Merpro beaten by outstanding side

Merpro 3 Riverside Athletic 6

Merpro welcomed Midlands royalty Riverside Athletic to Montrose for the first time on Saturday for Bremner Cup action.

Riverside have been the outstanding side in Midlands Amateur football for the past 30 years and the present side is currently unbeaten this season.

The weather, even by local standards, was bone-chillingly Baltic with gale force winds and fleeting flurries of snow adding to the Arctic conditions.

Merpro started well with Robertson slipping a pass forward for Graham to break the backline. He ran in on goal but the ‘keeper was able to frustratingly parry his low shot wide.

Euan Duff then had a 22-yard well hit shot saved at full stretch by ‘keeper Cargill in the eighth minute.

Riverside had barely got into their stride but a quick left flank move and cross fell for Calum CROZIER to fire into the net from six yards to open the scoring after just nine minutes.

Merpro were stung a couple minutes later when Milne controlled a ball on the edge of the box but the bounce inadvertently hit his hand and a dubious penalty was awarded. Paul CLARK confidently converted to give the visitors a two-goal lead.

Merpro’s Bruce fired past the post after good lead-up play from McDougall and Graham. Duff was next to fire in a rising shot over the bar after good midfield linking play from Greig on the half-hour.

Two minutes later Merpro were rewarded when Euan DUFF fired in a rising shot from 14 yards after good pressing opened up the opportunity.

Frustratingly Riverside immediately broke through the midfield from the kick off and following a sliding Greig tackle another contentious penalty was awarded, with Merpro feeling the foul had been committed just outside the box. CLARK again confidently converted.

Merpro regrouped and slowly regained composure to push forward with McDougall firing in a long range shot well saved in 38 minutes.

Bruce made a dribbling run into the box but good defending crowded him out blocking his effort.

Murdoch was next to test the custodian with a well hit drive as Merpro looked to gain a lifeline.

Just as half-time approached Merpro made the breakthrough when Craig Allan slipped a diagonal pinpoint pass between two defenders allowing Euan DUFF to run through on goal rounding the approaching ‘keeper to slot into the net.

Half-time: Merpro 2, Riverside 3.

Merpro started brightest in the second period with Mine making a run forward linking with Allan to set up McDougall but he fired over the bar.

Following good midfield possession 10 minutes into the half Duff was sent through but elected to shoot early, directly into the strong wind and the power was lost.

Merpro created a good opening from a Graham flank run to set up Greig, but his 12-yard effort sliced away from goal to safety.

Merpro were dominating midfield. Bruce floated a low pass behind the defence for Duff but he was unable to fully control as he stretched and the ball carried through safely for the ‘keeper.

The Merpro midfield was playing with confidence to pin Riverside back in their own half and in 65 minutes got their second half reward. Graham collected a pass on the left and drove in past two defenders to weight a perfect pass inside for Daryl McDOUGALL to meet and hit a low drive from 10 yards into the net for the equalising goal.

Graham was next to test out the visitors, this time coming in off the right flank to hit a left foot shot just wide in 68 minutes.

Merpro were anticipating a Riverside comeback but it was the home side who created the next chance. Allan picked up a Duff pass inside the box to calmly round the ‘keeper. Just as he looked to score good defending from the right back blocked on his effort.

Riverside stirred themselves and gained a series of corners with Gall having to make a good reactive low down save at the near post to prevent a goal.

Merpro were not finished and Houston sent a curling ball forward for the dashing Duff to run onto but as he collected he collided with the onrushing ‘keeper and the ball fell to safety.

With the match reaching the closing stages it was a Merpro loose ball cleared from defence that broke the deadlock, giving Riverside the opening. Keith McKenzie pounced on the pass to alertly drill in a first time wind assisted 20-yard shot into the net in the 80th minute to make it 4-3.

Merpro tried to push forward but a clinical break left Crozier with a low tap from a right wing cross to make it 5-3 in 85 minutes. Riverside completed the scoring in the 88th minute with another break when Crozier picked up a pass, looking two yards offside, to run in on goal to slot home for his hat trick to make the scoreline a flattering 6-3.

Merpro exited the Cup but this was as good a performance, especially in the second half, as they have had this season. Both sides deserve great praise for a feast of skilled football in galeforce conditions.

Team: Gall, Murdoch (Whyte), S. Robertson, Milne, R. Greig, Lownie, Bruce, C. Allan, E. Duff, Graham (Hector), McDougall (Houston). Substitutes: Petrie and Wink.

Match sponsor: The Black Abbot.