Saturday, August 25, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 4: Montrose 0 Annan Athletic 0 (Irn-Bru SFL Division Three)

The last time a Montrose match ended goalless, some reptiles were beginning to develop fur and shy away from egg-laying in favour of giving birth to live young; Rangers were an SPL side on the verge of an xth consecutive league title; Martin Boyle wasn't playing for Dundee; and Dougie Cameron had a full head of hair.

Perhaps the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are cantering towards us as 2012 enters its back half - maybe the Mayans had it right after all, and we've only got a few more months to live. Either that or the planets are aligning and some crazy shit is about to go down (I understand that is yoof speak for "something is about to happen").

Whatever is happening, Montrose and Annan - a pair of sides you can generally rely on to rattle in a goal or nine - drew a collective blank today.

If the end of the world is approaching, I don't think today's match will be one of the moments that will flash before my eyes at the moment of apocalypse - one of those unforgettable occasions to live long in the memory.

Only 267 folk could be arsed to turn up for today's 'clash', Montrose's population having conceded defeat now that the one lifeform that they could previously regard as a footballer has departed to do football somewhere else.

Now that we are in the Post-Boyle (PB) era, Montrose are going to struggle to find goals, given that Scott Johnston is an angry and excitable, but ultimately goal-free, human/Woody Woodpecker hybrid, and Garry Wood is what is euphemistically known as a 'target man' (ie a striker who doesn't, emmm, strike).

Lloyd Young, having taken it upon himself to score goals over the past few weeks, decided to have a rest today, which would have been perfectly acceptable had Stuart Garden not selected him in midfield.

Leighton McIntosh came off the Montrose bench late on, bringing with him an air of intrigue, rumours of an ability to score, but unfortunately not his shooting boots.

In fact, Montrose's closest attempt of the match came in injury time from the unlikely airborne source of Alan Campbell. Launching himself through the air, the arthritic centre back contected with a peach a volley that came back off the crossbar, McIntosh poking the rebound out for a goal kick.

Truth be told, Montrose would have been worth a win today, with a combative performance that only occasionally flirted with the "let's pump it up the park and see if that works" routine that has dogged them over the past five matches/months/years/decades.

With a bit more luck, or a Martin Boyle-shaped presence in attack (or even a Paul Tosh-shaped lump up front), Montrose would have got the win.

So, the weeks Montrose score goals, they concede them with merry abandon. The week they keep a clean sheet, they couldn't score in Vegas with a prince in tow.

Winter is coming...

Man of the Match: The churlish part of me wants to nominate Annan goalkeeper Alex Mitchell, who secured a point for the visitors with some excellent saves. David Crawford, his Montrose counterpart while Saaaaaaandy Wood gets his beak fixed, was also a strong contender, marshalling his defence well. Speaking of the defence, the whole back four looked good, and kept Annan at bay throughout. None of the Montrose midfield shone especially brightly, although David Gray had his moments. And the strikers worked hard but ultimately came away empty-handed. Over the course of the match, I'd nominate Stephen McNally as having had the strongest 90 minutes, driving forward from right back without leaving acres of space behind him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 3: Montrose 2 Clyde 3 (Irn-Bru SFL Division Three)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Montrose, buoyed by an impressive start to the season that has seen them eliminate Highland League Inverurie Loco Works from the League Cup and Division One Cowdenbeath from the Challenge Cup, went into yesterday's match in a positive frame of mind.

Throw into the mix that the aggregate score from Clyde's previous five visits to Links Park was 22-3, and there could only be one winner.

I was so confident that Montrose would beat Clyde again that I did something that common sense normally prevents me from doing, and stuck money on a Montrose win. Not just a win - £10 on Montrose to win even after giving Clyde a 1-0 head start.

It all looked good in the first half hour, Lloyd Young firing home from 25 yards after 11 minutes, then Paul Watson volleying in from the same range after 25 minutes.

Montrose played sleek passing football, crossed dangerously and kept Clyde penned back in their own half. But for some unfortunate finishing, they could have gone in at the break leading by three or four.

Everything in the world was good, and my bet was a sure-fire winner.

Cue the second half. Montrose, having deployed their own brand of pass and move football in the first half, took it upon themselves to play long high balls to no-one in particular for the duration of the second period.

Everything that had been good about the Montrose side in the first half vanished. Clyde started seeing more and more of the ball, and Montrose became sloppy and looked less and less confident.

The rot truly began to set in just before the hour mark when former Annan man Bryan Gilfillan, playing as a trialist, was handed an easy finish when sent one-on-one with Montrose goalkeeper Sandy Wood.

Bad turned to worse four minutes later when John Neil latched onto a long ball over the top and fired into the empty net.

And the turnaround was complete 10 minutes from time when a neat Clyde passing move ended with Stuart McColm shooting into the bottom corner.

Gutting isn't the word. Montrose were so good in the first half that another 5-0 or 8-1 win wasn't unthinkable. But they were so poor in the second half that they could have shipped five or six themselves.

I can't understand why they went from passing the ball with confidence to resorting to the woeful and aimless punts up the park.

The team is short on personnel - Montrose could only name four substitutes yesterday, none of whom were called into action. Garry Wood played at centre back in place of Paul Lunan, while Screech Crawford was suspended and Jamie Winter's dodgy groin ensured he remained in the stand wearing a baseball cap.

It's a disappointing start to the season. 45 minutes in and Montrose were two points and two goals ahead of Rangers. By the time the 90 were up, they were a point behind and a goal worse off.

If we can't see out a match against Clyde when we're leading two nil, this is going to be a long, hard campaign.

Man of the match: In the first half, all of the Montrose players played well. Sandy Wood's shouting and command of his defence were impressive. Stephen McNally drove the team forward from right back. Lloyd Young and Scott Johnston were constant threats from midfield. Martin Boyle kept Clyde on the back foot. And Paul Watson and Craig McLeish continued to look like inspired signings. But in the second half, few of the players came out with pass marks. Unforced errors, aimless punts and misplaced passes were in abundance. Only Johnston and Watson continued to look the part. Overall, Watson gets my vote, giving a commanding performance at left back in the first half, chipping in with a peach of a goal, and attempting to keep the momentum going even after the tide turned in the second half.