Winner-takes-all battle at Links this Saturday after Rangers win first leg

Montrose vs Brora.
Montrose vs Brora.

Montrose Football Club’s position in the SPFL will be decided in a winner-takes-all fixture at Links Park Stadium on Saturday.

Marvin Andrews’ first half own goal gave the Highland League Champions Brora Rangers the lead going into the second leg and left Montrose’s league status after 60 years dangling by a thread.

There was little to choose between the sides on the day although the home side carved out the better openings on the bumpy pitch which made passing a difficulty for both sides.

It was Brora who got the luck on the day and Paul Hegarty must now look for his team to put in their performance of a lifetime to retain their league status.

The Brora Rangers side is packed with experienced former Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County players but they are certainly beatable and this must be drummed into the home players on Saturday.

With 10 minutes gone Graham Webster didn’t clear the danger properly and McKenzie was able to pounce on the ball to snuff out the danger.

Leighton McIntosh then won Montrose a free kick after he was tripped outside the area.

Unfortunately for the Gable Endies Watson’s free kick was headed clear by the home defence.

Montrose had a wonderful opportunity to open the scoring in the 20th minute. Webster played a delightful pass up the left wing which put Garry Wood through on goal with only Malin to beat, but as the keeper advanced the captain went for power and blasted the ball over the crossbar.

Three minutes later Webster latched onto a pass from Steeves but after beating three players inside the box, he appeared to be brought down but referee Aitken waved play on.

The Highland League champions almost managed to open the scoring but Martin Mclean couldn’t force home Sutherland’s cut back from close range.

Disaster struck Montrose in the 38th minute when the home side opened the scoring.

Joe Malin sent a punt up the pitch and Andrews rose with Mackay only to succeed in sending a backward header flying into the back of his own net with Stuart McKenzie trying in vain to keep the ball out.

Montrose tried to hit back and won a corner kick on the stroke of half time through Steeves, but this time goalkeeper Malin got up to hold the effort from Johnston.

Brora Rangers had a great chance to score a second goal in the 50th minute when top goalscorer Steven Mackay was clean through on goal but McKenzie was equal to the task and blocked the danger.

Three minutes later Zander Sutherland was in on goal but this time it was Andrews who got back to block the danger man’s shot for a corner kick.

Paul Watson lined up a free kick only to see his low 35 yard effort creep wide of the post.

In the 63rd minute Watson went close again when he collect a cross from Masson, only to see Malin tip his net-bound 25-yard shot over the crossbar.

With 20 minutes to go Watson picked up a pass from McIntosh but this time Malin tipped his curling low effort around the post.

Brora Rangers had a rare second half opportunity when Gavin Morrison let fly from 30 yards out but his effort when well over the crossbar.

The Gable Endies were almost caught out when Brora Rangers broke quickly from a Montrose corner kick.

Sutherland found Mackay but Jonathan Crawford got across quickly to put in a great saving tackle.

From Sutherland’s corner kick McKeown headed over the crossbar.

Montrose had another good chance to grab the equaliser as Garry Wood broke up the left and raced into the box, but as he was on the point of shooting a great saving tackle put the ball out for a corner kick.

Now it’s back to Links Park on Saturday with it all to play for.

MONTROSE: McKenzie, Cameron (Allan), Steeves, Masson, Andrews, Crawford, S. Johnston (Campbell), Watson, Wood, McIntosh (Milne), Webster.

Subs not used: Moyes, McCord, Graham, McCafferty.