Merpro began New Year duty straight into Scottish Amateur Cup fifth round action, involving their biggest match of the season so far.
Merpro travelled south to face well-renowned Campsie Minerva, from Lennoxtown, who play in the Glasgow Premier Central Amateur League.
Merpro started well and immediately pushed their opponents back with some good midfield play, to get in behind the Campsie defence.
Euan Duff was making some dangerous storming runs on the flank and set up the first clear chance after eight minutes. Dribbling past a couple of players, he ran in on goal and slipped a pass to Campbell Bruce, who fired in a 10-yard shot, but a defender made a stretching block to prevent the opening goal.
Craig Allan was next to come close, lofting a 20-yard shot over the ‘keeper, clipping the bar to safety.
Campsie managed to hit back, winning midfield possession to make a quick forward break and an incisive pass failed to be cleared, leading to an edge of the box free kick in front of the goals. The resultant free kick was clinically curled into the net, with ‘keeper Lownie left reeling, to put the home side ahead, against the initial run of play.
Campsie were now galvanised and, having found their confidence, began to put Merpro under more pressure.
Merpro hit back when Duff pressurised a defender to make a rushed pass. This allowed Campbell Bruce to intercept, round the ‘keeper, and calmly compose himself, to curl a shot into the net in 32 minutes for the equaliser.
Both sides were testing each other without any clear-cut chances. With half-time looming and an even first half looking likely, the home side managed to gain the advantage.
A long ball forward was flicked on by the giant centre forward, with Duff anticipating, but as he tried to cover, a nippy forward nicked the ball to run in and slip a low effort under Lownie with just one first half-minute to play.
Half-time: Minerva 2, Merpro 1
Merpro came out brightly in the second half, forcing their opponents back with good pressing play and creating some anxiety in the home defence.
With the game finely balanced, the home side managed to extend their lead, with the giant Mackie again in the midst. A curling free kick, aimed for the forward, was missed by all, allowing a supporting runner to drift in at the back post and head high into the net from eight yards, in 70 minutes.
It was a blow for Merpro, but they refused to lie down and continued to push forward. The Montrose side were rewarded 10 minutes later when a fine defence-splitting pass allowed Scott Graham to escape his marker to run in on goal. Holding off a covering defender, he unselfishly slipped a pass along the front of goal for the supporting Lee Paton to fire a low drive under the ‘keeper from 12 yards.
Merpro and their supporters were now rampant and pushed forward, with Whyte and Ferries causing some concerns. The home side were being pegged back but, despite the late Merpro onslaught, were able to hold firm and seal the victory which moved them into the last 32 of the national competition.
Merpro can be encouraged by their Scottish Cup run and, despite the tantalisingly frustrating result, showed they can match a respected opponent with aims of winning the competition.
MERPRO : Lownie, Murdoch (Ferries), Whyte, C. Allan, N. Duff, G. Allan, Rausch (Paton), Greig, Christie, Bruce (Graham), E. Duff. Substitutes: Stephen and Turriff.