus Ross Lennie in the centre. Up front were Chris Templeman and Gary Fraser. On the bench were goalkeeper Jordan Millar, Ross Campbell, Paul Watson, Greg Pascazio, Kyle McLeod, Adam Harwood and Kyle Willox.
For the home side only four players remained from the side relegated last season so it was a new look East Stirlingshire who included in their line up Scott Buist, Ross Fisher and Kris Faulds plus new loan signing from Peterhead Andy Rodgers who came on late in the second half. John Sludden had replaced Craig Tully as Manager.
Referee Craig Napier got the game underway with both teams looking lively from the off. From the Montrose point of view that was good to see after the somewhat lethargic outing last time. A corner was won in the second minute and floated in by Masson. It cannoned off a couple of heads before hitting Fraser and harmlessly for a goal kick to Shire. The home side quickly broke away and a shot from the left was cleanly dealt with by Fleming who quickly hit a long ball downfield for Templeman to control nicely only to be felled some twenty yards out. Fraser hit the resultant free kick well over the top.
The pattern of play had begun to show after 20 minutes of end to end stuff with Montrose showing more of a cutting edge and Shire clearly having problems in the last third of the pitch, something boss Sludden will be worried about. For Montrose Ferguson was very lively down the left and his pace pushed the Shire defence back several times with Fraser also showing pace down the right hand channel and Webster looked to be in determined form as well to show us what a great talent he is when on his game.
The question was how and when Montrose would convert their superior approach play into the first and telling goal. Fraser flashed another effort over the bar then Fleming did well to snuff out a good attempt by David Grant for Shire.
Just before the half hour mark Montrose got the goal they needed. TERRY MASSON took possession in midfield and took route one to goal before unleashing an unstoppable shot high into the centre of goal from 25 yards out with keeper Dolan merely a spectator. This sparked Shire into more action but they were restricted to long range shots comfortably dealt with by Fleming or well wide of the woodwork.
On one occasion just before half time however Fraser tracking back was booked for a strong tackle. Defending is perhaps not Fraser’s strong point and he is perhaps better hovering near the halfway line!
Just before the half time whistle Shire has their big centre back Scott Buist red carded. Initially he was yellow carded for a bad tackle but then almost immediately red carded for one assumes either dissent or abusive language. Either way it gave Shire a mountain to climb going into the break 1-0 down.
The second half started more calmly with not a lot of goalmouth action as Montrose kept possession against ten man Shire who became it seemed much more aggressive. That injection of stern play resulted in referee Napier exercising his new yellow card several more times for both teams with Montrose players Masson, Templeman. Steeves and Fraser all going into the book. Montrose needed a second goal to wrap things up and it came from GRAHAM WEBSTER in the 64th minute. Following good play down the left between Ferguson and Templeman the ball was whipped in low across the face of goal for Webster to finish it cleanly. Shortly after that another Shire player attempted to stop the flying Ferguson by showing him his studs and was promptly and rightly booked.
A raft of substitutions were made in the last 20 minutes, three by Shire then Montrose soaked up the last few minutes by making three substitutions of their own including a debut for youngster Kyle Willox, just after RYAN FERGUSON finished off a great run down the left by cutting inside and hitting a third goal for Montrose spectacularly off the underside of the crossbar and right around the back of the net.
Just before the end Ross Campbell came on for Templeman and joined brother Iain on the pitch.
Fleming had a solid game in goal with little to trouble him. The back four all played well and in determined ‘ they shall not pass’ fashion which was good to see. All four of them did what they had to do efficiently with McWalter fitting into right back and Gregor Anderson looking good alongside the dependable Steeves. If Iain Campbell can maintain that form against better teams than Shire he will be a good addition to the squad. Midfield had more pace and determination both defending and going forward and Montrose certainly need the latter. Masson was outstanding. Ross Lennie slotted in very well indeed and Webster was back to his more determined and controlled style. Fraser as usual toiled well with no lack of effort but chances just did not come his way. Templeman had a better game and won many flicks onwards. Last but not least Ryan Ferguson who grabbed his chance of a first team start with both hands and staked a positive claim for another start next game.
That will have given Manager Hegarty much to think about and a 3-0 win might well convince him to start at Clyde with the same starting eleven albeit against what is most likely to be stronger opposition.