Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Season 2011/2012: Match 18: Montrose 0 Queen's Park 1 (Irn-Bru Division Three)

Sometimes I feel as though I'm stuck in my own personal version of Groundhog Day where I:
  • Go to work
  • Read some of the book I've been reading for almost six months on the train into work
  • Go to Links Park
  • Hear a mad old bastard exclaim about something that no-one else can see
  • Fail to win the 50/50 half-time draw
  • Listen to a mad young reporter tell me that Sandy Wood is very nice
  • See Martin Boyle run fast
  • Watch Dougie Cameron shank 95-yard "passes" out for throw-ins
  • See Montrose lose a football match
Yesterday was day 1,735 of this never-ending loop. It was unusually warm at the Wellington Street Wembley, but that was the only deviation from the script.

Neither side looked particularly good, and the Hampden side never looked likely to put five past Montrose, as they did 17 days earlier.

Very few clear-cut chances were created by either side, Scott Johnston hitting the side netting and Jamie Winter continuing his development of a land-based, foot-launched missile defence system just in case Scotland ever becomes independent.

Montrose stuck steadfastly to their less-than-convincing tactic of letting the defence launch the ball as far up the park as possible, in the hope that

A) Martin Boyle will run fast enough to catch the ball and score
B) The ball will fall in front of Jamie Winter somewhere in the opposition half, and he will score
C) Garry Wood will have grown six inches and become a genuine target man

Unfortunately, none of these things happened in the 74 minutes that Montrose kept a full complement of players on the brillo pad that is the Links Park surface.

(Topic for debate: is it still a park if there's no grass?)

It was in the 74th minute that Paul Lunan:

nailed winger Ian Watt with a clumsy challenge wide on the right. It wasn't particularly malicious, just a (much) slower player completely mistiming his tackle and taking Watt completely out of the game. Some referees might have shown a yellow, given the foul occurred midway into the Montrose half and wide on the right, but it was certainly a dangerous tackle.

Even then, Montrose didn't capitulate. Rather than bring on Beckenbauer Smart (banished to the bench for looking and defending like Pob) or Sean Crighton, Ray Farningham instead moved Wood to centre back and tried to keep the attacking momentum going.

It almost paid off, but with two minutes remaining substitute Owen Ronald hit the bye-line and crossed for Jamie Longworth to slam a shot low past Michael Andrews.

That takes Montrose's current run to three home defeats. We know that the bottom two is beckoning once more.

Frustratingly, we also know that Montrose on their day are a match for any team in the division. Worryingly though, it seems as though more teams are becoming aware that Montrose rely far too much on Boyle and Winter, and that if they can nullify that twin threat, the Montrose defence will almost always ship goals.

Man of the Match: It's a tough one, as no-one really shone. The defence held out well, even after Lunan's dismissal. I thought that Garry Wood looked potentially useful up front, and coped well when shifted to centre back, so I'll go with him.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Season 2011/2012: Match 17: Montrose 2 Elgin City 3 (Irn-Bru Division Three)

Another week, another home defeat for Montrose.

Having been out the night before, I wasn't really in the mood for the abstract performance art interpretation of football that I expected to be served up by Montrose and Elgin - watching Alan Campbell and Dougie Cameron launch NFL-style Hail Marys up the park is no cure for a sore heid.But I was there and I saw Elgin win by the odd goal in five thanks to a hat-trick from Craig Gunn and some Montrose defending that could be described as comedy if it was actually funny.

Jonathan Smart - who I have now decided would be ideal for the lead role in a live-action movie version of Pob -

was at fault for at least two of Gunn's goals. There are serious problems in the Montrose back line - there seems to be no communication beyond Smart roaring at people to cover his own mistakes. Stephen "MacaMacaReyna" McNally had probably the worst game I've seen him play for Montrose, Alan Campbell is slower than the process of fossilisation and Dougie Cameron has a knee for a head.

Speaking of unusual heads, Jonathan Crawford (mercifully kept on the bench today), appears to be "rocking" a new look modelled on Samuel "Screech" Powers from Saved By The Bell:

All we need now is the return of Argentine mime-artist/"goalkeeper"/goalkeeping gloves tycoon/pink elephant chaser Ramiro "The Incredible Flying Gonzo" Gonzalez and Montrose will be more like a Z-list celebrity look-alike agency/circus than a football club.

Anyway (given that this report is now beginning to sound like I had LSD for breakfast), I suppose I should highlight the Montrose positives. As stated last week, Terry Masson has developed well as a midfielder over the past few months, and his goal today was a peach. He picked up the ball on the edge of the box and curled a sublime left foot shot across goal and inside the far post. Masson 1, Doubters 0.

Martin Boyle also grabbed a goal, and had a lively game up front. He hit the outside of the post early on, had a shot into the side netting and a further goal disallowed for a dubious offside decision.

Scott Johnston was lively again, but needs to cut out the back-chat to officials. He was right to feel aggrieved for a vicious assault in the first half, but abusing a linesman is never going to get a decision overturned.

The officials had an atrocious game today - Elgin's second goal should have been flagged offside and their third came as a result of a free kick that shouldn't have been (but that the Montrose backline should then have dealt with).

