Sunday, January 30, 2011

Season 2010/2011: Match 13: Montrose v Clyde

Back in September, Montrose trounced Clyde 8-1 at Links Park when the visitors had two men sent off.

The chances of a repeat this weekend were always very slim, but Montrose's fans were still confident of a win over Division Three's basement boys.

It all looked very unlikely in the first half when Clyde came roaring out of the traps. If they could have finished their chances, they'd easily have been three or more ahead at the break.

Ultimately though, it was only one goal that separated the two sides at half time, and that strike came three minutes into stoppage time. Montrose's marking was atrocious, and Marc McCusker had time and space to turn in the box and slam a shot beyond Sandy Wood.

Thankfully for those of us of a blue persuasion, it took only two minutes of the second half for Montrose to equalise. Ross McCord was tripped in the box and Paul Tosh made no mistakes from the spot.

Montrose were further ahead nine minutes later when McCord curled a corner to the near post and Sean Crighton (who otherwise had a match to forget) bulleted a header into the net.

The result was put beyond doubt nine minutes from time when Stephen McNally burst forward, stumbled through a challenge and slipped the ball to Boyle, who had the simple task of firing the ball into the empty net.

To fall back on a cliche, it was a game of two halves - Montrose were dire in the first and would have had no complaints had they found themselves several goals down at the break. But there was a fire about them in the second, and they looked far more confident and dangerous.

If they can play as they did in the second half more often, Montrose have the makings of a good side. But if they continue to make mistakes as they did in the first half, they'll struggle against better sides than Clyde.

Man of the Match: No real contenders from the first period, although Sandy Wood did well to keep Clyde at bay until the third minute of stoppage time. They were much better in the second, and Paul Tosh, Stephen McNally, Ross McCord and Wood again all had a great closing 45 minutes. But for his work rate and never-say-die attitude, Martin Boyle, introduced as a half time substitute, gets my nod this week.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Season 2010/2011: Match 12: Montrose v Annan Athletic

Any football team missing its most creative midfield player and top goalscorer through illness is going to struggle.

Add in an injured centre back and a suspended right back and the team in question would normally be written off before the match has even kicked off.

Especially when that team is Montrose, a side well-versed in the art of taking mediocrity to ever more mediocre non-heights.

But inexplicably, Montrose were half decent yesterday despite missing Ross McCord, Paul Tosh, Steven Tweed and Chris Hegarty.

Neither side offered much in the way of genuine attacking threat, but both Montrose and Annan approached the match with a great degree of gusto.

Annan wanted to hammer the ball into the net from 40 yards, Bryan Gilfillan frequently testing Sandy Wood from long range. Montrose were more focused on getting the ball in front of Martin Boyle and Conor Thomson, but what the two youngsters offer in pace they perhaps lack in composure.

The match appeared to be petering out into a 0-0 draw when Kevin Neilson rose in the 92nd minute to connect with a deep cross, head the ball back across Wood and into the bottom corner.

It was harsh on Montrose, who were worth at least a point.

Annan should only have had 10 men on the park at that point, Peter Watson incredibly lucky to avoid a straight red card for shoving Hugh Davidson to the ground after a heavy challenge.

There were positives for Montrose despite the result, and last season they might have lost this match 3-0. Mid-table obscurity may be the best the side can hope for this season, but that's a significant improvement for last season's Worst Team In Scotland.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Ten: My 10 Rangers Cult Heroes

And no, cult isn't a mistype before I get any smart-ass comments.
I'm currently reading a book called Rangers Cult Heroes that mysteriously deems John Greig (European trophy-winning captain, 20 years at Rangers as a player, later manager and club director), Ally McCoist (all-time club top goalscorer. Current assistant manager and manager-elect) and Jim Baxter (widely regarded as one of the most talented players in Rangers and Scotland history) to be cult heroes.
So here's my own personal alternative list:
1: Mark Walters - When I first became properly interested in football, Walters was the Ibrox wing king. Fast and creative, he was in the first Rangers team I ever saw in the flesh.
2: Rino Gattuso - In his days before becoming a World Cup and Champions League-winning dynamo in the heart of the AC Milan midfield, Rino Gattuso was a terrier as Rangers missed out on 10-in-a-row at the final hurdle.
3: Terry Hurlock - With long greasy hair and vaseline on his eyebrows, Terry Hurlock looked more like a wrestler when he entered the field of play. Anyone described as a "Millwall hardman" is going to add substantial grit to a team. I think that to this day, Mither thinks his name was Terry Warlock.
4: Dale Gordon - Scored twice on his Rangers debut, joining the nine-in-a-row squad during its unchallenged superiority, and managed to score a fair few goals despite competing for them with Messrs McCoist and Hateley.
5: Pieter Huistra - Effectively forced out of Ibrox by the arrival of Brian Laudrup, Huistra was another foreign-born wing wizard. Five league medals, two league cup medals and a Scottish Cup medal tell their own story, but many was the hour I spent in the garden attempting to teach myself to turn with the ball like Huistra did.
6: Charlie Adam - Fat, slow, not overly disposed to defensive duties, loathe to track back. Possessor of a powerful shot and capable of scoring spectacular goals. Charlie Adam is my most recently departed cult hero thanks to the fact that he is the professional football player I am currently closest to resembling.
7: Jorg Albertz - The Hammer. Everything that made Albertz a crowd favourite at Ibrox was packed into that steamhammer left peg. I remember seeing an unfortunate East Fife defender take an Albertz free kick in the balls from 10 yards, and heard the whole ground groan on his behalf.
8: Alan McGregor - Still at Ibrox, but I think that of all the current Ibrox players, Shagger has the most unique bond. He features frequently in the tabloid gossip columns, and my favourite McGregor moment came as he took to the field at Tannadice for a match with Dundee Utd and greeted the chants of "Shagger, Shagger gies a wave" with a subtle nod of the head.
9: Nacho Novo - There's only one Nacho Novo - famously turned down the chance to sign for Celtic and became an immediate Ibrox favourite as a result. Scored a barrowload of goals in a Rangers team that was frequently uninspiring. And he sings The Bouncy in a heavy Spanish accent.
10: Maurice Johnston - My first favourite Rangers player. Probably the most controversial player in the club's history. But I didn't fully understand the religious overtones (or that his time as an ex-Celtic player counted against him). I was gutted when he was packed off to Everton to make way for the McCoist-Hateley partnership.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Season 2010/2011: Match 11: Montrose v Dunfermline Athletic

