MERPRO recorded a hard-earned derby win against close rivals Arbroath High School FPs in one of the few Midlands matches to go ahead at the weekend.
The local side was not able to produce some of their recent free-flowing football but were still able to overcome their opponents and the difficult pitch conditions to grind out another valuable victory.
This win means Merpro remain four points clear at the top of the league.
Merpro started well when Euan Duff slipped through a slide-rule pass for Gibbon to run in on goal but the ‘keeper did well to guide him wide and the opportunity was lost.
Still within the first five minutes, Gibbon almost opened the scoring again when he latched onto a goalkeeping parry but the custodian recovered quickly to smother his shot.
Merpro continued on top and Euan Duff came close with a low shot well tipped round the post by the ‘keeper.
FPs created their first openings after 10 minutes with a dangerous cross going across the face of the goal with no takers. A couple of minutes later they had a header go narrowly wide.
Merpro retaliated in 20 minutes when Gibbon made a good wing run, firing in a low cross parried by the ‘keeper but no one was close to finish.
The visitors came close again five minutes later when a Whitworth 22-yard free kick was well held down low by the FPs’ ‘keeper.
FPs retaliated on the half-hour park when Tait ran free and fired in a low shot from 16 yards, but Findlay narrowed the angle and saved well.
The home side had a spell pressing Merpro back but it was the Montrose side who broke and had the ball in the back of the net in 34 minutes. Euan Duff latched onto a pass and fired in a snatched shot which rebounded for Greig to score but he was given offside.
Straight away Merpro stepped up the tempo again and went ahead when Emerson curled in a superb corner kick for Craig ALLAN to drift in at the back post and head home from five yards.
As the half came to a close Merpro were denied a handball penalty claim when a cross came into the box but unfortunately the referee was unsighted on the blind side and failed to award.
Half-time: Arbroath HSFPs 0, Merpro 1.
FPs started the second period well and Findlay made a good low save in 46 minutes.
Merpro resumed their attacking play and Milne made a break but was unable to get enough power on his left foot shot to trouble the home ‘keeper.
Nicol Duff then ventured forward and fired in a dangerous dipping 30-yard shot which the ‘keeper did well to divert for a corner kick.
FPs were gifted a chance in 55 minutes when a long ball came into the box. As Gourlay attempted to clear he slipped, but surprised attacker Lyons could only fire wide from eight yards.
Merpro went further ahead in 68 minutes when Jharone GIBBON pounced on a loose FPs’ pass and sped past the defence to calmly fire in a curling low 20-yard shot past the advancing ‘keeper to make it 2-0.
The visitors looked comfortable at this stage but FPs managed to snatch a goal back with a quarter of an hour to play. During a goalmouth melee Scott Cowan flicked a shot at goal from 10 yards, only for it to be deflected off the chest of Whitworth and into the net.
Merpro immediately went back on the attack and Christie had a header go narrowly wide from a Whitworth free kick.
The game was now becoming more frenetic and Findlay pulled off a great low down save from an 18-yard Ferrier drive in 80 minutes.
FPs were now up for the equaliser and kept Merpro pegged back with some concerted pressure.
However it was the visitors who almost went further ahead when Christie latched onto a long ball forward, and his head flick just went over the bar with five minutes to play.
FPs resumed their torrid late pressure but resolute defending kept them at bay and their frustration boiled over in the final minute when Riddell was red-carded after an altercation.
Merpro ultimately deserved their win and, although not at their recent best, managed to dig out a determined performance to clinch victory.
Team: Findlay, Gourlay, N. Duff, C. Allan, Whitworth, G. Allan, Greig, Milne, E. Duff (Christie), Gibbon, Emerson (Donaldson). Substitutes: Bruce, Cruickshank and Doyle.
Merpro’s next match will be at home to Logie Harp on Saturday in Division One with a 2pm kick-off.