For this difficult looking away tie Montrose took up the challenge by having to make enforced changes to the team which started against Annan in the previous game.
Lloyd Young was unavailable and replaced in the starting line up by Craig McLeish and Sandy Wood took over in goal from the cup tied David Crawford.
Leighton McIntosh was not in the squad as he was also cup tied in the previous round having played against Peterhead. The starting line up was Sandy Wood, McNally, Watson, Lunan, Campbell, Masson, Gray, Jonny Crawford, Garry Wood, Johnston and McLeish. On the bench were Grant Mosson along with youngsters Scott Gordon, Dale Reid, David Beedie and Dean Easton. Beedie a member of this season’s Under 19 squad is from Johnshaven.
Dunfermline made three changes by bringing in new centre half signing Callum Morris, Alex Whittle and Ryan Wallace which, if anything strengthened their team both at the back and at the sharp end as well. The task was therefore not an easy one for Stuart Garden’s patched up squad to face up to.
Montrose kicked off and within 10 seconds disaster struck. The ball was immediately passed back to Paul Watson who was tackled as he struck a long ball down the left. That tackle swung him round and he looked to have badly twisted his knee. After a long delay the game re-started and straight away Dunfermline tested our left back slot.
Watson had come back on but was not mobile enough to stop the nippy right winger who swept past and swung over a great ball for ANDY BARROWMAN to sweep in at the far post for 1-0 after just four minutes though within only a minute of actual play because of the injury hold up.
Realising Watson was in trouble Stuart Garden brought him off to be replaced by Grant Mosson. So almost from the off Montrose’s task was made harder and somehow they had to steady things down and not let the game get out of sight early on. To their credit they did that with their two banks of four plus Johnston getting behind the ball and by leaving Garry Wood to plough a lone furrow up front.
On the 20 minute mark McLeish hit a shot which deflected nicely into the keeper’s hands though it would have been interesting to have seen where it went but for the deflection.
A couple of minutes later Montrose got the first corner of the game but it went meekly into the side netting. The Pars were having a lot of possession however but wasted what chances they created.
Through balls to their two quick wing players were hurting and that continued to be the case all night. The Pars hit the bar from outside the box but whilst there was still only a single goal in it the Mo were very much in it even with very little threat going forward. McNally was booked on 28 minutes having lost possession in a midfield position and following it up with a strong challenge. Then another McNally moment. He connected sweetly to clear the lines but it hit somebody, maybe even the referee and bounced back at pace only just wide of our right hand post.
Gray had a mazy run down the right but ran out of steam and support then on 36 minutes Scott Johnston was booked for a rash challenge.
Dunfermline continued to waste a lot of possession as Montrose sat in keeping it tight until half time. McNally made a burst down the right and cut it across for Garry Wood who was foiled by an outstretched defenders leg as the trigger was about to be pulled. Just before half time however the home side made it 2-0 again following a raid down our left back position. Josh Falkingham, a thorn in our side all night did ever so well and laid on a simple tap in for RYAN WALLACE.
The 2-0 half time scoreline was probably a fair reflection of the game but hard on the depleted Montrose side who dug in well despite very little threat going forward.
The second half saw Mosson going off and the more experienced Johnny Crawford going to left back to try to stem the tide down that flank. On came another youngster Dale Reid for his debut to partner Garry Wood up front as Montrose went from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 and looked more menacing as a result.
Within minutes of the re-start Reid showed his speed and almost chased down a lost cause as the home keeper had to move smartly to clear an otherwise harmless looking ball. Another good Montrose move again saw Reid wriggling through but as he tried to release Wood his through ball unluckily hit the back of a defender and rebounded to set up an immediate Dunfermline chance at the other end and Sandy Wood did well to deal with it. Johnston was next to break clear but was ruled offside.
Masson went down ominously but after attention from the physio he resumed to the relief of the Mo travelling support. Dunfermline continued to pass the ball around at the back and hold possession in midfield until an opening could be created. They were still menacing down each flank however and it was for a third time a raid down our left back slot which brought the third goal as Falkingham got away again and crossed for BARROWMAN to score with ease from inside the six yard box.
Sandy Wood had little chance with any of the goals but otherwise had a very solid game between the sticks. We held our breath though as he appeared to bring down an onrushing Ryan Wallace but the referee immediately pointed for a goal kick with no booking either for a dive or a foul.
The last third of the game was played out in almost training ground style with Dunfermline having won the game and playing possession football. Montrose to their credit however were having none of it. Despite there being an obvious gulf in class they came much more into the game and enjoyed good spells of possession and pressure but, with only sporadic threat of a goal. Crawford was sent away down the left by a great through ball from McLeish but finished weakly when in a good position. A goal then after 72 minutes might have set up a more interesting finish. Garry Wood then had Montrose’s best shot of the game when the home keeper Gallagher tipped Wood’s fizzing shot over the bar when the back of the net looked favourite.
The game ended at 3-0 and despite some robust challenges from both sides the game was played in a good spirit as was the banter between both sets of fans.
Dunfermline manager Jim Jeffries will be pleased to have got a home win under his belt and pleased at the way his side controlled most of the game but he must be a bit disappointed that the amount of pressure they had was not turned into more clear cut chances.
Stuart Garden on the other hand will in one sense be pleased to have got this game behind him to concentrate on league matters but whilst being disappointed with the result he will take away some positives. If his team can dig in against a First Division side away from home they can also dig in against supposed lesser opposition in Division Three.
The downside for Montrose appears to be the injuries to Watson and late on to Crawford who was clearly struggling as well. Montrose were undone by good wing play on both flanks by Dunfermline but also by losing possession in dangerous places in midfield – something which needs to be sorted.
Montrose: S. Wood, McNally, Watson (Mosson), Lunan, Campbell, Masson, Gray, Crawford, G. Wood, Johnston, McLeish Subs not used – Gordon, Beedie, Easton