Berwick Rangers 0 Montrose 1Even at this stage of the season the result of this game was most important. Firstly it completed the first round of nine fixtures which is when the league table starts to take shape and secondly if Berwick had won they would have gone above Montrose into a play-off position. Conditions were fine and dry with a breeze but at Berwick that is not unusual nor is the long grass and the sloping pitch but conditions are the same for both teams.
Montrose made three changes from last week with Dillon, Watson and Fraser starting in place of Webster, Templeman and McLaren. Clearly they were tactical changes in view of the opposition and the playing surface and we are getting used to such sensible changes from Manager Petrie. It was Fleming in goal with a back three of Allan, Dillon and Iain Campbell with wing backs Steeves and Ballantyne using pace up and down the flanks. Masson and Callaghan continued in midfield and were joined by Watson to shore things up in the centre of the park. Up front were Johnston and Fraser both of whom have pace to use against big defenders such as Scullion whereas Templeman might not have been quite as effective in such conditions. Webster, McLaren, Fotheringham, Hay, Templeman, Ross Campbell and Ferguson were on the bench. Referee for the day was David Lowe who had an excellent game by largely keeping his cards in his pocket despite a few juicy challenges.
In the first half Montrose kicked uphill in the long grass but the game it has to be said was a midfield stalemate for at least the first fifteen minutes. Berwick huffed and puffed without making an impression on a solid looking Montrose back line whilst The Mo themselves seemed content to play neat football and probe for an opening. The first came when Steeves careered down the left wing and crossed hard and low – it only needed a touch but instead skimmed past the far post. Then Berwick had a long shot well over the bar to remind us they were still in the game. Then Iain Campbell fired a long ball forward and only quick thinking from Robby McCrorie in the Berwick goal cleared the danger as he rushed out to intercept.
A bit of a yawn followed that but then we were awakened by a goal. A long cross field ball sent Cammy Ballantyne down the right and his deep cross found Steeves on the far left. He turned his man and hit a low ball into the mix inside the six yard box for CRAIG JOHNSTON to find the finishing touch from a couple of yards out. Easy to say it was only a couple of yards out but the point is Johnston was in the right place and he has now started to add goals to his game. Nothing further of any great moment happened up to the half time whistle unless you count Gary Fraser being offside as being momentous. So Montrose deservedly went in 1-0 ahead with Berwick having provided very little threat.
We expected Berwick boss Robbie Horn to read the riot act to his players at half time and he probably did as they certainly came out firing but only firing blanks as the Montrose rear guard held firm with Fleming in goal doing his job with ease. As soon as Montrose had weathered the mini storm they cruised back into a rhythm and started to look the better team again although whilst Berwick themselves provided very little threat Iain Campbell rescued Fleming after the latter hesitated and it looked like a stray ball might end up where we didn’t want it to.
Then the substitutions started to come thick and fast as we approached the hour mark. Berwick started the fun by bringing Thomson on for Murrell then almost immediately centre back McKinlay went down off the ball with what looked like a muscle strain so off he went to be replaced by Kieran Stewart. Montrose tried to take advantage whilst Berwick re-grouped and a great move down the left was halted by an offside flag. Berwick then made their third substitution within seven minutes as Andrew Irving came on in place of Chris McDonald. Not to be outdone the Mo started to shake the game up as well. On came Chris Templeman to replace Gary Fraser who had done his running job whilst Temps would do a holding job. Alan Fleming then collected a dangerous looking free kick making it look as if it was an afternoon stroll before Mo made their second change with Graham Webster on for Terry Masson who had put in a solid shift in midfield.
Time ticked by with Sean Dillon marshalling his defence well whilst the Berwick crowd got louder with frustration as their team made little impact. Craig Johnston almost scored again but in saving the Berwick keeper almost carried the ball over the line. To further rundown the clock Montrose made their final change with McLaren on to replace Callaghan who for him had a quiet yet hard working game. It was tactical that McLaren did come on because he provided more up front at a time when Berwick were pressing forward to save the game but a fresh pair of legs up front meant they had to remember to defend as well. The clock continued to run down but Webster was booked for a trip and Berwick sent the free kick high and wide. The game finally fizzled out with Ballantyne fizzing in a shot from range which keeper McCrorie just managed to parry away then as Fleming collected another free kick during his afternoon stroll the referee had seen enough and blew for full time to see the Mo take another three points back to Links Park. 1-0 to the Mo.
An unspectacular game but one Montrose were comfortable with so enough to be happy about as they moved above Stenhousemuir and into second place in the table. If there was a downside it’s that the game wasn’t killed off to ensure no nail biting finish.
Team Lineup & Stats
Saturday 21st October 2017
|5||Kevin McKinlay (s61)
||2||Terry Masson (s71)
|18||Chris McDonald (s64)
|21||Aaron Murrell (s57)
||9||Gary Fraser (s65)
||19||Liam Callaghan (s76)
||7||Graham Webster (s71)
|7||Steven Thomson (s57)
||22||Connor McLaren (s76)
|12||Andrew Irving (s64)
|13||Kieran Stewart (s61)
|20||Sean Brennan (GK)
||10||Chris Templeman (s65)
Stuart Hodge, Jonathan Bell
Montrose - Craig Johnston (30)
Montrose - Terry Masson (69), Graham Webster (82)