Montrose Football Club took another step towards the dreaded Pyramid Play-Off final when they lost heavily once again, at New Bayview against East Fife on Saturday.
It was the Gable Endies’ seventh defeat in eight matches and once the home side had taken the lead there was only ever going one winner. With Clyde winning, the Cumbernauld-based side are now 11 points clear of the Gable Endies with only five matches remaining.
Injuries, suspension and illness meant four changes to Montrose. Out went Andrew Steeves, Terry Masson, Greg Cameron and Paul Harkins and in came Craig Johnston for his full debut, Ross Graham, David Banjo and Ross Campbell.
Montrose had McKenzie in goal with Craig Johnston in a right-back role with Graham at left-back. Crawford and Andrews were in central defence. Banjo was wide right in a four-man midfield with Scott Johnston on the left and Webster and Watson in the middle. Wood and Campbell were up front. On the bench were Ewan Moyes, Cameron, Allan, O’Neil, Harwood and Declan Milne alongside ‘keeper John McCafferty.
Inside the first minute, Montrose created the first opening of the match into the strong wind when Craig Johnston sprinted up the right wing and found Webster, whose first-time cross was headed over by the unmarked Scott Johnston.
East Fife put Montrose under pressure with a couple of Riordan corner kicks but both were cleared.
In 12 minutes, Austin was fouled by Crawford. Riordan curled in the free-kick but Andrews was on hand to clear the danger.
East Fife should have scored when Graham gave away a free-kick when he tripped Austin. Player-manager Gary Naysmith curled over the free-kick and from six yards out Nathan Austin managed to head over the crossbar.
Disaster struck the Gable Endies when the home side used the elements to open the scoring in 25 minutes. Scott Johnston needlessly gave away a free-kick when he held back Ross Brown on the touchline. Naysmith whipped in a cross to the six-yard area, where NATHAN AUSTIN was able to head the ball past McKenzie from six yards.
Montrose won a free-kick of their own when Wood was held back by Riordan. Webster took the free-kick but could only chip the ball into the arms of ‘keeper Jordan Miller.
Montrose carved out a good opening just past the half hour mark. Craig Johnston went on a surging run up the right and found Banjo who crossed the ball back to Wood. His shot was blocked and then the rebound fell to Craig Johnston, who also saw his effort blocked.
East Fife scored a freak goal in 37 minutes. Kevin Smith tried to find his teammate with a pass across the edge of the area, only for PAUL WATSON to stick out a foot to intercept and see the ball fly into the bottom corner for a spectacular own goal.
It could have been worse in the following minute, when Nathan Austin volleyed over the crossbar from six yards.
Montrose came close to pulling a goal back in 39 minutes. Ross Graham whipped over a cross from the left flank and David Banjo volleyed just wide.
East Fife 2, Montrose 0.
In 50 minutes, Montrose created their best opening. Wood latched onto a throw-in from Craig Johnston and headed to Banjo, who turned and made space only to drag his effort inches wide.
Play was held up as East Fife ‘keeper Jordan Miller received treatment. He’d been caught on the shoulder by Ross Campbell.
On the hour Paul Watson strode forward from his midfield position and with Scott Johnston unmarked wide on the left he chose to go it alone and his 30-yard drive went straight to Miller.
It was all over for Montrose when Marvin Andrews was short with a pass-back to McKenzie and NATHAN AUSTIN nipped in to lob the ball over the ‘keeper.
Montrose made a change the following minute with Jordan Allan coming on to replace David Banjo. Scott Johnston moved over to the right with Allan taking up a position on the left.
With 20 minutes left, Graham Webster struck the East Fife crossbar with an in-swinging corner kick but that was to be as near as the Gable Endies would get. Two minutes later East Fife made their first change with Alan Cook coming on to take the place of Kevin Smith.
Montrose made their second change, giving a first team debut to 17-year-old forward Declan Milne replacing Ross Campbell. Montrose brought on Ola Adeyemo for Derek Riordan. With seven minutes left, East Fife’s Sean Dickson replaced Allan Walker.
Montrose: McKenzie, C. Johnston, Graham, Webster, Crawford, Andrews, Banjo (Allan), Watson, Wood, R. Campbell (Milne), S. Johnston. Substitutes not used: Moyes, Cameron, O’Neil, Harwood and McCafferty.