Saturday, October 25, 2014

Season 2013/2014: Match 3: Montrose 1 Arbroath 5 (The Scottish Professional Football League Two)

Deja fucking vu.

A fortnight between encounters, half an hour less of play, two more goals, one fewer goalkeeper by the end of the match.

Despite the scoreline, Montrose were better today than they were a fortnight ago, although they could have played all day and struggled to score from open play.

Arbroath passed up a fair few chances as well, but they did manage to score five. One was a penalty after Lucas Birnstingl was sent off for a late foul on Paul McManus. Having used their three substitutions already, Montrose put their biggest lump between the sticks, Garry Wood's first touch while wearing the keeper's gloves the unfortunate task of picking the penalty out of the net.

He shipped a second (and Arbroath's fifth) in stoppage time as McManus added his second.

Strangest goal of the afternoon came courtesy of former Montrose goalkeeper David Crawford. Div thumped a free kick from 10 yards outside his own box up the park, watching the ball bounce once and fly through Birnstingl's hands and into the net. The fact that the ball was moving in the wind when he took the kick was deemed irrelevant by both Crawford and referee Craig Charleston, but not by the Montrose bench, driven incandescent with rage.

Montrose's only goal came from the penalty spot, courtesy of a soft award when Scott Johnston decided to lie down in the box near Arbroath's Kevin Nicoll. Wood made no mistakes from the spot.

I can barely be bothered to analyse today's performance. Deasley looked livelier than I've seen him so far this season, and with better composure would have had a goal.

Leighton McIntosh came on as a sub and looked better than he has in at least two years, while Wood was typically tireless up front.

Defensively Montrose were a mess, leaving gaping holes at the back that Arbroath should have exploited much better than they did - Montrose could easily have been four goals down by half time.

There were few highlights today. The most entertainment I had was trying to decipher what the new Links Park stadium announcer was havering about - I'm sure at one point he boldly stated that Montrose fans should "come and see Willy, he has great tattoos and a bottle of wine, tickets just £12".

Which sounds like a better deal than watching Montrose get humped by Arbroath every second Saturday.

Man of the Match: Slim pickings from Montrose. I thought Bryan Deasley looked good, finishing excepted, but I appear to have been in the minority there. Ross McCord looked better than he has for a wee while, with a bit of bite and purpose to his play. Choosing between the two, I'd go for McCord.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Season 2013/2014: Match 2: Montrose 1 Arbroath 3 (The William Hill Scottish Cup Second Round Replay)

Since the last time I saw Montrose 'play football', I've been to Tokyo, Houston and London, occasionally working and occasionally seeing some of the finer things in life.

Which means that this season I have seen 210 minutes of Montrose in action, seen them ship six goals, score one, have two men sent off and fail to win a game of football.

I've not seen them play well. I've barely seen them string two passes together. I've seen them rely on Paul Watson in midfield and Stuart McKenzie in goals far more than any team should rely on just two players.

There were high hopes today (but not the bumper home crowd that might have been expected), Montrose having held their backwards fish-smoking cousins from down the coast to a draw a week earlier.

But Arbroath came roaring out of the traps, Paul McManus sweeping a low finish under McKenzie in the fourth minute.

Montrose tried to stage a comeback, but it took them until first half stoppage time to equalise, Paul Harkins playing a one-two with Scott Johnston, scrambling his way through the Arbroath defence and poking the ball into the net from a couple of yards out.

Both sides had chances in the second half, but neither could break the deadlock, McKenzie performing heroics in the Montrose goal.

It took just two minutes of extra time for Arbroath to go back in front, McManus again applying a low finish.

And he completed his hat-trick eight minutes from time, again finding space in the box to slip the ball into the net.

By then Montrose had all but given up, George Shields having withdrawn Watson to keep him relatively fresh for the long league trip to Berwick on Wednesday night.

Complaints? Much the same as the last time I saw Montrose, two and a half months ago - no strikers who actually score goals, a lack of pace on the wings, a determination to hammer the ball up the park rather than pass it, launching throw-ins up the line to an opposition player instead of passing back and passing out.

Last time out I was overly harsh on Paul Watson - without him, the Montrose midfield would have been overrun today.

There are flashes of quality of throughout the team on occasion - McCord sometimes offers an interesting pass, Deasley is capable of igniting every so often and Johnston works his arse off every time he steps onto the Montrose Brillo pad, although not always terribly effectively.

Paul Harkins worked hard today and ultimately deserved his goal, but Graham Webster on the opposite wing had a miserable afternoon, never looking comfortable during the two-hour match.

While the Montrose defence may lack pace, the Crawford-Wood-Campbell-Graham axis generally worked better than the scoreline would suggest. They need to be more switched on from the get-go, and choose how to distribute the ball better, but there's a solidity that seems to be growing under the watchful eyes of George Shields and Lee Wilkie - working with a former Scotland centre back is presumably paying dividends.

Anyway, as I have now seen the side lose twice in two outings, I'll maybe stay away for a while and see if things improve...

Man of the Match: He conceded three and could have done better with the first, but Stuart McKenzie kept Montrose's hopes alive until extra time with a series of outstanding saves.