Saturday, October 06, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 7: Montrose 3 East Stirlingshire 1 (Irn-Bru Scottish Football League Division Three)

What a difference a week makes. Last week, Montrose were as bad as I've seen them in a long time as they crashed out of the Scottish Cup to non-league Edinburgh City.

This week they were as good as I've seen them for a while as they brushed East Stirlingshire aside.

The difference may have been due more to superstition than coaching though - today was the little Jocklette's first ever football match, two days short of reaching 16 months old. This may mean that I have to bring her to every match from now on, which may present problems when Jocklette/Jockling II arrives in February, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Bouyed by Jocklette's encouragement (random bursts of clapping apropos of nothing; loudly shouting "Oh no!" when Jonathan Crawford received the ball in midfield; and spending the rest of the match banging the plastic seats in the stand up and down), Montrose looked far more interested than they did a week earlier.

Manager Stuart Garden blamed the previous week's shameful performance on an Ibrox hangover. Quite why the players lowered their game so much after an encouraging performance against Rangers, I don't know.

But this week there was a reaction of a different kind, the players raising their games to prove that they aren't completely devoid of hope.

There was only one change to the starting line-up from the Edinburgh City match, useless lump of Aberdeen-schooled gristle Phil McGuire relegated to the bench in favour of Craig McLeish, Garden taking the potentially suicidal step of starting with Jonathan Crawford at centre back.

But Montrose came flying out of the traps, and took a well-deserved lead in the 16th minute when Leighton McIntosh - a player I'd have sent down after last week's performance, let along sent back to Dundee - collecting David Gray's cross at the front post, turning his marker and firing a shot across Grant Hay and into the net.

It took only four minutes for Montrose to extend their lead, thanks to an outstanding piece of buffoonery from Shire centre back Steven Jackson. Lloyd Young chipped the ball into the box, Jackson jumped to palm the ball into the air. Twelve-year-old referee Paul Robertson had no hesitation in awarding the penalty, and David Gray made no mistakes from the spot, sending Hay the wrong way.

Montrose's scoring was complete just after the half hour, Terry Masson powering through the Shire defence, beating the hapless Jackson and slotting a shot past Hay.

Garry Wood also had the ball in the net, having beaten the defence and sent in a low shot, but the incompetent linesman ruled the striker offside.

If the first half was Non-Stop Bona-Fide Ultra-Attacking Montrose Masterclass, the second half was Never-Started Boring-As-Fuck Ultra-Aimless and Mainly Missing. It took 20 minutes before the first chance was created, and the match only really came back to life in the last 10 minutes or so. Jocklette voiced her dissent, reasoning that if Jonny Crawford and Paul Lunan were going to pretend to be NFL quarterbacks launching Hail Marys, she was going to loudly demand chocolate buttons roughly three times per second to dull the pain.

Lloyd Young came close with a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired run down the left, if Cristiano Ronaldo finished his runs by toe-poking the ball wide of the post instead of into the net.

Shite Shire scored a freak goal eight minutes from time to keep Montrose on their toes, full back Craig Hume's cross evading the whole Montrose backline, taking David Crawford by surprise and dropping over the line.

One of the 2,589 trialists Montrose have deployed as secret weapons in the past three seasons, Scott Morton, should have scored right at the death when Masson burst down the right and squared the ball to him, but he somehow contrived to shoot straight at Hay instead of into the net.

All in all, today's performance was very encouraging from a Montrose point of view, not least after the horrorshow of a week earlier. There was a drive and a desire about Montrose that was sorely lacking last week, and the team benefited from Phil McGuire's relegation to the bench. Maybe we can still dream of finishing this season in a lofty seventh place...

Man of the Match: Most of the players could realistically be considered contenders today, perhaps with the exception of David Crawford, who had little to do. His de-Screechified namesake was a revelation at centre back, banishing the memories of last week's McGuire misery. All of the starting midfielders played well, with a notable improvement in Terry Masson's performance in particular. Gray and Young both looked good on the flanks, and Leighton McIntosh was a different player from last week. But up until his substitution, I felt that Garry Wood was Montrose's strongest player, leading the line with authority, power and a threatening air. All that was missing was the goal his performance deserved, cruelly denied by poor linesmanning.

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