Saturday, July 23, 2016

Season 2016/2017 - Match 2: Montrose 0-2 Alloa Athletic (Betfred League Cup - Group D)

Three games played; five goals conceded; one goal scored; no League Cup points; two of the starting back four crippled.

On paper (or computer screen, whichever you prefer), Montrose's season has so far been a disappointment.

But as the matches are played on grass or the Links Park Brillo pad, those stats don't tell the full story.

Against Ross County they were unlucky to drop all three points to the Premier League team. By all accounts they were similarly unfortunate to lose to Kirkcaldy's finest when they played Raith midweek.

Today was a different story, the best team winning relatively comfortably without ever truly shifting into the higher gears.

Greig Spence opened the scoring in the 33rd minute, meeting a corner with a firm shot that bounced in off a Montrose defender.

They doubled their advantage in the 50th minute when the unmarked Izaac Lyle stooped to head home from Steven Hetherington's cross.

Having already lost their opening two matches, Montrose were unlikely to qualify from their inaugural League Cup group, giving Paul Hegarty the opportunity to experiment with a different line-up or formation.

He didn't, selecting almost the same side as in the previous two matches, albeit with Graham Webster replacing the suspended Chris Templeman, the lanky striker having been shown a straight red at Stark's Park for dissent.

Allan Fleming was given a chance in goals instead of Jordan Millar. He was comfortable enough and left largely helpless with both goals, where slack defending was the root cause.

As usually occurs, Hegarty ignored his bench for most of the match, only rousing them in the 75th minute, when he took the frequent shouts of "Get the fucking subs on, Hegarty" literally and made a completely out of character triple substitution.

The universe didn't take kindly to this bout of shenanigans and promptly invoked Murphy's Law. Two minutes after they used all three of their subs, Montrose's Bollowocky was clattered by Jon Robertson. He was carried off the park with an ankle injury, Robertson received a yellow card instead of the prison sentence his challenge merited and Montrose were down to ten men.

With two minutes to go, Chris Hegarty appeared to catch his studs in the turf plastic and twisted his knee. He was screaming before he hit the ground and waving for the bench before the physios could reach him. He left the pitch on a stretcher, Montrose playing the final few seconds with nine men.

Neither side was exceptional today. Alloa were deserving winners, but will need to be better against superior sides.

Montrose struggled to create chances and still lack punch up front. Campbell works hard for little reward, while Fraser needs a faster strike partner to complement his industrious performances.

How Montrose cope without the Bollowocky and Hegarty Jr in the coming weeks will be interesting, as both have become integral parts of the defence in the opening weeks.

Next up, Cove Rangers at Forfar in the final League Cup match - time for a little experimentation.

Man of the match: Montrose didn't create much of note and didn't defend especially well. There were no real stand-out performances for the home side, but Paul Watson continued as a commanding presence in the middle of the park.

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