NINE-MAN Montrose suffered a heavy New Year defeat at the hands of Angus rivals Arbroath in their first match of 2011.
Winger Josh Falkingham and striker Gavin Swankie both netted doubles for the visitors before Steven Doris added an injury time penalty to complete the rout.
The Gable Endies had been reduced to 10 men in the first half when Chris Hegarty was shown a straight red card for a foul on Keith Gibson and a petulant reaction immediately afterwards.
He was joined in the early bath by Gordon Pope in the second half, the Montrose full-back picking up a second yellow card for a foul.
Montrose lined up with a five-man midfield of Terry Masson, Ross McCord, Stephen McNally, Nicky Smith and Dougie Cameron, with young Martin Boyle deployed as a lone striker. Both sides started at a high tempo, with Montrose forced to scramble clear from an Arbroath corner in the second minute.
The visiting players were appealing for a goal in the 18th minute when Links Park ‘keeper Sandy Wood held the ball directly underneath the crossbar from a Falkingham cross.
Montrose’s best spell of the match came around midway through the first half. They could have taken the lead in the 20th minute when McCord knocked the ball down to Smith on the edge of the box. The youngster connected well, but his half volley was easily held by Lichties’ ‘keeper Darren Hill.
Barely seconds later, Boyle cut the ball back to Masson, whose curling shot was cut out by the Arbroath defence and booted to safety.
The Gable Endies sustained the pressure, and a Chris Hegarty cross to the edge of the box was well controlled by Boyle, but his shot on the turn flew wide of target.
Having survived that period of Montrose pressure, Arbroath began to push forward themselves, Doris heading wide from a Falkingham cross on the half hour mark.
The home side failed to heed the warning, and found themselves a goal down three minutes later. A Ross Chisholm shot from the left appeared to be going wide of the post, but FALKINGHAM was left unmarked at the back post, where he had the simple job of sliding in and poking the ball into the net.
Arbroath’s confidence grew, and they could have doubled their lead three minutes later had Wood not managed to hold Doris’ low bouncing shot.
But the Montrose goalkeeper was left helpless five minutes before half-time when the visitors scored their second goal. SWANKIE burst into the box, but his first attempt on goal was well blocked by Wood. The striker was first to react to the rebound though, and lashed his shot into the roof of the net.
The home side’s misery deepened three minutes before the break when Hegarty was sent off, leaving them with a seemingly impossible task to recover anything from the match.
Montrose did come close to scoring before the break, Dougie Cameron whipping a free kick into the box from wide on the right, but neither McCord nor Pope could steer their shots through the tangled mass of legs, and the ball was hacked to safety by the visiting defence.
Arbroath could have reached the break three goals ahead had Falkingham done better after robbing Alan Campbell on the edge of the box. Having beaten the centre back, the winger burst into the box, but steered his shot wide of the goal.
The Lichties started the second half as they had ended the first, with Stuart Malcolm heading wide from a Falkingham corner.
They didn’t have long to wait before adding to their tally though. Kieran McAnespie fed the ball to FALKINGHAM, who had time to take a touch in the box before firing a low shot into the net.
Montrose’s horrendous afternoon became even darker four minutes later when Pope was shown a second yellow card. The full-back had been booked in the first half for dissent, and was dismissed 10 minutes after the restart for a foul.
Even playing with a three-goal and two-man disadvantage, Montrose still managed to create some occasional chances. One such chance came shortly before the hour mark when Boyle reached the by-line and cut the ball back to Masson. Unfortunately for the home side, the midfielder could only shoot wide.
Wood was forced into action in the 64th minute, reacting quickly to block Doris’ shot at the striker’s feet.
The goalkeeper was again left helpless two minutes later when SWANKIE scored his second goal of the afternoon. Doris’ run took him to the by-line, and cut the ball back to leave the striker with the simple task of side-footing the ball into the net.
As their nine-man opponents flagged, the visitors were given the chance to slow the play down and toy with their hosts. This also allowed them to create a host of chances that were not taken. Doris was a key figure throughout, lashing a low shot into the side-netting in the 69th minute and dragging the ball wide of the post with 15 minutes of the match remaining.
The closest Montrose came to scoring in the second half was an opportunistic effort from McCord, the young midfielder launching the ball onto the roof of the Arbroath net from 35 yards out in the 77th minute.
Swankie passed up a golden opportunity to complete his hat-trick 10 minutes from the end of the match. Wood upended Doris in the box with a sliding tackle, but the goalkeeper made amends by saving Swankie’s penalty with a diving save. The goalkeeper also recovered brilliantly to tip Danny Griffin’s volleyed rebound wide of the post.
As the clock ticked down, Arbroath continued to push for a fifth goal, McAnespie sending a half volley over the crossbar from the edge of the box. Seconds later, Montrose’s Cameron shot over the Arbroath bar from a Tosh corner.
Montrose’s woeful afternoon was completed in second half injury time when Sean Crighton fouled Swankie in the box. DORIS succeeded where Swankie had failed, sending Wood the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Montrose: Wood, Hegarty, Pope, Campbell, Crighton, Masson (Davidson 50), McCord, McNally, Smith (Sinclair 50), Boyle (Tosh 68), Cameron. Unused substitutes: Thomson, Trialist.
Booked: Smith 5, McNally 16, Masson 33, Pope 45, 55
Sent off: Hegarty 42, Pope 55.
Arbroath: Hill, McMullen (Griffin 69), McAnespie, Gibson, Malcolm, Rattray, Falkingham (McGowan 73), Chisholm, Doris, Swankie, P. Sheerin (Dimilta 50). Unused substitutes: J. Sheerin, Burns
Booked: Falkingham 21, P. Sheerin 43, Chisholm 74.
Referee: D. Roache.