Saturday, November 16, 2013

Season 2013/2014: Match 3: Montrose 2 Albion Rovers 1 (Scottish Professional Football League Two)

Attempting to leave Dungroanin' for the sub-Arctic environs of Links Park this afternoon, I was accosted by Little Jocklette, who at the age of two and a half is now chief overseer of everything that happens in our lives.

Little Jocklette: "Where are you going Daddy?"

Groanin' Jock: "To the football."

LJ: "My coming too" (this was phrased as a statement, not a question).

GJ: "I don't think so. It's cold outside, and I'll be there a long time, and you can stay here and watch Dumbo."

LJ: "No, my going to the football" (Jocklette considers the conversation finished, and begins searching for welly boots, jacket and gloves).

GJ: "No, I think you should stay here with Mummy."

LJ: (Voice coming from inside a practical if unorthodox hat/hood combo) "No, my going to the football. Come on Daddy, let's go."

Five further minutes of attempting to convince Obergruppenfuhrer Jocklette that she'd be much happier at home later (whilst also trying not to convince myself), the two of us were en route to the Basinside Bernabeu.

With the benefit of hindsight, I should have been glad to take her with me - in three visits to watch Montrose in action, she has never seen them lose. Her previous matches were a 3-1 win over East Stirlingshire (when she memorably shouted "Oh No!" when Jonathan Crawford received the ball in central midfield) and a 5-1 destruction of Annan Athletic last season.

It looked like she was on a hat-trick from early in today's match, the superb Bryan Deasley controlling on the edge of the box and firing over visiting goalkeeper Neil Parry.

But, as is so often the case when watching Stuart Garden's men in action, they seemed to hit the self-destruct button from the midpoint of the first half, frequently losing possession, defending with wild desperation, and becoming incapable of stringing more than two passes together.

It therefore came as no surprise when Mark McGuigan bundled the ball over the line in the 24th minute, the Montrose defence having fallen asleep in their own box.

From that point onwards, the home side rode their luck for the best part of an hour, only truly stepping up their level of play in the final half hour of the match. Paul Watson came close with a series of long range efforts, while Gareth Roger had a 30-yard strike tipped over.

When the Montrose winner came, it was Beasley who struck again, beating Parry with an audacious lob from 25 yards.

This was a curious match, in that Montrose were ultimately deserving winners, but could also have been on the end of a major hiding.

There are still a number of problems in the side - a lack of extensive strength in depth being one, alongside an over-reliance on Garry Wood and Bryan Deasley.

In defence, Stephen McNally continues to provide cause for concern - two seasons ago he was one of the strongest and most reliable players on the park, week-in, week-out - but now his performances are frequently erratic, with poor distribution and positioning haunting his game.

Montrose need to be better at holding onto leads, and to improve their concentration. The quality is there, and they have players who can keep the ball and pass - they just need to be reminded they can do so.

Anyway, it looks as though I will need to continue bringing Little Jocklette to Links Park - at a cost each week of a bottle of juice, a packet of Rainbow Drops and a running commentary throughout the match: "Look Daddy, a ball" "Daddy, where's the mole gone?" "Look Daddy, a bus" "My go down the stairs and play on the grass".

Still, few Montrose fans can boast a record as impressive as P3 W3 D0 L0 F10 A3 Pts 9...

Man of the Match: There were two outstanding players today. On any other day, Gareth Roger would have been my man of the match, keeping his head when all those around him were losing theirs in the 40 minutes spanning half time.

But Bryan Deasley was the best player on the park by a comfortable margin today. Not only did he score twice with majestic finishes each time, but he maintained a ferocious work rate, constantly seeking the ball and finding space to keep the Melchester Albion Rovers defence on its toes.

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