Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Season 2011/2012: Match 8: Montrose 1 Ayr United 2 (William Hill Scottish Cup Third Round Replay)

Holidays and other real life stuff meant that it was a month since I'd last seen Montrose when I donned the warm jacket and Thinsulate bunnet for last night's Scottish Cup replay.

By all accounts the Gable Endies had given a spirited performance against Ayr in the original tie, and had been well worth their draw.

There was a good turnout last night, the crowd just a smidgin under 600 for a Tuesday night cup match a month shy of Christmas.

Montrose started the better side, and had several chances to take an early lead, Terry Masson coming close on a couple of occasions with twisting runs and powerful shots that were saved or deflected wide.

But despite having the best of the first half, Montrose were a goal down at the break, Michael McGowan playing Alan Trouten into the box, the winger rounding Michael Andrews and shooting into the net.

The same player doubled Ayr’s advantage in the 73rd minute, latching onto a short passback and flicking the ball over the home goalkeeper.

Montrose never do things the easy way, and Jamie Winter's 81st minute goal suggested that they were going to claw their way back into the match in the dying minutes. A short free kick from Stephen McNally was touched to Winter, who hammered a Groanin' Jockesque shot from 20-odd yards that flew into the bottom corner.

The home side threw caution to the wind from that point, pouring everyone up front. If Jonathan Smart was half the striker he thinks he is, he'd have equalised in the dying seconds, but instead he shanked his volley out for a goal kick.

Martin Boyle had put the ball in the net even before Winter's goal, but it was chalked off for offside in questionable circumstances. The striker was definitely onside when the ball was played, and succeeded in rounding Kevin Cuthbert before rolling the ball into the net. Some amongst the press corps suggested he may have handled the ball in the build-up - I guess we'll never know.

All in all, Montrose can be proud of their performance. Over 180 minutes, they refused to lie down to a team that, on paper, should be far superior. With more luck they could have won last night to set up a money-spinning lucrative desirable clash with Livingston in the fourth round.

But there were enough positives last night to suggest that progress is continuing.

Man of the match: None of the players could be ashamed of their performances last night. All of them worked hard, tracked back, covered their men and passed quickly along the ground. Michael Andrews made a number of crucial saves to keep the home side's hopes alive. For me, the key performer was Terry Masson, just edging out Sean Pierce. Pierce was creative throughout, and his crosses were begging to be tucked home. But Masson was a figure of authority in midfield, crisp in his passing where Winter was occasionally wasteful, a danger going forward and a leader from deep.

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