Montrose Football Club returned to league duty on Saturday after the midweek loss of four goals without reply, still looking for their first win of the season when they faced the challenge of Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill Stadium, Coatbridge.
Montrose manager Stuart Garden made two changes to the starting eleven that faced Morton in the Scottish League Cup midweek, with Terry Masson and Scott Johnston both dropping down to the bench and Paul Watson restored to the starting line-up and new loan signing Bryan Deasley from Forfar coming into the side.
Both Montrose and Albion Rovers lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with McKenzie in goal and a defence of McNally and McIntosh in full-back positions and a centre-half pairing of Crawford and Campbell. Midfield had Gray on the right and Young on the left, with Watson and McCord the central pairing. Upfront was the new pairing of Wood and Deasley.
On the substitute bench for Montrose were back-up goal-keeper Easton, with defender Wilson, midfield men Masson, Webster and Johnston and young striker Sturrock rounding out the options on offer during the game to manager Garden and his backroom team.
Albion Rovers were first to attack with a deep cross into the box, which saw the dangerous Mark McGuigan strike a volley across goal and past the post of McKenzie.
They threatened again with a high ball into the box which Montrose struggled to clear with any great conviction.
Montrose looked to get out their own half by playing down the left and pressing the home side back into their half and won themselves the first corner of the game in the fifth minute, as Deasley headed towards the bye-line and was blocked by a defending Rovers player.
The resulting corner from McCord ended with a succession of throw-ins with the ball finally launched into the box and meeting the head of McNally, who forced the Albion Rovers goalkeeper Parry, to make his first significant save of the match.
Some slack defending by Montrose two yards from goal saw the home side looking to create an opportunity, which Crawford mopped up to avoid seeing his side conceding a fifth goal in two games.
The game was evenly matched, with both sides looking to gain possession, with Montrose trying to cut in from wide positions and the home side using the width of the pitch.
There was some good work down the left-hand side by Montrose through Young, whose cross found Gray at the back of the 18 yard box, who’s first shot went wide of the post.
From an Albion Rovers throw-in, frontman McGuigan tested McKenzie, after Montrose failed to clear their lines; this was again the case when the home side Phillips scooped a shot over the bar after nine minutes.
The home side again looked to attack down the right through the good work of Crawford and Cusack, with Campbell making a crucial block and conceding a corner, which was cleared first time by the defending Montrose men.
This back-line confidence was shaken after a poor clearance from McKenzie saw the busy Walker through on-goal where McKenzie redeemed himself for his error, but this did not do much to quell the uncertainty in the Montrose defence, which was evident in the first 10 minutes of the match.
On the 15 minute mark, a succession of Albion Rovers throw-ins eventually saw a foul given against McIntosh, a soft decision by the officiating team, with the resulting free-kick cleared on two occasions.
McKenzie’s goal kicks into the channels were causing issues with the home side defence due the movement of Wood, who played with his back to the goal, and Deasley who was running the channels.
However for all this work, the Montrose side were not threatening the 18 yard box.
A 25 yard free-kick from the bustling Watson saw his shot narrowly pass the post of Parry in the 21st minute.
Moments later, Watson committed a foul, but McKenzie watched the flighted ball into the box all the way and held the ball confidently.
Montrose continued to exploit the left hand side of the pitch with Deasley again winning a corner from his direct running and Young high up at the back post with a header from McCord’s corner kick, forcing a reactive save from Parry as Rovers looked to clear their defensive lines.
In the 27th minute, Montrose created the best chance of the game so far with a Gray cross from the right finding Young again, who jumped high to knock down a ball into the path of Watson whose shot forced a save from the home goalkeeper, Parry.
In the 29th minute, Montrose took the lead through Lloyd YOUNG.
This was deserved given his part in the half so far, with the away side making good use of their narrowed 4-4-2 formation, as the ‘wide-man’ cut in from the left, beating three men in the process, dribbling into the box and producing a shot that ended up in the back of the net past Parry.
