Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Season 2013/2014: Match 2: Montrose 1 Queen's Park 2 (Scottish Professional Football League Two)

Regular readers (both of you) will be aware that amongst my many gripes are:

A) The foolishness of engaging in outdoor activity in Scotland in any months between September and March. Add to this, if you will, the climatic effects of kicking off after dark in a ground beside the North Sea.

B) The utterly incomprehensible incompetence of football officials in the sewers of the Scottish 'professional' game.

Unusually, my normal pessimistic nature was offset by having seen Montrose dispose of East Stirlingshire three days earlier with what passes for discipline and control at Links Park.

Facing off against the team sitting bottom of the league, a team still looking for their first win of the season, a team that had traveled up from Glasgow that afternoon, and surely - SURELY - Montrose were destined for the top of Serie Z4, or whatever the multi-headed monster that is the SPFL is calling Division Three these days.

I should have known better. The twin impediments in Montrose's rise to become the creme de la creme of the 10 worst teams in Scotland were:

A) The Montrose players


B) Referee Mat Northcroft

Usually, I can sympathise with referees - they're on a hiding to nothing, and they're almost never going to please everyone all of the time.

Initially, I thought that Northcroft was having a decent match, allowing play to flow instead of whistling for every minor infringement.

But as the cold seeped into his brain, Northcroft reverted to type.

Firstly, he managed to pull more than seven minutes of second half injury time out of his arse. Queen's had taken the lead in the 25th minute when Blair Spittal cut inside Jonathan Crawford and curled a shot inside Stuart McKenzie's far post.

But Terry Masson looked to have snatched a point for Montrose right at (what should have been) the death, bundling the ball over the line at the second attempt in the 87th minute.

However, 10 minutes later a free kick was awarded against Garry Wood for having the temerity to allow his opposite number to climb onto his back. A quick free kick was spanked up the park, Liam Gormley controlled and fired low into the net.

It was a cruel blow, and Northcroft's decisions towards the end of the match defied all logic.

Jesus suffering fuck on a bike - is it too much to hope that someday we might be graced with a referee capable of making correct decisions for an hour and half?

I should point out, however, that Montrose were not entirely blameless when it came to the result. They eschewed the crisp passing of Saturday for aimless punts up the park, in the vain hope that Garry Wood had become Wayne Rooney since the weekend.

He hadn't, and their industry in their own half went unrewarded, as instead of playing the ball to feet, they opted instead to return it to their opponents as quickly as possible.

In David Gray, Scott Johnston, Bryan Deasley and Garry Wood, Montrose have some skilled ball players, but they can only work with what they're given.

Having said that, I do sometimes wonder if Scott Johnston is the hardest-working, least productive winger I've ever seen...

In fairness to Montrose, their evolution is continuing - 18 months ago they'd have lost this match by three or four goals.

But it's infuriating when we've seen them play so well, to watch them resort to hit and hope tactics just days later.

Man of the Match: This is a tough one to call, as the team performance was so disjointed that it was difficult for any of the players to shine. McKenzie again looked comfortable in the goal, and could do nothing about either of the Queen's goals. Wood was, as always, tireless up front, and with a bit of luck could have won the match for Montrose in the second half.

But the greatest goal threat came from Paul Watson, who seems to be thriving in his new role in the middle of the park, acting as a link between defence and attack, and proving a constant threat with his long range shots.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Season 2013/2014: Match 1: Montrose 2 East Stirlingshire 0 (Scottish Professional Football League Two)

Work trips to Singapore and London and a holiday in Oban had until today kept me away from the Montrose Maracana this season.

By all accounts, the campaign so far has been a mixed bag, and Division Three League Two is so tight that most of the clubs are within a few points of each other.

This was the first time I'd seen Bryan Deasley and Colin Wilson in the Montrose side, but both appeared to have slotted straight into the team.

Scott Johnston seems to have morphed from an angry woodpecker into a powerful driving winger, Paul Watson has evolved from an ineffective left back into a more useful central midfielder, and Ricky McIntosh spent the match doing his best Roberto Carlos impression.

I was also impressed with goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie, who commanded his box well under pressure, even if his distribution was a little shaky at times.

Montrose started well, Deasley having a shot well saved by Grant Hay after he was played in by Garry Wood.

The home side had the best of the play during the first half, but were denied by horrendous officiating. League Two may be a new brand name, but it appears to have inherited Division Three's scandalous referees and linesmen.

Montrose finally took the lead in the 34th minute, East Stirlingshire's Michael McGown sliding in to poke Garry Wood's shot into the bottom corner past Hay.

Wood and Watson also went close near the end of the half, Wood's diving header flying narrowly wide and Watson firing just over from 20 yards out.

While the on-pitch fare was pleasing enough, the best entertainment of the half was to be found on the terracing at the beach end of the ground, where a gazillion stewards spent 20 minutes wrestling with shirtless Shire neanderthals, before admitting defeat and summoning half of Tayside's police officers to provide support.

Back on the field, it took only six minutes of the second half for Montrose to double their lead, Terry Masson controlling the ball 25 yards from goal and shooting low into the net.

Shire worked hard in their search for a way back into the match, but Montrose remained well organised and saw the match out in relative comfort.

If they win against bottom of the table Queen's Park on Tuesday night, they have the chance to go top of the league. We live in hope...

Man of the Match: Most of the Montrose side looked good today, and McIntosh, Masson, McKenzie and Johnston all excelled. But Garry Wood again looked different class, holding the ball up well and bringing those around him into the play.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Value For Money

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:  Salary £142,500

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany: Salary £177,519 (based on today's exchange rate)

Barack Obama, President of the United States of America: Salary £250,394 (based on today's exchange rate)

Total combined salaries of Cameron, Merkel and Obama: £570,413

ALLY McCOIST-1405727

Ally McCoist, Manager, Rangers Football Club, Scottish League One: Salary (2012/13 season for Scottish Football League Division Three campaign) £825,000.

Poor Ally is only going to be on around £400,000 for this campaign.

I wonder if Obama could get three points from Rangers' clash with Airdrieonians in January?