Lastly - where the hell did Elgin find Paul Millar? The man is enormous - he dwarfed Smart and Campbell by more than half a foot. Based on various sources he is:

A) The tallest striker in British football (Papa B)
B) The tallest outfield player in the world (Mad old bastard in the stand)
C) The tallest man in the world (Mad young roving reporter in the stand)

He still didn't score though...

Man of the Match: It could have been Boyle. It could have been Lloyd Young. It could never have been any of the back five. But yesterday my Man of the Match was Terry "The Destroyer" Masson for a typically combative performance in the middle of the park and as sweet a goal as we've seen this season.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Season 2011/2012: Match 16: Montrose 1 Peterhead 3 (Irn-Bru Division Three)

The sun was deceptively shiny today, and I foolishly ventured to the Basin-side Bernabeu without wearing Antarctic survival gear.

Montrose's players were obviously feeling the chill, setting about their opponents at a frantic pace in an effort to keep warm.

We all know that Peterhead are the division's big spenders, deeming Rory McAllister worthy of £800 a week to not score goals against the assorted tradesmen, no-tradesmen, pig farmers and hammer throwers who lurk amongst the Division 3 defences.

But they were only a point ahead of Montrose going into today's match, and have spent most of the season in the bottom two.

Montrose should have been three or four ahead at the break, Peterhead goalkeeper Paul Jarvie having the game of his life to keep the home attackers at bay. Jamie Winter, who deems anything outside his own box as worth a shot, clattered the crossbar from wide on the left in the first half as well.

Despite having the the North Pole wind at their backs in the first half, playing the better football and creating more chances, Montrose were 1-0 down at the break, Graham Webster firing into the bottom corner after his first shot was blocked.

There's a fine line between pessimism and realism when it comes to Montrose, and I predicted at half time that, shooting into the wind, Montrose would end the match on the receiving end of a 4-0 hiding.

It looked as though my prediction was coming true within 10 minutes of the restart, David Ross poking across the line at the post and Bavidge lobbing home goalkeeper Michael Andrews two minutes later.

Midway through the second half, I asked my fellow members of the Links Park press corps when Martin Boyle had last scored. He had the ball in the net 30 seconds later, controlling a Winter pass, knocking the ball around Jarvie and shooting into the empty net.

The goal set up the possibility of an exciting end to the match, and while Montrose did manage to press Peterhead back into their own half, they couldn't add to their tally.

A disappointing result, but a decent performance that deserved at least a point. But for a catastrophic two-minute spell in the second half, Montrose might have got that point.

Man of the Match: There were no stand-out performances from Montrose. The defence let itself down with that disastrous two minutes in the second half, but Dougie Cameron in particular looked otherwise decent (I think Maz must have spiked the tablet she gave me before kick-off).

Martin Boyle's finish was well-executed, but he passed up another two or three chances. Scott Johnston had a busy but fruitless afternoon, but let himself down with some daft challenges and petulant outbursts. For me it's between the central midfield pair for Montrose's man of the match (Paul Jarvie had the best match of anyone on the park).

Terry Masson was typically combative, setting the tempo for Montrose early on and pushing forward to support Boyle and Johnston.

But Jamie Winter impressed me more, setting up Boyle's goal with a cracking pass and coming close himself on a couple of occasions.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Season 2011/2012: Match 15: Montrose 1 Annan Athletic 1 (Irn-Bru Division Three)

Montrose's match yesterday was one of the most northerly to survive the big freeze, beaten only by Caley Whistle losing to Sellick in Inverness and Aberdeen continuing their search for a Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to Comedy with a draw against Queen of the South.

Prior to kick-off, I'd have been happy to hear that the match was off due to the weather, but once I was safely seated in the Angus Arena, I found the match quite enjoyable.

Montrose continued their efforts to win matches by passing neatly and letting Jamie Winter shoot every time he's within 40 yards of goal.

He had a number of chances, and seemd to get closer and closer to a goal every time the ball left his right boot.

Sure enough, when it came, his goal was practically the last kick of the first half, rocketing past Alex Mitchell and into the net.

And the home side looked comfortable enough in the second half. Nothing spectacular, but Annan offered little in the way of genuine threat.

Step forward Dougie "Kneeheid" Cameron. Fancying himself as a balder, whiter, slower, less gifted Roberto Carlos, Kneeheid had taken it upon himself to act as a marauding (if one can call Dougie's ponderous gait "marauding") wingback.

Unfortunately, this meant that Dougie was caught out of position in the 77th minute, allowing nippy little bugger David Cox to go tearing past him and into the six yard box.

There was a tangle of legs, Cox inevitably went down, and referee Paul Robertson pointed to the spot.

Kneeheid saw a straight red card and Aaron Muirhead stepped up to slam home the equaliser with the penalty.

Montrose were the better side, and they could have scored a few if Mitchell had had a poorer game. He kept almost everything at bay today, particularly Winter's long range efforts.

Still nearer the bottom of the table than the top, but Montrose are a better side than their league position suggests. The more settled the team becomes, the more I would expect that to become evident.

Man of the Match: Scott Johnston again impressed with a jinky performance wide left, creating Winter's goal with a neat square ball. Cameron actually looked decent until he ran out of puff and saw red late on. But it was Winter who was the stand out. But for Mitchell's acrobatics, he'd have scored a barrowload.