The Blues brightened an already sunny day when they beat a lively Montrose side.
Montrose appeared to have a simple game plan, soak up pressure, bypass the midfield and send long hopeful balls forward to the lightning fast Martin Boyle to chase. Not Barcelonaesque or pleasing on the eye but it almost paid dividends as the diminutive striker found himself one on one with David MacGregor, but the experienced Stranraer centre back did enough to force the forward wide and although he still managed to find strike partner Garry Wood, Frank McKeown slid in to knock the ball out for a corner with Wood looking to pull the trigger on a shot at the home goal. Douglas Cameron took the resultant flag kick and it looked a comfortable catch for the Blues number one David Mitchell but surprisingly he fumbled, the ball broke loose and a stramash ensued with the home defence eventually shepherding the ball clear and saving the home keepers blushes.
Despite this momentary faux pas it was Stranraer who continued to show with Borris and Malcolm forging an instant understanding up front and it was the former who engineered Stranraer’s best early opportunity as he flicked the ball up and struck a half volley that bounced off the Montrose post with Michael Andrews beaten.
Stranraer had the ball in the net after 11 minutes when a move involving half the team resulted in Malcolm poking home from close range but the enclosure side referee’s assistant deemed the flame haired hitman to have been in an offside position. The home team continued to stream forward in wave after wave of fast one touch play attacks from Sean Winter, Taggart and Borris but unfortunately for those of a blue persuasion the centre eluded both Moore and Malcolm. The eye catching Borris was then involved in a passage of one two’s with Chris Aitken that took Stranraer well into Montrose territory but Aitken sclaffed his shot on goal and another chance was gone. At the other end Boyle was ensuring Stranraer’s defence could not take the Saturday off as he ploughed a lone furrow for Montrose’s offence, Taggart and MacGregor stopping shooting opportunities in consecutive attacks.
It was then the visiting keeper’s time to grab the limelight in the 25th minute, Taggart passed to Borris who in turn found Moore, ‘Mr Stranraer’ rolled back the years as he swivelled, turned on a sixpence and struck a fine goal-bound strike but to the disbelief of the striker aiming to reach a 100 goals for the club Andrews, Scotland’s a former under 21 International goalkeeper threw himself the length of his goal-line to palm the ball past for a corner.
Boyle had a guilt edged opportunity to grab a shock lead for the Gable Endies ten minutes before the break as Jamie Winter found him free on the edge of the box; he fired a shot past the onrushing Mitchell but past the upright and wide. It was a similar tale in front of the Montrose goal as a sloppy headed back-pass by Smart was pounced on by Stranraer’s top scorer Malcolm but his shot was parried away by Andrews, much to the relief of the tall centre half.
Despite their entertaining play and a plethora of chances the home team and promotion candidates were destined to go in at the interval one nil down. The scorer, who else? Martin Boyle as on the stroke of half time he latched onto a speculative strike by Wood to fire home from 6 yards, his fifteenth goal of the season.
As the second half took shape the late first half reversal appeared to have knocked some of the confidence from Stranraer as much of the play began to become laboured and frantic, with little sign of the intricate sharp moves that had been pleasing on the eye in the first period . Nerves were calmed as the match approached the hour mark Aitken found Michael Moore lurking on the edge of the penalty area with a deft flighted pass, the bald hitman, calmly lifted the ball over Andrews who had rushed from his goalmouth and the ball nestled in the far corner of the net.
Home fans did not have long to wait to use their vocal cords in pleasure again as Stranraer took the lead seven minutes later, Stirling who was becoming more and more influential as the game progressed cut out a sloppy pass by Wood mid-way in his own half, he powered forward leaving the Montrose players in his wake and played in Craig Malcolm. There was to be no heroics this time from the young stopper as the Stranraer centre coolly slotted the ball home for his fifteenth of the season.
From this juncture Stranraer regained their composure, Stirling in particular picking passes at will and mopping up any loose ball with ease. With 15 minutes left Stuart McColm replaced Moore, his extra pace a new threat for the Montrose rear guard and in one such show of speed a rangy run and cross down the left saw Malcolm stretching every sinew to get his head to the ball but unfortunately he was inches from a clean contact. The tiring Borris who can be pleased with his home debut was replaced by Nathan Shepherd and Aitken gave way to John Kane late in the game. Stranraer supporter’s hearts were in their mouths with two minutes left as a ball into the Stranraer box bobbled about and was latched onto by Stephen McNally on the volley but Mitchell turned the ball away.
There was to be late drama as experienced centre back Jonathan Smart saw red for holding on to Stephen Stirling as the midfielder galloped forward. In stoppage time Stranraer scored their third goal and more importantly secured the three points when Craig Malcolm intercepted Winter’s cross cum shot to fire home his second of the afternoon.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Taggart, Steven Noble, David MacGregor, Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken (John Kane 84), Sean Winter, Stephen Stirling, Michael Moore (Stuart McColm 74), Craig Malcolm, Ryan Borris (Nathan Shepherd 79). Subs Not Used: Dean Agnew, Ryan Marshall
Goals: Moore 58, Malcolm 65, 90
Montrose: Michael Andrews, Stephen McNally, Douglas Cameron, Alan Campbell, Jonathan Smart, Jonathan Crawford, Lloyd Young, Jamie Winter (Terry Masson 71), Martin Boyle, Scott Johnston (Steven McPhee 75), Garry Wood. Subs Not Used: Sean Crighton, David McGowan, Sandy Wood
Booked: Smart, Wood
Sent Off: Smart
Goal: Boyle 45
Referee: G Hilland