- Published: Sunday, 11 October 2015 17:48
Montrose v Rangers League Cup Semi Final 40th Anniversary
Montrose v Rangers, Wednesday 8th October 1976
League Cup Semi-final at Hampden Park
‘IT’S ALL A BIT OF A SURPRISE TO MONTROSE’ read the headline on the inside cover of the matchday programme. Well it might have been to the outside world but not to those in the Montrose camp including the fans in that golden era for our club. To Rangers the game did not and still does not figure too highly in their illustrious history but to Montrose it did and still does because it was and still is the only major semi-final they have ever reached (if you exclude the Forfarshire Cups and the Qualifying Cup).
Most of Scotland expected an easy passage for Rangers into the final and those who were not at the game or listening to live commentary would only think by reading the final score that it was indeed a ‘walk in the park.’ Montrose had other ideas however and after disposing of Raith Rovers, St Mirren, East Fife and Hibernian on the way to the semi-final why would they suddenly collapse in the next challenge? Would they simply be overawed by the occasion – would Rangers overwhelm from the start or would they take it easy – after all they were playing a lower league side. All those sort of questions were answered in the first 45 minutes of the game by a very strong and extremely committed Montrose side astutely assembled by Manager Alex Stuart. Rangers might well have the likes of Peter McCloy, Sandy Jardine, John Greig, Tommy McLean, Derek Parlane and Derek Johnstone in their team but Montrose had Dave Gorman, Les Barr, Stuart Markland, Dennis D’Arcy, Harry Johnston, Charlie Guthrie, Ian Stewart, Kenny Cameron, Malcolm Lowe, Bobby Livingstone, Jimmy Cant and Jim Guyan in their ranks.
Without any sign of nerves at all no doubt down to the usual dressing room psychology from Alex Stuart, Montrose tore into Rangers from the off. It was no fluke that Montrose without a shadow of a doubt had the upper hand by half time yet only a slender 1-0 lead to show for it following a Les Barr penalty in the 44th minute. I recall Rangers fans beside me in the South Stand whistling for half time and I bet Manager Jock Wallace was pleased to get his team into the dressing room only one goal down. Rangers were clearly ‘up’ for the second half but still Montrose penned them back. Defensively they coped with everything and Bob Livingstone hovered out on the left hand touchline for all clearances. His job was to hold up play, distribute and allow the defence to keep their shape and concentration. Midway through the second half, still a goal up Bob Livingstone hit Peter McCloy’s right hand post with a daisy cutter. If that had gone in I doubt if Rangers would have come back. Indeed a couple of very disgruntled ‘Gers fans next to me shouted words I can not repeat here but effectively they meant that if Montrose scored again the ’Gers had no chance. As it happened at that moment the game completely turned on its head. The rebound off the post found its way out wide right where the speedy Derek Parlane took it right down the park and equalised. The Montrose resistance at the back was damaged and it did not take long for a now rampant Rangers to add more goals. To their credit Montrose kept plugging away and Bob Livingstone reminded me not so long ago (when I did a Time Tunnel article on him) that at 1-3 down he hit a shot which had McCloy beaten all ends up but hit our own centre half big Stuart Markland and deflected wide for a goal kick. Poor Stuart had gone up for a set piece and was still in the 6 yard box. A real ‘what if’ situation indeed.
So Montrose were finally defeated by a very harsh 5-1 scoreline due to two very late goals but the nation or at least those who were at the game knew how well the Mo had done and were within 30 or so minutes of a dramatic upset.
When yours truly got to Aunt Margaret’s house in Hamilton after the game she met me in the doorway and said come away in I’ve got dinner ready for you – at after 10.00pm at night. She, bless her was overjoyed that Montrose had beaten the mighty Rangers 1-0! You see she went into the kitchen to make my dinner when Montrose were still winning 1-0 well into the second half and assumed ……… If only.
It was a night to remember, a cup run to remember, that Les Barr goal against Hibernian in the quarter final to remember, that whole squad of Alex Stuart to remember. It was 40 years ago this month. Those of us who were there will never forget, those who were not should never stop believing – it happened and who’s to say ……
I for one was so proud of my team that unforgettable night.