Stirling Albion 0 Montrose 1
Montrose fielded the same starting eleven as in recent games and with only a single change on the bench with youngster Euan Rose being replaced by Jordan Millar who’s loan at Lochee United has expired. This was always going to be a big test for The Mo and we would see if the new attacking formation employed against Berwick and Elgin in recent home games would work in an away game against stiff opposition. Stirling Albion would no doubt be fired up for this game – and they were with the impressive Hearts loanee Callum Morrison back from injury and looking as sharp as ever.
Referee Gavin Ross got the game underway and it was the Binos who looked quick and sharp with the clear intention of getting on the front foot before Montrose could settle into their usual style of play. Under early pressure Allan Fleming went down low to push away a Morrison drive from 25 yards then Fleming again thwarted the Binos when a 30 yarder threatened his territory. The first ten minutes passed with Montrose hardly getting over the halfway line but Sean Dillon and his back line coped admirably. Then Andrew Steeves burst forward but his shot flew over the top. It was great counter attacking play however and showed Stirling that the Mo were still in it. Fleming meanwhile dealt with another long range shot which he deflected for a corner as he looked comfortable with such long range efforts. Steeves again burst forward as Stirling wasted the ball but was tackled under pressure as the ball went out of play. The referee had waved advantage but when play stopped he went back and booked Robertson for an incident with Terry Masson.
Then Montrose had a free kick from 30 yards wide left which was hit long by Iain Campbell but over the heads of all concerned and out for a goal kick. Stirling had another go at speed as Montrose struggled to push forward and we wondered if the forward playing midfielders Masson and Redman were a good idea in a game like this. We needn’t have worried however as the game went on, we weathered the storm and they came much more dominant minute by minute. From their first corner on the half hour mark Montrose almost scored as the ball was hacked away when it was certainly on target but Stirling flew at pace to the other end but again were thwarted by the alert Fleming.
As Stirling tried to take a breather Montrose took the initiative and firstly Cammy Ballantyne forced his way through but his cross cum shot was blocked then Steeves hit a daisy cutter across the face of goal which keeper Binnie just tipped around the post for a corner. Half-time reached with the score 0-0 and Montrose would have the benefit of a breeze in the second half.
Stirling again flew at Montrose as the second half started but Montrose it was who turned the tables and forced two quick corners. From the second one the ball bobbled around in the six yard box needing only a touch to force it home but finally Masson lobbed the keeper who somehow pounced on it and the chance was gone. The spell of Montrose pressure paid dividends not long after as Masson crossed from the right after a good ball from Ballantyne. The cross was fielded by Binnie but the keeper spilled it and Gary Fraser poked it into the net from close range. Gary is deadly from a yard out as we know. At 1-0 to the Mo we drifted into the hour mark with Montrose now very much in the game as Stirling visibly wilted. The first substitution came on 67 minutes when McLaughlin was replaced by Cavanagh. A second substitution for Stirling saw the injured Hamilton replaced by Darren Smith as Ross Smith was booked for a foul. Then the Mo bench sprung into action with the pacey Craig Johnston replacing Fraser to stretch the tiring Stirling defence and soon after Fotheringham was brought off for Paul Watson as one old pair of legs replaced another. Then Masson almost put the Mo two up as his header hit the post and bounced to safety.
Morrison was still a threat as the youngster tried to break down the stubborn Montrose defence but even after going down under a heavy challenge he still got up to continue being a nuisance. Graham Webster came on for Masson with ten minutes to go again putting fresh legs on to shore up the midfield as Stirling had their final throw of the dice with Caddis on for Robertson.
As the game ran to a close it certainly wasn’t drifting and Mo had a good shout for a penalty turned down when it looked a cut and dried decision. It didn’t matter however as Montrose played out stoppage time largely without trouble and another welcome 3 points were taken back up the road to Links Park. Final score 1-0 to Montrose.
Several contenders for Man of the Match today with Fleming again standing out with a faultless display as did the whole of the back line but today’s vote goes to Terry Masson who worked his socks off in midfield and has made a huge difference since his return from a long injury and who may still not yet be firing at his old 100% self.
And so we move on next Saturday to wrap up the first half of the season sitting atop the league table. At the end of the game I was asked when was the last time Montrose were top of the league at Christmas – I guessed at 1995, but I was nearly right. It was Christmas 1994 during our promotion season. Before that however it was away back in our non- league days.
Team Lineups & Stats
Saturday 23rd December 2017
|3||Lee Hamilton (s73)
||2||Terry Masson (s79)
||6||Martyn Fotheringham (c) (s74)
|11||Neil McLaughlin (s67)
||9||Gary Fraser (s66)
|14||Willam Robertson (c) (s79)
|17||Mark Foden (GK)
||8||Paul Watson (s74)
|8||Liam Caddis (s79)
||7||Graham Webster (s79)
|10||Darren Smith (s73)
||16||Craig Johnston (s66)
|19||Ross Cavanagh (s67)
||1||Jordan Millar (GK)
Gary Hilland, Daniel Graves
Montrose - Gary Fraser (58)
Stirling Albion - Wiillie Robertson (15), Ross Smith (74)