Saturday, July 16, 2016

Season 2016/2017 - Match 1: Montrose 0-1 Ross County (Betfred League Cup - Group D)

Less than a week since Euro 2016 limped to its 'climax', Montrose were back in competitive action.

Helping to break the monotony of the school holidays were League Cup holders Ross County, beginning their defence of the trophy at the Basinside Bernabeu.

Montrose welcomed Chris Hegarty back, the full back now having the nerve-wracking job of playing for his old man. For the first time, their starting line-up also included the Bollowocky, a creature invented by Lewis Carroll in 1871, famous for its consumption of white rabbits, March hares and Arbroath strikers.

Michael Bolochoweckyj

The Bollowocky

Montrose's notoriously sieve-like defence of last season looked much more robust than it did even a few weeks ago, the central pairing of Pascazio and the Bollowocky managing to keep fairly tight control over the visiting strikers. Between the sticks, Jordan Millar was in inspirational form.

At the other end, County centre backs Eric Cikos and Jay McEveley spent the afternoon trying to reach the summit of Chris Templeman, usually by clambering up his shirt but occasionally utilising unorthodox kangaroo-inspired, head-first leaps.

In the normal scheme of things, pishy Serie Z4 side Montrose would have been pumped by Premier League silverware holders Ross County, but today didn't pan out as planned.

The match was all square until the 86th minute, when referee Craig Charleston awoke from his afternoon nap to award County a penalty, Brian Graham having flung himself over the Bollowocky's tail and earned a penalty. Graham stepped up to the spot and fired his kick low to Millar's left.

The goal proved to be the winner, Montrose unlucky not to take at least a point from the holders. Had they managed to keep the scores level until full time we'd have been treated to a penalty shoot-out for a bonus point - such is the wacky inventiveness of the SPFL nowadays.

Anyway, there were a few positives from this first competitive foray of the season. The previously porous defence looked much stronger - a back five of Millar-Steeves-Hegarty-Pascazio-the Bollowocky should be a meaner proposition than last season, if Hegarty can avoid too many suspensions.

Templeman and Fraser lacked match sharpness - another week or two into the season and Fraser would probably have buried the chance he was given when sent clear through in the fifth minute. Templeman had a hard shift but lacked nothing in effort.

Paul Watson was back to his demonstrative best in the middle of the park, and Kieran McWalter's  exciting two-tone hairdo was matched only by his penetrating runs down the right.

Early verdict - cautiously optimistic, even in defeat...

Man of the match: Had it not been for the heroics of Jordan Millar in the Montrose goal, Ross County would probably have won this one by at least a couple. Now a permanent member of the Montrose squad, the former St Johnstone man should instil confidence in his defence as the season goes on.

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