Stirling Albion 3 Montrose 1
Montrose FC turned up at Forthbank Stadium on Saturday looking to take home three vital points and to consolidate a play-off place going into the final stages of the season, in front of a 472-strong crowd.
With transfer window business conducted Montrose took to the field with a very right-footed and right-sided 4-4-2 line-up with John Gibson still keeping Sandy Wood out of the goals. He lined up behind the returning Stephen McNally and the more permanent trio of Crawford, Campbell and R. McIntosh.
In the midfield David Gray started on the right-hand side with Johnston on the left, and the usual midfield pairing of Winter and Masson in the centre. Up front for Montrose were G. Wood and Boyle.
Following a minute’s silence Stirling Albion, who had former Montrose goalkeeper David Crawford in goal, looked to dominate the game which unfortunately the visitors allowed them to do, as early pressure by the ‘struggling’ home side set the tone for what would be much of the game.
As the Montrose side struggled, Stirling’s number 10 Scott Davidson, one of the side’s top performers on the day, headed over the bar from a deep cross after a period of play down the Gable Endies’ left where the defence failed to clear their lines effectively, twice.
Five minutes into the game Mo had their first foray forward into the Stirling Albion half, with Wood winning a free-kick on the right-hand side. The ball into the box from McInally was cleared at the first attempt.
The visitors had a real scare in the 12th minute with the very effective Stirling number nine White, who was through on goal and saw Gibson rush out to block the striker with his legs. The deflected ball was cleared by Campbell.
Montrose‘s first real chance of the game saw Johnston crossing in from the left and Gray volleying wide of the post.
In the 17th minute, an attack involving a trio of Stirling Albion’s better players resulted in the visiting defence having a few attempts to clear their lines properly, and showed up the uncertainty and lack of communication in the back line that would become a trademark of the Montrose performance.
In the 25th minute Boyle should have scored for Montrose after a Gibson long ball found him but he took too long to decide what to do when through on goal.
Stuart Garden’s took an undeserved lead from the resulting corner with a Gray in-swinger from the right-hand side finding McNALLY, who celebrated his return from suspension by rising in the box to bullet a header into the top corner.
The game descended into a series of soft fouls and broken play on the heavy, soft pitch, which slowed proceedings right down.
Stirling Albion deservedly equalised in the 37th minute through unmarked front-man WHITE. He capitalised on some good build-up play as the Montrose defence sat off, before flashing a shot past the out-of-position Gibson whose long face said it all.
This encouraged the homesters, who attacked down the left and saw Crawford make a last-ditch blocking lunge from the Binos’ number 10 Davidson, with Gibson out of position.
Stirling Albion took the lead two minutes before half-time with FERRY striking a 20-yard shot past Gibson.
Half-time: Stirling Albion 1, Montrose 1.
The second-half again saw Montrose kick-off towards the terracing, but the home side attacked first, with the energetic Davidson placing his slightly deflected shot by Gibson onto the post and out for a corner.
Another poor kick-out by Gibson saw Albion win another corner through the work of White.
The homesters continued to have the better of possession as the Montrose ‘passing’ football struggled on an ever softening pitch, while a more direct counter-attacking approach was paying dividends for the home-side.
The Gable Endies brought McCord on for Johnston in the 58th minute.
Moments after the substitution the home side went forward with Davidson having a good chance as Stirling Albion capitalised on another poor kick-out from Gibson and put the Montrose defence on the back foot again.
A ball was won in the midfield by Masson, who orchestrated some good build-up play, in a game devoid of it from the Montrose perspective, with G. Wood and McCord linking well to find Masson whose shot only found Crawford’s grateful arms.
Substitute McCord was booked for a late tackle which looked worse than it actually was.
The Binos had another good opportunity, with Davidson again finding space to create an opportunity for his side, but the busy striker failed to get his shot off before Montrose cleared their lines.
The visitors made another substitution in the 69th minute, bringing on L. McIntosh for Gray who was tiring, in an effort to inject some life into attack. This substitution saw Montrose shift from a flat 4-4-2 to a more diamond shaped formation with Wood at the point of the diamond behind Boyle and L. McIntosh.
Montrose looked to get the equaliser, with a McInally shot blocked by L. McIntosh for the striker’s first touch of the game.
The home side made their only substitution in the 74th minute, replacing the impressive Davidson with Day.
McLeish replaced McInally, who had suffered a facial injury during the second-half, with Masson moving to right-back and Montrose into a more prominent 4-3-1-2 formation.
Stirling Albion again hit the post as they continued to look to put the game beyond doubt and out of reach of a visitors’ comeback.
Montrose eventually won a free kick inside the Stirling Albion half. The ball in from J. Crawford saw the home side’s defence clear to McCord whose volley, despite great technique, was tame and fell gratefully into the goalkeepers open palms.
White was then deservedly booked for handling a cross in the Montrose box, with very little disguise of his act, blatant handball
Stirling Albion then put the game beyond doubt through DAY, after another defensive lapse, with Weir supplying the through ball which evaded the static Montrose defence.
A very much improved performance is required for Saturday’s home game against an in-form Elgin City, with communication in the back-line essential to a successful outcome of the forthcoming game given the serious firepower this Montrose side now possesses.
Montrose: Gibson, McNally, (McLeish), R. McIntosh, J. Crawford, Campbell, Winter, Gray (L. McIntosh), Gray, Masson, Boyle, G. Wood, Johnston (McCord). Substitutes not used: Morton and S. Wood.