Annan Athletic 0 Montrose 1
Manager Stewart Petrie made changes to his starting line up for this tricky looking game at Galabank against an Annan side who are hard to break down home or away. In came Michael Bolochoweckjy (Bolo) to make a very welcome return to the side after a lengthy injury absence and make his first start for the Mo this season. His height would add strength to the back line as Annan’s usual goal strength is from set pieces by bringing up their two big centre backs to add to the already menacing height of Blair Henderson up front. Also for Montrose back in came Jamie Redman to take back his central midfield role and the other change was the inclusion of Lewis Milne in the midfield attacking role. So it was Fleming in goal, a back line of Allan, Dillon and Bolo with Webster and Steeves in the wing back roles. Midfield was occupied by Watson, Milne and Redman with Templeman and Fraser up front. On the very strong looking bench were Cavanagh, Ross Campbell, Masson, McLaren, Callaghan, Johnston and Millar. Still out injured were Fotheringham and Iain Campbell.
Annan had lost the attacking player Ross Ferguson who was recalled from his loan spell otherwise it was a typical and predictable looking Annan line up. Referee for the day was Steven Reid who got the game underway on a non windy pleasant afternoon which was to get much colder as the game went on, well for the sparse crowd of 359 anyway which included about 20 Mo fans.
Annan went straight into attack and won a free kick just outside the 18 yard area which is usually ideal for their aerial strength but the kick went high, wide and harmless. Gary Fraser then had a decent chance at the other end as a left wing cross was swept across the face of the Annan goal mouth and just needed a touch in. Fraser had another half chance moments later but his goal bound shot was deflected for a corner from which Paul Watson smacked a header flat against the crossbar. In the ensuing melee Mo had two more corners before a Bolo foul ended the spell of Mo pressure. Annan then had a good deal of possession in an end to end game yet Montrose looked good as well and far more threatening than in their last two home games. Lewis Milne in particular was showing us what class he has on the ball as he came more and more into the game. From another Montrose corner taken by Milne Templeman forced a great save just under the bar by Annan keeper Mitchell.
With around ten minutes to half time Annan had to make the first change as the injured Owen Moxon was replaced by Kevin Rutkiewicz in midfield. Almost immediately Gary Fraser should have bagged the first goal of the game when a good knock down fell into his path not more than 6 yards out but he hastily hooked his shot over the bar. At the other end Annan should also have scored as Brandon Luke went on a long mazy run only to end up weakly prodding the ball into Fleming’s arms from fairly close range. Then came the decisive moment of the game. The ever more impressive LEWIS MILNE gathered the ball wide left but was fouled only to then let fly from 25 yards out with a thunderbolt arrowed into the far top corner of the Annan net with keeper Mitchell rooted to the spot. Surely a contender for goal of the season. In the remaining moments of the first half young Matty Allan made a great block to cut out a dangerous looking Annan raid before the half time whistle blew with the Mo leading 1-0 though in all honesty it could have and should have been more.
As we expected Annan would come out firing in the second half, and they did. Three times they raided down their right hand side and three times long range shots were carefully watched past the post by keeper Fleming who naturally had them covered. Yes Annan were up for it and Montrose had to defend well to take the early steam out of Annan. That they did and as Annan started to run out of steam their frustration earned them two quick yellow cards. Milne again was causing them problems as a great ball across the face of goal again only needed a touch.
As we entered the last 30 minutes Manager Petrie made the first of his customary substitutions with Graham Webster coming off and Liam Callaghan on in his place. Montrose started to dominate again as Annan lacked direction particularly up front. Paul Watson had a great chance to put the game safe but his 20 yard shot flew just over the top when hit from a central position just outside the box. Seconds later he hit a similar effort at more of an angle but which flew just wide. Annan needed fresh legs and Brandon Luke was replaced by Robbie Hogg with just over 10 minutes to go. Mo responded by bringing on the fresh legs of Craig Johnston to replace the tiring Fraser who had done a job but whose luck was just not in on the day. Matty Allan then managed to find a blank page in the referee’s notebook as he was adjudged to have kicked the ball away to stop a quick Annan free kick. The final Mo substitution was then made to further break up play as Paul Watson was replaced by Terry Masson with less than 10 minutes to go.
As the game entered the final stages Annan were still full of running and fair play to them. They look mainly to be a young side but still they lacked a cutting edge as Montrose dealt capably with what was thrown at them. The final significant looking action saw Matty Allan fall heavily as play was halted for him to have treatment but he managed to see out the last moments of stoppage time as the Mo took home another three points to keep them top of the league for yet another week at least with another 1-0 away win.
After a couple of set backs at Links Park this Galabank encounter was a much better display of controlled aggression play by Montrose who in the main outplayed their hosts for large parts of the game. The only downside if any was that they had only a single goal to show for it but on this occasion it was enough. Bolo had a great comeback game and was as committed as ever whilst Lewis Milne looks to be an exceptional talent who, if he gets even better will be a key player in this second half of the season. Man of the Match today might well again have gone to Allan Fleming who was back to his best but even that was edged out by Sean Dillon who was simply superb on the day with a perfect example of how to defend and impress those around him.
Team Lineups & Stats
Saturday 6th January 2018
||7||Graham Webster (s63)
|4||Owen Moxon (s32)
||8||Paul Watson (s82)
||9||Gary Fraser (s79)
|11||Brandon Luke (s73)
|12||Ally Ferguson (GK)
|15||Robbie Hogg (s73)
||2||Terry Masson (s82)
|17||Kevin Rutkiewicz (s32)
||19||Liam Callaghan (s63)
|16||Craig Johnston (s79)
|1||Jordan Millar (GK)
Paul O'Neill, Colin Drummond
Montrose - Lewis Milne (39)
Annan Athletic - Steven Swinglehurst (61), Peter Watson (74)
Montrose - Matty Allan (81)