MONTROSE Football Club returned from Galabank on Saturday with all three points for only the second time since Annan Athletic joined the league.
After the defeat against Stranraer, the Gable Endies made one change to the line-up with Paul Lunan returning from suspension to replace the suspended Jonathan Smart who had incurred a three-match ban for a red card at Stair Park.
Andrews was in goal and McNally, Campbell, Lunan and Cameron across the back. Midfielders were Young, Winter, Crawford and Johnston with Boyle and Wood up front. On the bench were Crighton, McPhee, McGowan and Sandy Wood but no fifth substitute. The returning Lunan had a solid game.
Annan were without suspended ex-Montrose player David Cox. Regular ‘thorn in the side’ Bryan Gillfillan was on the bench. Experienced Ian Harty has apparently left the club. Annan fielded two on-loan Carlisle United starlets.
The game kicked off in warm sunshine with little or no wind, Montrose kicking up hill. Annan started tamely and it was the Gable Endies who had the first chance after three minutes when Boyle lobbed the ‘keeper but the ball rolled agonisingly wide. That let-off was shortlived for Annan however, as on five minutes Montrose deservedly took the lead. A poor back header was drifting out wide left of the area but Garry Wood chased it down with the onrushing ‘keeper leaving his line. WOOD got to it first and shielded it before contorting himself into a sort of overhead kick which took everybody by surprise as it bounced away into the net via the far post.
Annan thought they had equalised on 10 minutes when Swinglehurst headed in from close range only for a linesman’s flag to indicate the ball had previously crossed for a goal kick.
A long ball into the area had Campbell and Winter climbing all over the Annan attacker and the referee rightly awarded a penalty which was tucked away cleanly by MUIRHEAD to equalise.
An unfortunate incident held up play for several minutes. Wood was firstly tended to by physio Eilidh Paterson before a stretcher was called for and he was then carried to an ambulance. An X-ray revealed that the leg was badly bruised, but he might be out of action for a while. McPhee came on and looked full of running.
When play restarted Montrose took control and in the minutes leading up to half time they had several chances to regain the lead, Firstly Boyle raced away wide right and head down fired it wide with McPhee in acres for a square ball into the middle. No criticism of Boyle however, it is hard to criticise a player whose aim is to go straight for goal.
Then came the second Montrose goal with two minutes of the half remaining amid some controversy.
Martin Boyle latched onto a great through ball, pushed it past Swinglehurst cleanly but was hacked down as he sped past. Last defender so red card? To his credit Boyle rolled over and back to his feet and the referee waved advantage, so Boyle pushed on and rounded the ‘keeper only to be hacked down again by a knee high tackle. Goalkeeper Mitchell was yellow-carded.
WINTER blasted home the penalty to put Montrose 2-1 up just before half-time and justice was done.
The second half started with Cameron hitting a volley over the bar and down the street. The two wingers, McKenna and Sloan for Annan, constantly swopped over to give both Montrose full-backs a headache but credit to the back four as they reminded each other to keep their shape and concentration. At one point Campbell and McNally were both shouting out such instructions to their colleagues – good to see because that is exactly what was needed to see the game out.
On the hour mark Annan boss Harry Cairney had another throw of the dice when sending on Gillfillan up front as Annan pushed men up in search of an equaliser but Montrose looked capable of catching them on the break. Watson was booked for scything down Young racing away down the right.
Then just as it was looking a bit more comfortable Montrose almost committed suicide when an awful mis-kicked back pass left Andrews in difficulty with Gillfillan bearing down on him. The ‘keeper did well to block it. The Mo’ needed to keep their shape and the need was greater to keep the back four in position rather than push up in search of a third goal as the front three of Boyle, Johnston and McPhee were well capable of running the legs off the big Annan back line.
The worry was that the Mo would self destruct – but they didn’t and saw it through by keeping a second half clean sheet.
The final action was a trademark Winter strike from 30 yards which flew out of the ground.
In the second minute of stoppage time all the good work was nearly undone when Campbell’s clearance was blocked by Jack Steele and was heading goalwards only for the defender to get back just in time to clear from a couple of yards out. Referee Aitken then decided that was enough and signalled a good three points for Montrose.
The consensus amongst the Montrose fans was that Lloyd Young shaded Man of the Match but a special mention for keeper Michael Andrews who made several good saves at crucial points in the game.
Montrose: Andrews, McNally, Cameron, Lunan, Campbell, Crawford, Young, Winter, Boyle, Johnston, G. Wood (McPhee.) Substitutes not used: McGowan, Crighton and S. Wood.