This weekend’s match choice was a toss up between Montrose at home or Brechin City at home so either way we were due East!
Towards the end of the week it was decided that we would take in Montrose hosting Annan Athletic and it proved almost an inspired choice as Brechin’s game versus East Fife was called off due to drainage problems with the pitch.
After recent car repairs and MOT the ‘tour bus’ was in good shape to take us the two and a half hour distance to Links Park. It was overcast and pretty cold which meant there would be likely be calls from the kids in the latter stages of the game to leave early, and this proved to be the case!
There was a couple of occasions when I thought the satnav wifey was taking us off course through some dodgy looking back roads but we got there with about twenty minutes before kick off. Not for the first time we got street parking literally outside the ground and it is something I could really get used to!
There was some kind of Irn Bru sponsored kick about at the small space outside the home turnstiles and there were some people hanging around watching while others headed into the ground. We went for a wander round the main stand and to the away end and it was strange to find no sign of life! No stewards, no Police and no fans! In fact the only person nearby was the Annan Athletic coach driver lying back with his feet up. He made a wise choice to stay on the bus and not watch the visitor’s performance!
Once you pay in at the turnstiles you’re met with people selling the match programme and half time draw tickets. First port of call for us though was the toilet! We then opted to walk round the perimeter of the ground then take up a position behind the goal in the home end covered terrace to watch the game.
I saw Montrose play Clyde in November last year and they have a couple of decent players. Since then their most notable acquisition in the January transfer window has been the signing of Martin Boyle on loan from Dundee and he was to play a significant part in this game.
In the away camp, I’d have to concede that with the exception of Scott Chaplain who I remember seeing play for Partick Thistle a few years ago, I’m not very familiar with any of the Annan playing staff. Both clubs have the most up to date astro pitches in their respective grounds so neither team had a particular advantage and anticipated a lot of the play to be on the deck.
Just before kick off the club mascot “Monty” mingled with the fans and a lot of the crowd in the main stand chanted his name which resulted in, him or her playing to the gallery so to speak!
The game got under way and within a few minutes there was a short sleet storm! Having already stated I thought there might be a bit of football played on this surface, the ball was surprisingly in the air an awful lot of the time, especially in the early stages. The only attack of note in the first ten minutes was from Montrose when a low twenty five yard free kick by Jamie Winter was spilled by goalkeeper Craig Summersgill before being cleared by a defender.
The opening goal came in the eleventh minute and it was the start of what proved to be a catastrophic first half for the Annan keeper, Summersgill. A long high pass from Winter had the keeper run out of his 18 yard box and then misjudge the bounce of the ball, leaving Martin Boyle to collect and slide the ball into the empty net.
Four minutes later it was 2-0 and what a shocking blunder by the big number one. It reminded me of the famous Nottingham Forest v Manchester City game from the late 80’s when Forest’s Gary Crosby mugs Andy Dibble in the City goal to score! Thinking it’s safe to roll the ball out, Summersgill is unaware that Martin Boyle is lurking behind him and as soon as the ball is released from his hands, Boyle nips in front and puts the ball into the empty net! The keeper had his head in his hands and probably wished the ground would open up for him!
Annan could hardly string two passes together and although they had a half chance from Michael Daly, they went further behind in the twenty sixth minute when they conceded a penalty. From the left wing a ball into the six yard box saw defender, McNiff go right through the onrushing Ricky McIntosh leaving the referee, Don Robertson no option but to award a spot kick. Jamie Winter stepped up to finish low and hard into the left hand corner of the goal and leave Summersgill with no chance to make it 3-0 to the hosts.
Although the penalty could have given Boyle the opportunity of getting a hat trick, he only had to wait another ten minutes to achieve this. Montrose cut open the Annan defence once again and Boyle found himself in on goal at a difficult angle to fire low into the bottom right hand corner for 4-0.
Just before the fourth goal was scored we took the time to watch with intrigue, one Montrose fan sing and clap away to himself with his own repertoire for a good twenty minutes! Egged on by the fans further behind it was absolutely comical with him belting out classics like “we’ll walk a million miles for one of yer goals oh Mo-ntrose!”
With the game effectively over as a contest at half time, Annan made a double substitution with Ally Love and David Murray replacing Harry Monaghan and Michael Daly. It never made any difference as within seconds of the restart Montrose added a fifth goal.
Some woeful defending by Annan saw them fail to clear the ball despite a couple of opportunities to do so. Under little pressure, the full back sliced his attempted clearance only to the edge of the eighteen yard box and that man again, Martin Boyle placed a low shot past the unsighted Summersgill for his fourth goal of the afternoon.
I know the Annan players will have switched off, but not long into the second half, Montrose had a corner and incredibly despite scoring four of the five goals not one defender even attempted to man mark Boyle! From the resultant kick the latter fired just over the bar.
The game kind of petered out a bit and the best Annan could offer was a scuffed shot from Ally Love that went well wide of the post. Both teams had various spells of possession but the ball was up and down the wings but never really led to any creative attacks.
With twelve minutes to go, the home side’s Jamie Winter fired a shot at goal which curled away from the post at the last minute. A couple of minutes later Annan got themselves a consolation goal when both the subs combined to conjure up one of the very few positives from this game. Murray’s free kick on the left was squared for Love to fire past home keeper, John Duncan.
There was nothing really of note after that and Montrose finished convincing and comfortable 5-1 winners . I don’t think you could count the Annan fans on one hand so it was predominantly home fans who made up the crowd of 425 and who went home by far the happier. We got to the car and started the long journey back down the road, ironically passing Arbroath’s Gayfield ground which is on the radar for a visit and is only a short distance from Links Park.
This was a decent day out and was quite impressed with Links Park. The set up is quite similar to Stranraer’s Stair Park in that the main stand is built very similar and with the small covered terrace behind the home goal. Across from the main stand and behind the other goal there is standing room and you get a good view of the game from just about anywhere here.
The only criticisms i’d have are relatively minor in fact they’re more suggestions than criticisms. I had contacted the club the week by e-mail the week before this fixture to ask if they had a parent and child gate as the admission prices weren’t jumping out at me on the club website however, I didn’t get a reply.
Six goals and a reasonable game proved good value on this occasion but would suggest that to charge £23 for an adult and two concessions is excessive for a 3rd Division fixture. You can get into Scottish Second Division games for considerably less than that figure.
When the half time whistle went the substitutes of both teams came onto the park and warmed up and this was effectively the only activity during the interval. Outwith the half time draw being read out I can’t recall any announcements over the tannoy about up coming events, fixtures or the half time scores in the other divisions.
It is more common these days for people to check their phone for scores elsewhere but there is still a traditional tendency for a hush to descend over the crowd when the scores are read out at a ground! This is of course only a personal opinion but maybe something for the club to take on board.