George Shields’ first match in charge as Montrose Football Club manager ended in victory as his side overcame East Stirlingshire to leapfrog their hosts into sixth place in the final league table of the season.
It was a hard-fought victory for the Gable Endies, who were on top for the majority of the first half before falling out of things in the second period, but some resolute defending and some excellent goalkeeping from Stuart McKenzie – who has been an astute signing from Cove Rangers – kept the home side at bay.
The sixth-place finish was where Montrose finished last season, although this year, the side finished with one less point.
George and his new assistant Lee Wilkie will now be looking over the summer to bring in the players that will at least ensure a top four finish for the club next season.
After the victory over Annan Athletic, George Shields made one change to his line-up, with Kieran Sturrock coming in to replace Colin Wilson.
Montrose lined up with McKenzie in goal with Crawford and Bell in full back positions. Garry Wood was back in central defence alongside Campbell. It was a midfield three of Masson, McCord and Watson with an attack of Johnston, Sturrock and Deasley.
On the bench for Montrose were two members of Kevin Pert and Cameron Marshall’s under-17 side – local lad striker Kyle McLeod and 16-year-old Aberdonian midfielder Declan Milne, who were rewarded for their form in the side. They were joined by David Gray, Graham Webster, Lewis Bonar, Colin Wilson and goalkeeper John McCafferty.
Montrose got the final match of the season underway at Ochilview, looking to complete the season undefeated against John Coughlin’s side.
In the seventh minute, Montrose created the first real chance. Watson played a great pass wide to Johnston, who scampered up the right wing before crossing for Watson to send a header wide of goal from inside the six yard area.
In the next minute, Iain Thomson fired in a shot which went straight into the arms of McKenzie.
It was Montrose who opened the scoring in the 13th minute. Sturrock gathered a Masson pass before winning a corner kick. McCord’s corner kick was cleared only as far as Masson, and his cross was controlled by GARRY WOOD with his back to goal, and he took one touch before turning to fire home his seventh goal of the season.
The home side tried to hit back, and Campbell gave away a corner kick, but thankfully for Montrose McKenzie was able to gather Shepherd’s kick.
Seconds later, Deasley found himself clear and on his way into the box, until he was tripped by Bolochoweckyj, who was booked, on the edge of the area. Ross McCord swung over the free kick, only for the ball to be scrambled away at the near post.
Michael Herd raced past Craig Bell on the right wing and picked out Shepherd inside the area but he could only mis-hit his shot from a good position wide of the far post.
In the next minute, Johnston, playing against his former club, knocked the ball down for Bryan Deasley, but he could only volley straight at keeper Grant Hay.
On the half hour mark, Montrose scored their second goal. Johnston was fouled by Bolochoweckyj in a wide area outside the area. Up stepped dead ball expert PAUL WATSON, who curled his effort over the wall and sailing into the top corner with goalkeeper Grant Hay well beaten. It was the midfielder’s eighth goal of the season and another great strike.
Montrose should have made the match safe in the 35th minute when they missed a glorious opportunity. Craig Bell raced up field from inside his own half, and with only the keeper to beat, he pulled the ball back to the unmarked Terry Masson on the edge of the box. He seemed certain to score, but somehow hooked his shot over the crossbar.
Shire made a change in the following minute when David Greenhill, who had been injured in an earlier challenge by Masson, was forced off and replaced by Graeme McGregor.
East Stirlingshire’s Iain Thomson became the next booking of the afternoon for aiming a kick at Masson as their personal battle continued. From Campbell’s free kick, Montrose claimed a penalty kick for what appeared to be holding on Johnston.
With Montrose completely in control of the game, they suffered a blow with four minutes of the first half remaining when they conceded a soft goal. Wright’s free kick was left to hang in the box and with nobody able to clear, MIACHEL BOLOCHOWECKYJ was able to send a looping header over McKenzie and into the net.
Half time: East Stirlingshire 1, Montrose 2
East Stirlingshire made another change with Ross O’Donoghue being replaced by Jamie Glasgow.
Montrose missed a good opportunity to add a third goal in the 50th minute – a pass from Masson found Deasley, who beat Bolochoweckyj inside the area to open up a shooting opportunity, but he could only shoot weakly wide of the near post.
The visitors’ goal led a charmed life three minutes later. A ball from Maxwell put in Max Wright with only McKenzie to beat, but the goalkeeper pulled off a great stop, the follow-up was stopped on the line by Bell before Townsley blasted over the crossbar.
In the following minute, Bolochoweckyj fouled Johnston in a wide area. Watson’s free kick was cleared, but only back to the same player, and this time his cross was met by Terry Masson whose diving header was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Hay.
East Stirlingshire almost found the equaliser when Kevin Turner got on the end of a loose ball, but as McKenzie raced from his line he thankfully sent his effort wide of the empty goal.
In the 64th minute, Montrose made a second change with Graham Webster coming on for Kieran Sturrock.
Two minutes later, Jonathan Crawford picked up a needless yellow card for dissent after he disputed a corner kick decision given against him.
McGregor crossed from the left and Stuart McKenzie did brilliantly to keep out the overhead kick from Glasgow.
Three minutes later, Wood gave away a free kick when he held back Kevin Turner. Wright’s free kick found the head of Bolochoweckyj but this time McKenzie saved for a corner kick,
With 15th minutes remaining, East Stirlingshire made their final switch of the afternoon with Chris Townsley being replaced by Ricky Miller.
In the 85th minute, Montrose made a switch, with Colin Wilson coming on in place of Craig Bell. Wilson slotted into central defence with Campbell moving to left back.
Two minutes later, Terry Masson picked up a yellow card for a foul on Maxwell. Wright’s free kick was dangerous, but Colin Wilson was on hand to head behind for a corner kick. Shepherd took it but substitute Wilson was there again to head clear.
In the first minute of stoppage time, East Stirlingshire won a free kick in a dangerous central position when Ross McCord fouled Miller, but thankfully for Montrose, Max Wright’s effort flew over the crossbar and all three points were heading back to Links Park.
MONTROSE: McKenzie, Crawford, Bell (Wilson), Wood, Campbell, McCord, Masson, Watson, Sturrock (Webster), Johnston, Deasley Subs not used – Milne, McLeod, Gray, Bonar, McCafferty.