AN ANNAN Athletic goal two minutes into second half stoppage time on Saturday denied Montrose the point their performance deserved.
With the clock ticking down, the home side appeared to have done enough to secure a draw, but Kevin Neilson’s late header sent the men from the Borders home happy.
Montrose, missing Ross McCord and Paul Tosh through illness, Chris Hegarty through suspension and player-manager Steven Tweed through injury, nonetheless sent out a strong side, with the young forward line of Martin Boyle and Conor Thomson a constant threat to the Annan defence.
The match was played at a high tempo throughout, but both sides struggled to create chances in the opening spell, resorting to chances from long range. Montrose’s Terry Masson came closest in the opening 10 minutes, beating his marker before sending a wild shot wide of target from the edge of the box.
Boyle’s pace kept Annan’s defence on its toes throughout, and the young forward came close to opening the scoring just after the quarter-hour mark. He burst past his marker to go one-on-one with Annan goalkeeper Craig Summersgill, and attempted a lob from the edge of the box. The ball bounced in front of the goal but was cleared by Neilson before Montrose could follow up.
Boyle looked the most likely Montrose player to open the scoring, and he should have done better in the 20th minute after beating the offside trap. He raced on to Masson’s ball over the top of the defence and powered into the box. His low shot bounced back off Summersgill’s shins. Afforded a second opportunity from the rebound, Boyle shot at the far bottom corner, but Peter Watson booted clear from the goal-line.
Annan’s first clear-cut chance came four minutes later when Dougie Cameron and Alan Campbell both failed to cut out John MacBeth’s cross from the left. Ian Harty had time to control the ball in the box, but lashed his shot over the crossbar.
Bryan Gilfillan has developed a reputation for spectacular long-range goals, and the midfielder was keen to add to his account at Links Park. His first effort on the half hour mark from 40 yards forced Montrose goalkeeper Sandy Wood to hold the ball on the goal line. Two minutes later Wood was again called into action, holding a 35-yard effort from the same player.
The second half started with Montrose on the offensive. Boyle again found his way into the box where he was tackled by Neilson. The ball broke to Cameron on the edge of the box, but the midfielder sent his shot over the crossbar.
Harty appeared to have put Annan ahead in the 50th minute when he took the ball around Wood and sent his shot towards the goal. But Montrose’s Sean Crighton recovered well and booted the ball clear for a corner at the last second.
Boyle almost capitalised on the let-off, weaving into the box two minutes later but cracking his low shot inches wide of the post. Stephen McNally then came close minutes later, shooting high and wide from the edge of the box.
Annan’s Peter Watson headed wide from a corner shortly before the hour mark, with Montrose heading up the park only for Boyle to curl his shot wide from the edge of the box. Gilfillan continued to try his luck from long range, thumping the ball over the crossbar from 40 yards out.
Referee Don Robertson found himself the centre of attention with 10 minutes remaining. Hugh Davidson upended Watson with a late challenge, the Annan defender reacting aggressively, pushing the Montrose captain to the ground. Neither the referee nor his assistant saw the incident, and both players were booked, Watson avoiding the red card his actions deserved.
With the clock ticking down, both sides continued to push for the winning goal, Boyle forcing Summersgill into a diving save with a half volley inside the box, and sending another shot high and wide a minute later.
The match was finally settled deep into injury time. Montrose failed to cut out Steven Sloan’s deep cross from wide on the right. NEILSON rose to connect with the ball and send it back across Wood and into the bottom corner, denying Montrose the point their performance deserved.
Montrose: Wood, McNally, Pope (Stewart 68), Campbell, Crighton, Cameron, Masson (Milligan 64), Davidson, Boyle, Thomson, Sinclair. Unused substitutes: Nicol, Murray and Trialist.
Booked: Masson 22, Campbell 44, Davidson 79, Crighton 90
Annan Athletic: Summersgill, MacFarlane, MacBeth, Neilson, Watson, Gilfillan, S Sloan, Jardine, Harty (Bell 68), O’Connor, Steele. Unused substitutes: L Sloan, Slattery, Felvus and Jamieson.
Booked: Watson 79.