Buckie Thistle 3 Montrose 1
A good workout for Montrose ….. but still work to do
Montrose continued their pre-season at Victoria Park Buckie with several trialists in the starting eleven. With the games against Airdrie and Forfar having been cancelled the Buckie game was the last chance for Manager Paul Hegarty to take a look at several trialists in action against meaningful opposition and Highland League side Buckie certainly were a very competitive outfit. It was also the last chance for the fans to see their side in action before the more serious stuff starts against Forfar in what will be a difficult cup game for Hegarty’s new group of players who have hardly had time to get to know each other. And of course that is followed a week later by the not too little task of taking on Hibernian at Easter Road in another cup game.
The Montrose line up in the first half contained three trialists. As named on the club website they were Joe McGovern in goal, Liam McCartney at left back for the absent Steeves and the well built Jordan Reoch was a trialist centre back. Across the back were Terry Masson, Reoch, Paul Watson and McCartney. Across the middle were Ross McCord, Scott Johnston and Graham Webster. Up front were Ryan Ferguson, Gary Fraser and Ross Campbell. On the bench were trialists Danny Ross, Lyall Murdoch and Matthew Wallace who were joined by Declan Milne, Kyle Murdoch and ‘keeper Jordan Millar who was on loan from St Johnstone. Referee was Liam Duncan. Notably in the Buckie side was Dennis Wyness at centre forward and well known to Montrose fans having had plenty of action in opposition in recent seasons for Elgin City.
The game at Buckie started in strong windy but dry conditions on a good surface. It was however a strong westerly wind which made it hard for the defence each half to clear their lines and the attack to avoid hitting the ball too hard and long the other way. Not the sort of game for high balls but that was to be wishful thinking. It was Montrose who had the better of early possession kicking with the wind with Graham Webster taking possession on the left before his shot was deflected straight to Andy Burr the Buckie keeper. Gary Fraser then hit a goal bound cross which flew high and wide in the strong wind. Montrose won a free kick some 25 yards out and wind assisted it was in Paul Watson’s range but flew straight at keeper Burr. Still only 5 minutes had gone when McCord tried his luck only to see his effort hit the bar and over the top for a corner following a deflection. Nothing came of the corner as it sailed over the back with nobody at the far post – how often do we see that these days? Webster again figured but his well struck shot went just the wrong side of the right hand post. Plenty of Montrose pressure but nothing to show for it and they were soon to regret it as Buckie scored with their first real attack in the 8th minute through Jay Cheyne. The ball came over from the right as McCartney was left floundering for pace and the Montrose defence failed to deal with the cross. Cheyne struck the ball well but McGovern in goal will be unhappy he let it slip through his hands and high into the net.
Buckie were up and running now and Watson did well to foil a good looking attack and indeed force a goal kick. Fraser then found himself well placed but turned and spooned his effort over the bar. Montrose re-gained their composure and possession with some neat passing and with Ryan Ferguson looking very sharp down the right flank. He looks a very good acquisition for Montrose but all too often his runs and crosses went begging as they flashed across the goalmouth. From one second ball situation McCord hit a rising shot over the bar when well placed. Then Montrose were stretched seriously at the back as a long ball down the right found acres of space but fortunately ended in the side netting. McCartney was struggling for pace and was later to be replaced possibly having taken a knock. He was replaced by Declan Milne who replaced Webster wide left as Webster himself slotted into the left back position where the Buckie danger was coming from. Buckie were having a good spell of pressure but some woeful finishing saved Montrose from further damage.
30 minutes gone and McCord took the fifth Montrose corner of the first half but again there was nobody to attack the ball as the defence cleared with ease. Ferguson looked quick and sharp but was unlucky to see an effort go narrowly wide and that was quickly followed by a Webster effort from distance but again over the top aided by the strong wind. Scott Johnston was next up to see an effort drift just wide as the few Montrose fans present were becoming concerned that so much possession was not being turned into goals. Then, you guessed it, Buckie scored again just before half time. The Montrose defence alarmingly failed to clear a routine ball and it was slotted home from close range by Chris Angus to give Buckie a comfortable 2-0 half time lead against the wind.
The second half saw a change of keeper for Montrose with the McCartney replaced by Jordan Millar. His first kick was awful but that was to be his only poor effort and the big lad quickly picked up the pace of the game and looked increasingly steady as the game wore on despite a less than secure defence in front of him. Fortunately Buckie were not good enough to exploit the shortcomings but that most likely won’t be the case in the upcoming games against Forfar and Hibernian.
Just into the second half Fraser took a nasty looking knock which required attention from the new Montrose physio but after treatment he resumed. McCord took another corner wide right but yet again nobody attacked the cross which was easily cleared although Milne regained possession and fired a shot at the keeper. Buckie countered quickly with the wind now at their backs and Watson saved the day with a timely tackle deep in his own half. The clearance from keeper Millar found its way out wide to Ferguson who switched play inside to find Gary Fraser on the edge of the 18 yard box. He swivelled and hit a beauty of a curler into the top left hand corner with keeper Burr beaten all ends up. The goal was no less than Montrose deserved.
The game entered the last third with Montrose still trailing by a goal despite having the lions share of possession. Tackles started flying in and after McCord was hit hard from the back Paul Hegarty raced down the touchline to confront the officials but was promptly ordered to the stands for his efforts. In a pre-season game however and with a wafer thin squad one could well understand his concern. Another cruncher went in and Ross Campbell became involved in a bit of ‘handbags’ as tempers flared with Lewis McKinnon of Buckie similarly involved. Referee Duncan had little option but to show yellows to both players even in a pre-season friendly game. Wisely Campbell was replaced by Murdoch soon afterwards. It should be said however that Ross Campbell put in a good shift and was certainly not lacking in effort during the game. Buckie by now were also making changes as the game fortunately settled down again with a period of relative calm. Montrose tried hard to force the equaliser but the quality last ball eluded them. Webster was constantly a threat but play was not flowing and it was hard to see either side creating anything more and it looked likely a mistake would be the probable reason for another goal. Watson curled another free kick wide as sub Danny Ross just failed to connect. Murdoch the Montrose trialist was looking sharp however and grew stronger as the game drifted to a close. He is certainly worth another look by Paul Hegarty.
Very near the end Buckie scored a third goal to put a gloss on the scoreline from their point of view. A harmless looking free kick was met unchallenged by centre back Darren Wood who easily guided his header wide of the Montrose keeper Millar who could do little to stop it going in.
The final scoreline of 3-1 perhaps flattered Buckie but from a Montrose point of view it is no good having the lions share of possession if you fail to score and also fail to defend. So some worrying things for manager Hegarty still to attend to. His prime objective surely is to strengthen his squad and quickly. To that extent the difficult cup games to come are overshadowed by the need to hit more consistency and by getting the squad settled and to gel before league points are up for grabs at Berwick on 8th August.
There were some positives however. Ryan Ferguson looks a classy player and should do well. Watson is becoming a good leader but is surely only filling in at centre back as his creativity is needed in midfield. The goalkeeping position looked brighter if the second half ‘keeper Millar continues to come good – he looks the part. Steeves is to come in at left back and the big trialist Reoch at centre back had a solid game and is well worth another look but we also need another centre back as a matter of urgency. Manager Hegarty is certain to be after more experience in his squad but it remains to be seen if that will materialise as time ticks by. Lets hope so.
Match Report From Steve Doyle