Saturday, December 03, 2011

Season 2011/2012: Match 12: Montrose 1 Alloa Athletic 1 (Irn-Bru Division Three)

I'm back in the Arctic tundra known locally as Angus, and so I found myself back in the familiar surroundings of Links Park rather than The Emirates or White Hart Lane this afternoon.

It was absolutely freezing even before kick-off today - I'm sure I saw a polar bear queuing to get in the concessionary turnstile at 2.30pm, then think better of it and head home. The pitch was already in shadow by kick-off, and both of Montrose's strikers were wearing gloves - although Scott Johnston was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, which seems to have defeated the purpose of donning handwear somewhat.

Alloa are a good side by Division Three standards, and are rightly considered amongst the favourites for promotion. Paul Hartley (a more dapperly-dressed manager than we're used to in Division Three) (and one with a few more Scotland caps than Ray Farningham) has the side playing well, with a core of good ball playing midfielders (and Darren Young) allied with the experience of Robbie "All this was fields when I were a lad" Winters and the emmm "imposing physical presence" of Armand One (that's Oh-Nay, not Wun).

Montrose made a few changes to the team from recent matches, Saaaaaaandy Wood making his first competitive start of the season in the sticks, behind centre backs Paul "Lurch" Lunan and Jonathan "Baggio Beckenbauer" Smart and full backs Sean "But I'm a centre back" Crighton and Dougie "Kneeheid" Cameron.

Stephen "Macca Macca Reyna" McNally was moved to central midfield alongside Terry "The Destroyer" Masson and Jamie "Of course I can shoot, it's only 75 yards" Winter. Montrose's attacking options were Martin "Have Barcelona called yet?" Boyle, Scott "If Martin's going so am I" Johnston and Lloyd "Who?" Young.

(I spent the first 10 minutes thinking Lloyd Young fronted The Commotions. But that was Lloyd Cole. Lloyd Young doesn't even front Montrose).

Montrose took the game to their high-flying opponents, and deservedly took the lead after 11 minutes when Boyle missed Masson's corner at the front post, only for the ball to fall in front of Johnston, who knocked the ball across the line with a diving header.

It was an end-to-end encounter, and both sides could have had a few goals throughout the course of the match. McNally, Boyle and Johnston were the main threats for Montrose, while Winters and Kevin Cawley created most of Alloa's chances.

Montrose were looking good for a surprise win until 10 minutes from time, Ben Gordon nodding home from a McCord corner. But Montrose could still have won it, Boyle using his pace to stretch the visiting defence a few times as the match came to a close. There was even a late penalty shout, one of Alloa's defenders appearing to handle a Cameron corner at the back post.

All in all, a draw was a fair result. Montrose can take credit from a strong showing against one of the division's better sides, while Alloa can take credit for continuing to push for an equaliser until late in the day.

Congratulations also to the Montrose groundstaff for managing to get the knackered floodlights working again at half time - abandoning the match when winning 1-0 against Alloa would have been unthinkable.

Man of the Match: Another good team performance in which no-one was disgraced. The midfield was solid and generally passed the ball well, and was perhaps more disciplined than in recent matches. That was out of necessity, as pouring forwards en mass would have been suicidal against the slick Alloa passing. Masson and Winter in particular looked reliable in the middle.

Defensively Montrose were strong, with no major errors to report. Up front, Boyle was his usual tireless self, and on another day might have had a hat-trick. But my man of the match was Scott Johnston, tricky on the ball, creative in attack, diligent in tracking back and in the right place at the right time to score Montrose's goal.

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