Stirling Albion 1 Montrose 3
Montrose made six changes to their starting line up for this Irn-Bru Cup first round game as Manager Stewart Petrie sensibly rotated his squad with important league games coming up thick and fast. In came goalkeeper Jordan Millar along with Paul Watson, Jamie Redman, Cammy Ballantyne, Kerr Hay and Ross Campbell. Stirling Albion also made several changes with new signing Mark Foden in goal with fellow new signings Ewan McNeil and Lee Hamilton also in the starting line up. No place in the Binos line up for Blair Henderson, Peter MacDonald, Callum Morrison or Steven Noble however so both sides were rotating their squads.
Referee Peter Stuart got the game underway on a sunny evening in front of a good noisy Montrose support which was great to see for a midweek away game. Montrose at first appeared to line up with just three at the back, Allan, Dillon and Iain Campbell but that was to prove deceptive as Steeves on the left and Ballantyne (great to see him back) on the right doubled as wing backs when required to defend but also as marauding midfield wing players using their speed to support the front two of Kerr Hay and Ross Campbell. The holding midfield players were Paul Watson and Jamie Redman with Graham Webster in the hole behind the front two and very effective was Webby in that role.
The first period of play was end to end as each side probed the other but it soon became clear that Stirling had a striker who was going to cause problems in the shape of Darren Smith. He made excellent early runs to beat the offside flag and on one occasion he found the net only to be pulled back by the flag of the alert linesman. A warning sign to the Mo however. Stirling had the better of the early play and it was easy to see why they have started the season as early pace setters but Montrose are a better team this season as well and soon began to impose themselves on the game. It was end to end stuff with each side having a series of corners and free kicks in dangerous places and it was from one of those free kicks where Montrose almost grabbed the lead on the 20 minute mark. Iain Campbell took the kick but his shot ended just the wrong side of the post with the keeper beaten.
Midfield battles were intense but largely fair although Watson was perhaps fortunate to escape yellow for a mistimed tackle though the same could be said for a couple of Binos tackles too. Referee Stuart did well however to use words rather than cards to explain his opinion. Up front young Kerr Hay was not having much success against big defenders but his pace was worrying for them although he was booked presumably for something he said after winning a free kick. The wily Ross Campbell also beavered away in annoying style for the Binos defenders. At the same time as the first half wore on the strengths of Steeves and Ballantyne foraging down the flanks was beginning to tell and it was from such a move that brought the first goal. The Binos had committed men forward as Millar guided the ball safely out but then took a quick goal kick to the left where Steeves collected and made a telling run into enemy territory. After a quick one two with Ross Campbell who gave a perfect return ball to ANDREW STEEVES who thundered a daisy cutter into the far corner on the net. It was on the stroke of half time so at that stage Montrose led 1-0.
Second half started with Stirling making one change as defender Hamilton was replaced by the more experienced Steven Noble a recent signing from Peterhead. There was an early scare for Montrose as the ball fell kindly for danger man Smith but Millar saved well at point blank range. Webster for Montrose and Caddis for Stirling both saw efforts head skywards but having weathered an early second half storm from the home side the energy in this Montrose side began to tell. In the 55th minute Montrose made it 2-0 with a delightful move involving Webster down the right to Ross Campbell inside him playing the return ball. Webster took it on, Hay dummied it and it ran through to CAMMY BALLANTYNE who made no mistake with a powerful shot from just inside the right hand side of the penalty box. A bit of breathing space for Montrose who immediately sent on McLaren to replace Hay and add fresh legs up front to keep Stirling on the back foot. Stirling also made a change putting Andrew Black on for McMullan.
Iain Campbell was booked for time wasting as he took too long over a free kick to the annoyance of a baying home crowd whose team became more disjointed as the game wore on and resorted to long range efforts to no avail. Webster was then booked for a late but not cynical tackle and was then substituted with young Kieran Thompson coming on in the 83rd minute. Seconds later Montrose scored again with CAMMY BALLANTYNE once more the scorer. McLaren took a corner wide left and Ballantyne got on the end of a clearance to thunder home a volley from fully 20 yards to almost uplift the goal net. Montrose then had to see the game out sitting on a 3-0 lead but Stirling had the consolation of a stoppage time goal as the lively DARREN SMITH pounced on a short range effort to make it 3-1 in the dying seconds.
This was a good all round performance by Montrose who have a very solid squad this season with injured players yet to return. Cammy Ballantyne was a revelation along with Steeves as the two of them shared the goals. Good for Redman to get ninety minutes under his belt but a special word for Graham Webster who will revel playing in a good team this season. If he can continue with his early season form he will be a considerable asset. Man of the match however has to be Cammy Ballantyne. He was here, there and everywhere as he revelled in his second half free range role – long may it continue. A special word for gaffer Petrie too. He juggled his squad sensibly for this cup game and used his substitutes to good effect.
IRN-BRU Challenge Cup
Tuesday 15th August 2017
|1||Mark Foden||1||Jordan Millar|
|5||Ross Smith||18||Iain Campbell|
|2||Ross McGeachie||15||Cammy Ballantyne|
|3||Lee Hamilton||3||Andrew Steeves|
|4||Ewan McNeil||4||Matty Allan|
|14||Willie Robertson||14||Seán Dillon|
|6||Connor McMullan||8||Paul Watson|
|8||Liam Caddis||17||Jamie Redman|
|9||Ross Cameron||7||Graham Webster (s84)
|11||Ross Kavanagh||12||Kerr Hay (s60)
|10||Darren Smith||20||Ross Campbell (s72)|
|15||Scott Davidson||10||Chris Templeman
|17||Cameron Binnie||19||Liam Callaghan|
|18||Kyle Banner||21||Connor McLaren (s60)
|16||Taylor Evans||22||Keiran Thomson (s84)
|7||Andrew Black||16||Craig Johnston (s72)|
|12||Steven Noble||23||Allan Fleming|
Gary Hilland, Eddie Ferguson
Stirling Albion - Darren Smith (90)
Montrose - Andrew Steeves (45), Cammy Ballantyne (56, 85)
Montrose - Kerr Hay (40), Iain Campbell (66), Graham Webster (77)