TWO GOALS in the final three minutes denied Montrose a deserved point against 13-match unbeaten league leaders Alloa Athletic at Recreation Park on Saturday.
This was a vast improvement on the previous week’s disaster against East Stirlingshire but Montrose came away empty-handed thanks to a very late 25-yard strike from Ross McKinnon and a stoppage time goal as Montrose pushed for an equaliser.
And this was the first time the Gable Endies had failed to score in a fixture since late August against Clyde.
After the defeat against East Stirlingshire manager Ray Farningham made four changes to his line-up. Out went goalkeeper Sandy Wood, defenders Jonathan Crawford and Sean Crighton, and striker David McGowan.
All four dropped to the bench where they were joined by under-19 left-back Scott Gordon.
Into the side came goalkeeper Michael Andrews for his first match since November, defenders Stephen McNally and Alan Campbell, and in midfield Lloyd Young returned.
Montrose lined up with Andrews in goal, McNally and Cameron in full back positions with Campbell partnering Smart in central defence. The midfield trio consisted of Masson, Winter and Young with Johnston, Boyle and Wood in attack.
There was no place in the side for Steven McPhee, who had joined Dundee Downfield on a month’s loan on the morning of the match.
Montrose kicked off after Alloa Athletic won the toss and chose to play towards the railway end of the ground.
The Wasps started the game very well and visiting ‘keeper Andrews was called into action right from the kick-off, saving well from Darren Young.
He then touched a Kevin Cawley effort round the post.
Stevie May had a great chance to open the scoring but again Andrews dived at his feet to block the striker running in on goal.
Alloa Athletic were piling on the pressure but could not find a way past the visiting custodian. Montrose were looking to catch Alloa on the break and the impressive Martin Boyle shot across the Alloa goal with Scott Johnston coming in at the back post unable to supply the touch required to net.
Montrose were growing gradually in confidence after preventing the league leaders from opening the scoring.
Terry Masson was the first player to be booked after fouling Stevie May after 19 minutes. Two minutes later Lloyd Young was unfortunate with a header which the Alloa defence scrambled clear with Martin Boyle ready to pounce.
Andrews had an escape after he dropped a Kevin Cawley cross with Stevie May inches away from scoring, but defender Alan Campbell rescued the situation.
As half-time approached Alloa Athletic defender Ross McKinnon made an error and the ball broke for the alert Martin Boyle, but as he rushed towards the box Alloa ‘keeper Scott Bain came out and successfully tackled him.
Alloa had started the game on fire but as the half progressed Montrose came to the boil and there was nothing between the sides at the interval.
Half-time: Alloa 0, Montrose 0.
Again the home side started the second half well but lacked that killer ball in the final half of the pitch.
Montrose themselves were winning the midfield, and the home side appeared to be missing Ryan McCord who was sidelined due to suspension.
Montrose then tested Bain when Jamie Winters’ powerful free kick had the ‘keeper diving low to make a great save.
Alloa Athletic manager Paul Hartley introduced ex-Montrose player Ross McCord in an effort to be more creative in midfield.
The ever dangerous Stevie May had another shot but the Alloa attacks were breaking down against a resolute Montrose defence.
On 75 minutes Montrose had another good chance - Jonathan Smart was unfortunate when he headed a Douglas Cameron corner over the bar.
Paul Hartley then introduced Armand One to add muscle to the Alloa attack. The big man certainly did that and helped swing the game in his side’s favour.
Stephen McNally was booked for a foul on Ross McKinnon as the Alloa upped the tempo. Stevie May then got to the bye-line and cut back for Armand One who blasted a great chance over the bar.
Stevie May also had a chance to score, going one-on-one with Andrews then seeing his chip shot saved.
The game looked like ended in a goalless draw with only three minutes remaining out of the 90 – but Montrose for once didn’t clear the ball decisively and Ross McKINNON, making his Alloa Athletic debut, struck a shot from 25 yards worthy of winning any game.
It was a cruel blow for Montrose who had battled manfully but their record at Recreation Park was not to improve.
In the final three minutes Montrose pushed forward, looking still to take something from the game, and forced three successive corners but to no avail.
To make matters worse for the visitors Armand One then threaded a pass through to Stevie MAY, catching Montrose on the break. The on-loan St Johnstone striker rounded ‘keeper Andrews, ending manager Ray Farningham’s hopes of taking something from the game in the first minute of stoppage time.
Losing any late goal is hard to take, but Alloa will look back on all the chances they missed early in the game and will be grateful for the points. Montrose manager Ray Farningham will be disappointed not to have taken at least one point from the game.
Montrose: Andrews, McNally, Cameron, Campbell, Smart, Young, Masson, Winter, Boyle, Wood, Johnston. Substitutes not used: Crawford, McGowan, Crighton, Gordon and Wood.