Montrose really are one of the most perplexing sides in Scottish football.

Last week they were torn apart by Arbroath, losing five goals and two men at home in the Angus derby.

Yesterday they took the lead against full time opponents Dunfermline, failed to collapse as had been predicted and were unlucky to lose an equaliser.

It looked as though they were heading out of the Scottish Cup when Dunfermline went ahead with 10 minutes remaining, but Paul Tosh slammed home an injury time equaliser to book a replay at East End Park.

Before the match, I thought Montrose would lose at least six goals. But they played well, limiting Dunfermline to long range efforts and attempts from corners.

When they took the lead, it was well deserved, Tosh racing onto a through ball before turning the ball into the bottom corner. They then defended excellently until 17 minutes from the end, and Sandy Wood was unlucky to be beaten by Patrick Clarke's long range effort.

Montrose heads could have gone down when Andy Kirk was quickest to react when David Graham's free kick clattered off the far post to poke the ball over the line.

But Tosh sent the Montrose fans home happy, taking a touch outside the box after Stephen McNally's long throw had been cleared and thumping the ball into the roof of the net.

Steven Tweed had probably his best game in a Montrose shirt, leading the line with authority. Sandy Wood was desperately unlucky with both goals. Ross McCord was combative and creative in midfield. And Paul Tosh showed the younger and supposedly better strikers on the park how to be an effective target man, constantly creating space for himself and others around him.

If Montrose could play like that every week, they'd be romping Division Three. But they don't, and recent league performances have been barely deserving of mid-table mediocrity.

Maybe the times they are a'changing....

Man of the Match: For generally making a nuisance of himself, for running around non-stop despite his advancing years and for two great finishes to keep Montrose in the cup, it can only been Paul Tosh.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Season 2010/2011: Match 10: Montrose v Arbroath

Some days it's great being a football fan. Days when your team wins, when the sun shines, when you can revel in the camaraderie of your fellow supporters.

And some days it's totally shite being a football fan. Days when you watch your favourite team lose 2-0 at home to their fiercest rivals, sitting alone in a pub drinking £2 pints of Coke because your mate didn't turn up. Then subjecting yourself to freezing conditions while the team you follow week in, week out lose five goals and two men in a local derby.

Aye, some days it's shite being a football fan.

The Old Firm match was crap, neither side truly looked up for it, but the Mhanky Mhob got the win thanks to a brace from greasy Greek Giorgios Samaras. Rangers had the better of the first half but were garbage in the second. Celtic are top of the league but Rangers can leapfrog them by winning their two games in hand.

After that wasted 90 minutes I headed to Links Park for Montrose v Arbroath. A lively game looked like going Montrose's way around 20 minutes in when they had a few chances in quick succession.

But Arbroath scored twice in seven minutes, Montrose had Chris Hegarty sent off and the second half saw an epic collapse. Gordon Pope joined Hegarty in the early bath for a second yellow and the nine-man hosts ended up losing 5-0.

By the end, the Montrose end of the North Sea Nou Camp was nearly empty and Arbroath's fans were bouncing around and taking the piss with gleeful abandon. The visitors were well worthy of their win, although referee Des Roache had an awful match. If Hegarty was sent off for his foul on Gibson, then it was harsh, although the defender did himself no favours by shoving the official out of the road and storming off in a huff.

Pope talked himself into the book for his first yellow card and committed a needless foul for his second.

About the only plus point was Sandy Wood saving a Swankie penalty to deny the striker a hat-trick, then recovering brilliantly to block Danny Griffin's volley from the rebound.

Dire. Absolutely dire. Lots of shouts for Montrose manager Steven Tweed to resign at the final whistle, and he may be losing the crowd irreparably.

Man of the Match: Hahahahahaha. Aye, right. Hegarty might have been worth considering if he'd stayed on the park, as his crosses were looking decent until he was sent off. He might even have made it if he'd given Paul Sheerin or referee Roache a thump on the nose on his way off. I suppose I could give it to Martin Boyle for running around a bit, or Sandy Wood for saving the penalty (that he conceded). Ach, bugger it. Hegarty it is, for emptying Gibson then having a hissy fit that threatened to spark a brawl.