Stirling Albion 2
Montrose Football Club went narrowly down to an opening day defeat in the newly formed Scottish Professional League Division 2 on Saturday.
It was a fiery fixture against Stirling Albion.
For the second Saturday in a row Montrose were reduced to 10 men, when Ricky McIntosh was sent off for a last man challenge with only half an hour gone, and although Montrose equalised with a great goal from Graham Webster there was to be no way back for the Gable Endies once Mark Ferry had scored again for the visitors with a hotly disputed second goal with 15 minutes left.
Stirling Albion were a good side with some experienced players but it was a side Montrose should have beaten. The match was spoilt at times by the eccentric refereeing decisions of Colin Stevens.
With Garry Wood and Paul Watson suspended along with David Gray, manager Stuart Garden made two changes to the side that had dumped Arbroath out of the league cup. Stephen McNally had recovered from a back injury to replace Watson for his first appearance since last season and 16-year-old striker Kieran Sturrock got a full debut in place of Wood.
Montrose had McKenzie in goal, McNally and McIntosh as full backs with Wilson captain for the day, and Alan Campbell in central defence. The midfield four was Webster, McCord, Masson and Johnston, with Bonar and Sturrock in attack. On the bench were Winter, Crawford, Bell, Lloyd Young returning from injury and sub ‘keeper Dean Easton.
Stirling Albion opened the scoring in the sixth minute after a mistake from Alan Campbell on the half-way line allowed DALE FULTON a clear run through on goal and the youngster thumped the ball home from the edge of the area.
Two minutes later McNally fouled McAnespie, giving the visitors a free kick which McAnespie took but McKenzie got up well to hold.
Montrose created their first chance in the 10th minute when a kick out from McKenzie caught out the away defence and young striker Kieran Sturrock hooked an effort wide from the edge of the box.
The visitors went close again in the 15th minute. Jordan White had a great shooting opportunity inside the box but this time Campbell got back to hook the ball over the bar.
In the 20th minute as Stirling Albion continued to be on top Phil Johnston found himself through on goal but McKenzie pulled off a tremendous stop to push the ball round the post.
The bookings started in the 23rd minute when Kieran McAnespie was yellow carded by referee Stevens for a crunching touchline tackle on Ricky McIntosh.
Montrose’s task became more difficult on the half hour mark when Ricky McIntosh was red carded for holding back Phil Johnston and as the last man the left back had to go. It was one of the decisions that referee Stevens got right during the afternoon.
Kieran McAnespie took the resultant free kick and McKenzie did well once again to tip the ball around the post.
Stuart Garden re-organised his side and young Sturrock, who had had a lively opening half-hour, was sacrificed with left back Craig Bell coming on in his place and Lewis Bonar going up front as the lone attacker.
Montrose went close to an equaliser in the 34th minute when Stephen McNally gathered the ball outside the area and fired in a low shot which was blocked by a defender, only for the ball to come back to the right back and this time Crawford held his shot.
Despite being reduced to 10 men Montrose equalised in the 38th minute. After good passing play Scott Johnston sent a perfect cross to the far post and in came GRAHAM WEBSTER to send an immaculate side foot volley into the bottom corner with Crawford well beaten.
The second Stirling Albion booking arrived in the 42nd minute when Jamie Bishop was penalised for a hard challenge on Masson.
Half-time: Montrose 1, Stirling Albion 1.
Albion won an early free in the second half after McCord fouled Fulton but McKenzie punched clear.
Referee Stevens penalised Craig Bell after he was involved in a tussle with Johnston but the decision seemed a bit harsh. McAnespie floated in the free kick but Masson headed clear.
In the 57th minute Montrose made a change, bringing on Lloyd Young for his first appearance of the season in place of Bonar. The move saw Young line up on the left with Johnston moving upfront.
On the hour mark Scott Johnston became the first Montrose booking of the afternoon when Stevens adjudged that he had kicked McCunnie in an attempt to get the ball.
Two minutes later Stirling Albion made a double switch with David McClune and Bradley Coyne coming on in place of McAnespie and Fulton.
Terry Masson became the fourth yellow card of the afternoon when referee Stevens decided he had dived when it appeared that he was only trying to avoid a nasty challenge from McCunnie.
Alan Campbell picked up another booking in the 75th minute, but it appeared that Johnston had dived. Montrose were made to pay for the free kick when Stirling Albion regained the lead. Weir whipped over the kick to the back post and Smith headed across the face of the goal for MARK FERRY to knock home from what looked like an offside position. Referee Stevens allowed the disputed goal to stand. Ross McCord was booked for his protests.
In the 77th minute Montrose made their final switch when Jamie Winter came on to replace Graham Webster.
With 10 minutes remaining Lloyd Young got on the end of a Stephen McNally cross but he could only head into the arms of David Crawford.
Jamie Winter let fly from 25 yards. The ball was blocked into the path of Terry Masson whose shot from inside the box was blocked for a Montrose corner kick. Unfortunately Ross McCord sent his corner out of play.
Stirling Albion made their final change, bringing on David Weatherston for Jordan White.
The fifth Montrose booking arrived with eight minutes left when Stephen McNally was booked for a challenge on Weatherston.
With five minutes left Montrose almost grabbed an equaliser. Craig Bell got clear on the left and into the penalty area and he cut the ball back to Terry Masson who did everything right. He collected the ball, turned on a sixpence and fired in a shot from point blank range which looked netbound but Crawford somehow blocked the ball for a corner kick. McCord’s corner caused panic and Wilson appeared to be pulled back but referee Stevens was having none of it and play continued.
The last chance came in the final minute when Masson was held down by Forsyth but referee saw an infringement when the Montrose players tried to get on the end of the ball and the chance was gone.
MONTROSE – McKenzie, McNally, McIntosh, Wilson, Campbell, McCord, Webster (Winter), Masson, Bonar (Young), Sturrock (Bell), Johnston Subs not used – Crawford, Easton.
Graham Webster scores for the Gable Endies on Saturday. Picture Tony Morrison.