Montrose Football Club failed to take three points off Berwick Rangers, in a must-win fixture, and now lie eight points behind their opponents at the bottom of the League 2 table, with six huge games left to play. In a match where a home victory would have seen the gap at the bottom closed to two points, Montrose just never turned up.
After the highs of the last home fixture, the 3 – 0 derby victory over Arbroath, it was back to the normal performance by Paul Hegarty’s side on Saturday. They now face a massive battle to claw back anything, with time running out on what has been a highly disappointing and poor season.
Berwick Rangers deserved the victory in a match between two poor sides but it wasn’t until the ordering off, in 72 minutes, that the match changed in their favour and a quick one-two put the afternoon to bed for Colin Cameron’s side.
Montrose head to East Fife on Saturday, looking to take the points from a side who have comprehensively beaten them three times already this season.
After the defeat by league leaders Albion Rovers, Montrose made three changes to their line-up. Out went Adam Harwood and the injured duo of Ross McCord and Ross Campbell. Into the side came Terry Masson from suspension, Paul Watson and Paul Harkins.
Montrose lined up with McKenzie in goal and Masson and Steeves in the full-back positions. Crawford and Andrews were in central defence. The midfield four consisted of Webster, Cameron, Watson and Scott Johnston with Harkins playing off Garry Wood up front.
On the Montrose bench were Campbell, Banjo, Allan, Moyes, Craig Johnston, Graham and goalkeeper John McCafferty.
Montrose had claims for an early penalty dismissed by referee David Munro after Wood and Webster had worked an opening, with the latter appearing to be tripped, but the referee waved play on.
In the six minutes, Scott Johnston did well to win the ball back on the touchline and found Paul Harkins inside the box but he shot wide.
Berwick Rangers had their first chance in the following minute, when Paul Willis shot low at McKenzie from the edge of the box.
With ten minutes gone, Montrose won a free-kick in a good position when Garry Wood was hauled down by Fairbairn. Unfortunately for Montrose, Paul Watson saw his free-kick hit the visitor’s wall.
Berwick Rangers left-back Scott Maxwell was next to have a go, with a swerving effort from 35 yards out that cleared the Montrose crossbar.
Willis had another shot at the Montrose goal but this time his low effort went wide of McKenzie’s near post.
Winger Paul Willis was proving to be the visitor’s dangerman and in 20 minutes he went on a great run which saw him fire a long-range drive over the crossbar.
Berwick Rangers were keeping up the pressure on a rather flat home side and three minutes later a corner from Willis found the head of Fairbairn but he headed over the crossbar.
The visitors’ Lee Currie became the first booking of the match when he fouled Graham Webster after the Montrose winger had skipped past two challenges. Watson curled over the free-kick but it had too much pace on it and it went out for a bye-kick.
In 27 minutes the visitors should have opened the scoring when Paul Willis skipped around the Montrose challenges, only for McKenzie to tip his shot over the bar.
Four minutes later, Montrose were finally back on the attack and Wood did well to get over a dangerous cross which Andrews missed. In the scramble that followed, the Montrose attack couldn’t force the ball over the line and the chance was gone.
Berwick then won a free-kick when Willis was fouled by Greg Cameron. Fortunately for Montrose, Lee Currie sent his free-kick straight into the arms of McKenzie.
In 35 minutes, Berwick Rangers quickly broke from a Montrose corner-kick and Kyle Wilkie’s shot won them a corner. Currie’s kick found Johnny Fairbairn who headed straight into the arms of McKenzie.
Three minutes before the interval, Paul Willis became the second Berwick Rangers player to be booked, when he dived outside the box trying to win a free-kick, when he was quite clearly not touched by Jonathan Crawford.
Half-time: Montrose 0, Berwick Rangers 0.
Montrose created their best opening of the match in 51 minutes, when a Webster cross was knocked back by Scott Johnston to Terry Masson whose effort was somehow scrambled clear of the six-yard area by a visiting defender.
Three minutes later, Lee Currie knocked the ball down in the box to Willis and his snap shot was well held by McKenzie.
Webster and Steeves then linked up on the left and Watson saw his dangerous lob put behind for a Montrose corner. Watson’s corner found the head of Marvin Andrews but he could only send his effort over the crossbar.
In 58 minutes, Montrose made their first change of the afternoon when David Banjo came on to replace Harkins.
On the hour mark, Blair Henderson had a chance inside the box but he sent his effort wide of the goal when it seemed easier to score.
Two minutes later, Greg Cameron became the first Montrose player to be booked when he fouled Wilkie. Willis took the free-kick but McKenzie again saved Montrose by holding onto the set piece.
In 65 minutes, Graham Webster picked up a soft booking when he held back Wilkie.
Four minutes later, the stalemate was almost broken when Montrose failed to clear the ball and Berwick Rangers captain Lee Currie saw his effort tipped wide of goal by Stuart McKenzie.
From Willis’ corner-kick, Johnny Fairbairn again saw his header go over the crossbar.
The match changed for the worse for Montrose in 73 minutes, when Terry Masson became the ninth Montrose player to be sent off this season. With Henderson breaking clear, the Montrose right-back was left with little option but to hold him back and was red-carded by referee Munro.
When the dust had settled LEE CURRIE stepped up to curl the ball around the wall and into the net for a deserved Berwick Rangers opener.
The visitors quickly rubbed salt into the wound 60 seconds later, when, with Montrose just re-adjusting their defence, Wilkie was allowed to knock the ball across goal for BLAIR HENDERSON to tap the ball home from a yard out.
In 77 minutes, Paul Hegarty made a second change with Jordan Allan coming on to replace Graham Webster.
With ten minutes remaining the visitors made their first substitution when David Gold replaced Kyle Wilkie.
Montrose managed to force another corner-kick through Wood but Watson’s corner was safely held by ex-Montrose goalkeeper Michael Andrews.
In 85 minutes Montrose made a double switch, with Currie and Russell being replaced by Gray and Miller.
The last piece of action, in a highly disappointing afternoon for Montrose fans, came when Craig Johnston came on for his namesake Scott with four minutes left.
Full-time: Montrose 0, Berwick Rangers 2.
MONTROSE – McKenzie, Masson, Steeves, Cameron, Andrews, Crawford, Webster (Allan), Watson, Wood, Harkins (Banjo), S. Johnston (C. Johnston) Subs not used – R. Campbell, Moyes, Graham, McCafferty