Saturday, October 27, 2012

Season 2012/2013: Match 8: Montrose 2 Elgin City 2 (Irn-Bru Scottish Football League Division Three)

Odin having once again ignored my prayers either for A) Ice giants to be gone by kick-off at today's Third Division clash or B) For the match itself to be cancelled so I could stay at home and play Playstation without feeling guilty, I trudged to Links Park hoping for a win but expecting the more typical defeat.

There are a few reasons why Scottish people should stop playing football, chief among them being that we're shite at it and our weather doesn't lend itself to outdoor-based activities on approximately 364.5 of our days each year. The chances of one of the good half days coinciding with a Montrose fixture are always slim.

Nonetheless, Montrose and Elgin braved the frozen steppes of Eastern Angus for what could loosely be termed a football match. Bereft of the suspended Stephen McNally, Stuart Garden allowed bravery to override common sense, selecting Alan Campbell and his 73-year-old legs at right back, at least giving the 346 assembled supporters the hope that they might see an elderly arthritic gentleman rip himself in half attempting to keep pace with a winger roughly 84 times faster than himself.

Montrose looked lively enough in the opening spell, although any team relying on Leighton McIntosh to score goals is always going to face slim pickings. Elgin had the ball in the net after seven minutes, but theatrical referee David Somers (who lent his performance a degree of pantomime with a mime-based repertoire that echoed Ramiro Gonzalez's finest work) ruled that there had been a foul in the build-up.

Elgin took the huff and took it out on Montrose, thanks to Paul 'Lurch' Lunan and his multi-haircut oblonged head forgetting they were supposed to be defending. Lurch had the best view in the Basinside Bernabeu as Stuart Leslie jinked into the box and slipped a low shot straight through Sandy Wood to open the scoring.

There's an old saying that runs along the lines of "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me". Sandy Wood's version is "Make me look like a useless lump of a keeper once, shame on me. Try it a second time and I'll empty you in the box you wee prick".

Just nine minutes after opening the scoring, Leslie was through on goal again, but this time, as he took the ball around the goalkeeper, Wood caught the striker's ankle with his hand. Professional foul, straight red card, penalty kick.

David Crawford, expecting to do nothing more strenuous during the match than feed Lee Wilkie the raw meat that keeps him youthful looking but insane, had turned up wearing his mum's tights, what with there being snow and everything. As a result, he looked even more of a fanny than usual when he came striding onto the pitch to replace Sentoff Wood and Substituted Morton.

I am legally obliged at this point to use the words: "The substitute goalkeeper's first touch of the ball was to pick it out of the net", Moore sending him the wrong way from the spot.

Those pessimists/realists/people who have seen Montrose attempt to play football before realised that the match was over, and I began to weigh up the merits of sitting in a cold concrete shed against going home and having Little Jocklette demand I read her the same story book 3,465 times every hour.

Against my better judgement, I decided to stick it out and subject myself to the athletic endeavours on the field and the quality banter in the stand (I use both terms loosely).

And despite their numerical disadvantage, Montrose actually began to find a way back, thanks in no small part to the introduction of flat-faced assassin Garry Wood. The big striker gave a tremendous shift as a human battering ram, allowing Leighton McIntosh more space to do his thing (run around a lot not scoring goals). Ominously for Elgin, Jamie Winter had eaten his half-time tray of pies and was beginning to hone his sights on goal.

It was Wood who gave the first glimmer of hope, collecting a pass from Johnston wide on the left and launching a sweet half volley over John Gibson and into the net.

But referee Somers hadn't completed his routine, and decided to upstage the home side by awarding a penalty to Elgin immediately afterwards, having adjudged Moore flicking the ball against Terry Masson's arm to be worthy of a spot kick.

Moore stepped up to the spot for a second time and this time sent a feeble effort almost straight at Crawford.

Montrose were galvanised and pressed forward. But the clock continued to tick (as clocks have a habit of doing), and two minutes into stoppage time, it looked to be all over for Montrose. Then they were awarded a free kick 30-odd yards from goal.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The pie grease congealing nicely in his arteries, Jamie Winter stepped up, watched as the ball was rolled back to him and launched a howitzer of a strike directly into the top corner of the net. Then decided to get it right up Ross Jack by way of celebration.

It was no more than Montrose deserved for a gritty second half performance when a man down. If they could play like this every week, talk of a play-off place wouldn't be the stuff of jokes.

Apologies, my brain appears to have frozen. Common sense will be resumed next week...

Man of the Match: Montrose were fairly useless in the first half, particularly when they didn't have the ball. But in the second half they were bordering on very good, especially as they played with only 10 men for an hour. Garry Wood's goal and performance in general would normally have been enough for a Man of the Match award, but for me it has to be Jamie Winter, maintaining calm in the midfield and stepping up with an awesome strike when it was most needed.

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.