Saturday, November 26, 2011

Season 2011/2012: Match 9: Montrose 3 Berwick Rangers 5 (Irn-Bru Division Three)

Hurricane Mo is currently howling her way through Angus' answer to Rio de Janeiro, and high winds almost threatened to derail today's clash of tit(an)s at Links Park.

Referee Kevin Clancy was seen in conversation with both managers just five minutes before kick-off, debating whether the match could go ahead. Needless to say, it did, and the two sides served up an eight-goal thriller.

The match could have gone either way, and the wind did play a part in the proceedings. Montrose were playing against it in the first half, and keeper Michael Andrews never seemed to grasp the idea that long kicks up the park were out of the question.

It was the home side that took the lead today, Martin "Star of The Sun" Boyle flicking the ball over goalkeeper Jamie Barclay from a Scott Johnston lob into the box. The ball looked to be dropping wide of the post, but Boyle nipped around the keeper and stooped to nod the ball into the net.

The lead lasted 11 minutes, Berwick finding an eqauliser out of nowhere, Darren Gribben thumping a low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Gribben was a constant pain in the ass threat, and put the visitors ahead five minutes later, flicking a header into the bottom corner from Kevin McDonald's cross.

Both sides had chances throughout the first half, Montrose looking especially dangerous from set pieces. But it took them until six minutes after the break to find an equaliser, Paul Lunan sending a sublime shot high into the net from the edge of the box.

That goal should have spurred Montrose on to win the match, but Berwick took only nine minutes to restore their advantage, Jonathan Crawford caught in possession from a short McNally pass, Stuart Noble taking advantage to beat Andrews with a low shot.

It was Andrews himself who was at fault for Berwick's fourth, spilling a catch that allowed Noble to thump home from six yards out. This isn't the first time Andrews has been culpable this season, and there have to be questions over his bottle, as although he makes a lot of good saves, he also makes a lot of bad mistakes.

Montrose were given a brief boost three minutes from time, Dougie "Kneeheid" Cameron scoring directly from a wind-assisted corner, Barclay unable to scoop the ball to safety before it had crossed the line.

But that brief boost came to an end three minutes into added time, Ross Gray turning on the edge of the box and dinking a shot over Andrews and into the net.

Barclay had to be alert direct from the following kick off, Jamie Winter thumping a shot from just inside his own half that would have dropped into the net had the keeper not been watching closely.

All in all, a disappointing but not disheartening day for Montrose. They created plenty of chances, their top goalscorer found the net again, their second goal was a peach and their third was a feat seen all too rarely.

They sometime lacked defensive composure, but that is nothing new. Jonathan Smart was out of the team today, the Alan Campbell and Sean Crighton partnership restored at centre back. Winter, Masson and Lunan look to be forming a solid unit in the middle of the park, and Cameron and McNally appear to be thriving as fullbacks/auxiliary wingers.

Andrews in goal is an enigma - a great shot stopper who has saved Montrose a number of times in recent matches, but who is prone to disheartening errors all too frequently. Sandy Wood can still feel aggrieved at having been dropped after his strong pre-season form, but at least we've left the days of experimental mime artist Ramiro Gonzalez's Crab Football Extravaganza behind.

Conceding five goals at home is unacceptable, as is scoring three at home and still losing. But again (and I feel like I say this after every Montrose match) there were a lot of positives from today's performance.

Montrose: The team that aspires to mediocrity.

Man of the Match: Today was more of a team showing, with no one player standing head and shoulders above his colleagues. Terry Masson continues to look like a creative and defensive force in the middle, while Jamie Winter - who I regard as a luxury player - is nevertheless beginning to look like he should be the first name on the team sheet every week. Dougie Cameron has also improved considerably over the past couple of months, putting some of his more disastrous errors behind him and looking like a genuine leader on the park. In fact, of the the three candidates I've just named, I'm shocking myself by selecting him as my man of the match - for the second time in three matches. I think I need medical help.

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