Merpro moved into the last 16 of the North of Tay Cup after a physically demanding match on Saturday in Dundee. AC Harleys were very motivated from the kick-off and quickly made their intent clear, to try to prevent Merpro from getting into any rhythm.
Harleys were receiving vociferous sideline support and the opening spell was frenetic, as they attempted to unsettle their visitors.
Merpro held firm and almost opened the scoring when Christie passed wide for Rausch to cut inside and hit a left-footed effort, well saved by the keeper in 20 minutes.
Harleys almost broke the deadlock when they got in behind the Merpro defence but Pert made an excellent recovery tackle, to prevent a clear shot at goal, in 25 minutes.
Merpro were now starting to find space as the tempo eased and began to dominate the latter stages of the first half. As they gained control, they had to increasingly survive some robust challenges, being leniently allowed.
The Montrose side almost broke the deadlock, when a Christie 20 yard free kick came back off the bar with Rausch firing the rebound over.
Half time arrived with no further chances and Merpro gaining ascendancy.
Half-time: AC Harleys 0, Merpro 0
At the start of the second period, as it looked as if Merpro were taking control, Harleys won a tackle in midfield to break and catch the visitors off guard. McGregor shrugged off a tackle to fire in a low shot past Lownie in 52 minutes.
Harleys were galvanised and Greig made a good clearance to prevent an opportunity, following a corner kick in 55 minutes.
The match was becoming more intense again and the home side began to pick up some cautions as Merpro slowly began to assert themselves.
However, stout defensive play kept Merpro at bay until the introduction of substitute Scott Graham. The ‘Hippo’ soon made himself at home in the muddy conditions, with a sublime back-heel first touch, into the path of the galloping Jordan RAUSCH, who took one touch and fired in a brilliant 18 yard shot low past the ‘keeper in the 75th minute. A superb equalising goal.
Merpro again came close a couple of minutes later, when Christie latched onto a defensive clearance to pump a lofted 30 yard shot back at goal only for the ‘keeper to save well.
Merpro finally went ahead following a storming wing run by Whyte, who lofted in a cross for Craig Allan but, as he was about to collect, a defender cleared with his hand and a penalty was awarded.
Jordan RAUSCH took responsibility for the penalty and fired past the keeper to make it 2-1 for Merpro in the 79th minute. A quick-fire double.
Merpro should have gone further ahead, when Christie slid a pass into the path of Allan to run in on goal, but his normal composure deserted him and he fired wildly over the bar in 82 minutes.
Harleys began to pile on late pressure and the Merpro defence had to put up the barricades to survive.
Merpro sealed the match when Grant Whyte made another decisive flank run to cross expertly into the path for Jordan ‘mini Suarez’ RAUSCH to joyously fire in from 12 yards for his first ever Merpro hat-trick in the 88th minute.
Harleys were difficult, motivated opponents but although not at their best Merpro eventually found their muddy feet to advance into the next round.
Team: Lownie, Murdoch, Whyte, Greig, Pert, G. Allan ( N. Duff), Rausch,Bruce, Christie,Turriff (C. Allan), E. Duff(Graham)
Subs: Ferries, Robertson.