As both teams continued to try and play good football, the game melted into some scrappy midfield play, as Montrose looked to consolidate the gained lead and Albion Rovers looked to find a way back into the match through an equaliser.
In the 35th minute, a long McNally throw-in to the box saw Young miss-time an overhead kick and the ball headed into the hands of goalkeeper Parry.
Montrose continued to try and make more of the play, favouring to work down the left with McIntosh, finding Watson who played the ball into the path of McCord whose shot was embarrassingly wide.
Six minutes later Ross McCord flashed a free-kick over the bar after Young and Deasley combined down the left, the new Montrose number 10 fouled on the corner of the 18 yard box.
As the first-half drew to a close, Montrose failed to capitalise on another long throw-in from McNally and allowed Albion Rovers to launch a counter attack which was the final act of the first-half and saw Montrose go in at half-time with a 1-0 lead.
Half time: Albion Rovers 0, Montrose 1.
At half-time Albion Rovers made a change, replacing Innes with Nicoll.
From kick-off, McCord kicked the ball out of play, forcing the home side back level with their own six yard line.
With pressure from Wood and Deasley, the ball broke to Wood who controlled, turned and volleyed into the hands of goalkeeper Parry.
Albion Rovers then troubled the Montrose defence with a cross from the right not being dealt with, allowing the cross in the first place, and then allowing McGuigan, Rover’s threatening number nine, a free header, albeit wide of McKenzie’s goal.
The second-half was very even, with possession being fought for by both sides, but no team truly taking up the opportunity to take control of the pitch.
In the 58th minute, the first yellow card was dished out by the referee to Albion Rovers Cusack for a late and heavy tackle on Watson in the centre circle.
Watson then won another free-kick after being fouled and stepped up to fire a 25 yard shot under the wall and forced Parry in the goal to concede the corner.
Five minutes later, Albion Rovers made their second substitution of the game, Dallas for Pat Walker.
In the 64th minute, Montrose scored their second goal of the game and the first goal for the club of debutante Bryan DEASLEY, whose control, turn and shot from 23 yards saw the ball pass Parry, low and hard into the bottom of the goal, much to the disgust of the Albion Rovers manager in the home dugout.
Four minutes, later Montrose made their first substitution of the game by bringing on Johnston for Young, who had faded out of the game in the second half, as the home side tightened up on the goal-scorer.
Minutes later, Albion Rovers had the ball in the back of the net, with substitute Dallas connecting with a McGuigan cross, as the Montrose defence was caught static through a lapse of concentration and was only let-off thanks to a linesman’s flag.
This buoyed the home side and saw another attack, but the lessons were learnt and Montrose cleared their lines first time and pushed higher up immediately.
Montrose made their second substitution of the match, with Terry Masson replacing Ross McCord in the centre of midfield, as Montrose looked to keep their two goal lead and see the game out with a fresh pair of legs in the engine room of the team.
Albion Rovers continued to look to go forward, particularly down the right-hand side, but the Montrose team continued to work for one another and shut down any attacks by the home side, whose fans were getting increasingly disconsolate and frustrated.
Albion Rovers made their final substitution of the match, with Miller on for Cusack, in the 81st minute, as they looked to get back into the game with little change to the overall game.
Montrose made their final substitution, bringing on Graham Webster for David Gray, as Montrose looked to run down the remaining time, as they looked to secure their first league win of the season.
Both sides battled hard for 90 minutes, and there was very little between the two teams, apart from the two goals, but more crucially a much needed clean sheet and a good performance from Deasley, whose constant pressing, hard work and goal was a good sign of hopefully more to come from the club’s new signing.
Montrose team: McKenzie, McNally, McIntosh, Crawford, Campbell, McCord (Masson), Gray (Webster), Watson, G. Wood, Deasley, Young (Johnston) Subs – Sturrock, Wilson, Easton (GK)