Referee pivotal in Merpro defeat

Merpro travelled to Finlathen Park on Saturday to take on Tayside Fire Brigade in the quarter-finals of the North of Tay District Cup.

Only three points separate the teams in the George Buckman Premier League, so a close game was expected despite Merpro being on the back of four straight wins.

From the kick-off the Fire Brigade made it clear they did had no intentions of that becoming five, as they pinned the Montrose team back.

The home side continued to press and caused problems through a good work rate and movement, with Graeme French and Craig Davidson creating most of the difficulty. Merpro were barely able to get out of their own half in the first 20 minutes, with sloppy control and loose passing.

Fine defensive displays have contributed to the visitors’ recent run of good results and Mark Findlay in the Merpro goal was barely troubled for all the home side’s pressure.

Merpro clawed their way into the game, breaking the Fire Brigade’s momentum, but they never managed to trouble Millar in goal.

Half-time: Fire Brigade 0, Merpro 0.

Merpro started the second half much the stronger side, with Scott Graham on his own up front getting much better support from the Merpro midfielders. Wide players Campbell Bruce and Gordon Houston managed to put some good crosses in and central midfielder Craig Allan played further forward to link play up.

The game was turned on its head in Tayside’s first real attack of the second half. With players in the Merpro 18-yard box they took full advantage when Sean Whitworth’s clearance under pressure dropped 12 yards out. Findlay had no chance when McDONALD ran through on his own to score on 55 minutes.

Merpro went on the offensive with the match returning to the home side’s half, and within 10 minutes the visitors had their equaliser. With Tayside unable to clear the ball from their own box, Scott GRAHAM took full advantage. He turned and fired a tremendous left-foot shot into the net from 12 yards, being hit by a late tackle and suffering a sore ankle.

Neither ‘keeper was being troubled, until the referee made a decision which would eventually kill Merpro’s chances of reaching the semi-finals. As Tayside applied pressure in the box, Chris Milne was adjudged to have struck the ball with his arm. A penalty was awarded and a frustrated Milne booked for his heated appeal.

Although Findlay guessed the right way, he could not do enough to stop the ball hitting the back of the net from the kick, as Tayside regained the lead with 15 minutes left.

Merpro refused to give up, and continued to throw everything at the home side, both Euan Duff and Paul Duncan were added up front in an effort to save the game.

In a frenzied end to the match the referee once again became centre stage. Milne found himself just outside the opposition’s 18-yard box and beat two players to get inside the box before he was taken down by a third defender. It looked a clear penalty, but the referee was not of the same opinion. Though not seeing the foul, he did hear Milne’s frustrated appeal, and deemed it strong enough to warrant a second yellow card, with Merpro finding themselves down to 10 men.

Merpro are in Cup action again next week when they travel to Wellbank for the second round of the Ferraris Shield, a trophy they won in season 2009/2010.