A dry day but with a light but cold breeze greeted Montrose as they lined up against an in form Annan side on their new 3G pitch at Galabank which looks much different this season.
Gone is the sloping pitch, it’s now flat and there is new terracing at the dressing room and club house end. The dugouts are on the main stand side and there is nothing at the far side apart from a high fence so effectively it is a three sided ground.
There was one change to the Montrose starting line up that defeated Peterhead with Craig McLeish replacing Jamie Winter who was injured in midweek training.
In goal was Sandy Wood with McNally, Crawford, Campbell and Ricky McIntosh across the back. The middle four were Young, Masson, McLeish and Johnston with Garry Wood and Leighton McIntosh up front as usual. On the bench were Watson, Gray, McGuire, a trialist and David Crawford. Referee was Kevin Graham and a sparse crowd of 353 included a decent support for the Mo.
Annan started brightly but the first chance of the game on 4 minutes came to Montrose as Garry Wood hit a shot but straight at keeper Mitchell.
Then in the space of the next couple of minutes Annan had two good chances as the ball bobbled about in the Mo six yard box before being finally hoofed away to safety.
There then followed a good spell of pressure from Annan as they played some good passing football on their new flat pitch. It was very much a new look Annan side with caretaker Manager Euan Brydon creating his own young team who were clearly playing out of their skins for him with the club due to unveil the identity of their new Manager within a day or two.
After 20 minutes of soaking up pressure Montrose pushed forward more and had three corners in quick succession and from one of them Terry Masson hit the underside of the crossbar before it was scrambled away.
From another corner McNally stole in at the near post and glanced his header narrowly wide of the far post with keeper Mitchell anxiously willing it away for a goal kick. At this point you wondered if Annan would rue their earlier missed chances.
The first half wore on and it was a more even contest with chances at both ends. Sandy Wood looked solid with Campbell particularly in defiant mood in front of him. At the other end McLeish shot narrowly over and Montrose won another two corners but with no end result. Scott Johnston then tried to lob the keeper at his far post but it went just over the angle.
McNally did well to intercept when a break looked on for the home side but somehow it broke loose again and Jardine missed a great chance as he prodded an effort just wide of the upright.
Just on half time the first booking of the game came as Masson was caught badly and Ally Love was yellow carded. It was to prove costly for Montrose however and would eventually lead to Masson leaving the field after another second half knock. The first half surprisingly finished goal-less.
Montrose had soaked up early pressure then hit back but there was something missing in their final third play and you wondered where a goal might come from but having said that they were still very much in the game.
The second half started with Annan upping the pace of the game and playing very neat football along the deck. Montrose were on the back foot but still swept forward themselves and Masson headed over as he stretched for a high cross.
Two more Annan chances came and went. The first was a one-on-one with Sandy Wood but Daly lobbed it both over Sandy and the crossbar. From the second chance Wood beat it out for a corner.
Campbell was next to see yellow as he stumbled into an Annan player and from the free kick Annan took the lead in the 61st minute as the ball was played out wide right for DAVID HOPKIRK to cut in at speed and rifle a shot across Wood into the opposite bottom corner. A well worked goal but Montrose caught a bit napping by the speed of the move.
At the other end Montrose won a free kick wide right and from the kick Campbell just failed to divert the ball past keeper Mitchell. Annan were pushing for a second goal though and it came after 68 minutes when the ball was not cleared and it fell nicely for ALLY LOVE to tuck it away for 2-0.
Montrose immediately made a substitution with Watson coming on for McLeish as Annan broke away again and Sandy Wood did well to glove it away for a corner. Then Scott Johnston found himself with the ball at his feet in the six yard box but he was only able to hit a weak snatched shot straight at Mitchell.
Fifteen minutes to go and Montrose needed to get a better grip on the game which, at 0-2 was rapidly slipping away from them. Fortunately it seemed Annan might just try to close the game out as Montrose swarmed forward with both Wood and Masson going close.
Masson then took another late tackle and had to be substituted as David Gray came on. The Annan lad was not booked but moments later Leighton McIntosh was booked for an innocuous looking push as the defender looked to run the ball out of play.
The final substitution was made by Annan as they ran down the clock but straight away Montrose finally had the break they had toiled for as GARRY WOOD pounced and forced it in from close range to make it a nervous final couple of minutes for Annan.
In the final move of the match Montrose swarmed forward again with as many as eight or nine pushed up but a disappointing cross from Ricky McIntosh saw the ball drift harmlessly over the top and it was game over with a 2-1 win for the home side. Having upped the pace in the second half Annan will feel justified to have taken all three points.
The Montrose work rate could not be faulted but that final spark was missing.
Despite the defeat there were several contenders for Montrose Man of the Match.
Both Wood and McIntosh up front grafted hard but without getting the breaks. Sandy Wood in goal had a good shout for that accolade as did Terry Masson in midfield but on balance Alan Campbell just edges it with a stubborn defensive display, timely tackles and important headers to keep his team in the game particularly in the first half.
Not a lot more that Stuart Garden and Lee Wilkie could do from the bench and Annan will surprise a few more teams in this second half of the season.
Montrose: S. Wood, McNally, R. McIntosh, J. Crawford, Campbell, Masson (Gray), Young, McLeish (Watson), L. McIntosh, G. Wood, Johnston Subs not used – McGuire, trialist, D. Crawford.