Match report by Mark Gordon.
Montrose were crowned Scottish Women’s Football League Division 2 North champions after edging title rivals Stonehaven by two goals to one at Mineralwell Park on Sunday. The two sides started the day on equal points and equal goal-difference and the game itself proved that there is very little between the teams.
The heavy rain of earlier in the day had stopped by the time the game got underway in Stonehaven although there was a biting autumnal breeze in the air. The home side, knowing that a draw would be enough for them to clinch the title, started off on the front foot.
Lynsey Urquhart had the game’s first chance after six minutes as she raced on to a ball through the heart of the Montrose defence. Urquhart lifted the ball over the advancing goalkeeper only to see her effort bounce wide of the target.
Stoney had the better of the opening exchanges but it was the away side that took a vital lead in the 12th minute. After good work down the left the ball found its way to Charlotte Gammie who sent a right-footed shot low into the bottom corner of the net.
The lead was only to last five minutes however as the home side drew level. Urquhart played a threaded a great pass to play in Elise Smith on the right of the Montrose penalty area. The pass was cut out before it could reach its intended recipient however, the ball was diverted in the bottom corner of the net for the equaliser.
The match became a real battle of attrition in a keenly contested midfield as both sides tried to assert their dominance. Urquhart was providing the home side’s main threat going forward as her fellow number seven, Eilidh Reid, was providing similar from Montrose’s wide areas.
Gammie came close to her second of the match right on half time. A good move from Montrose led to the opening goal-scorer firing in a shot at goal which ended up well over Danielle Imray’s crossbar.
The away side, knowing they had to win the game, started the second half better than they began the first. Player-manager, Reid, continued to threaten on the wing while Gammie was causing problems in attack as the Gable Endies looked for a goal to go in front.
Stonehaven looked to change things by making a double substitution in the 52nd minute with Sykes and Townsend replacing Brown and Johnston. The home side had barely had a chance to settle from those changes when Montrose took a vital lead. A good run by Reid ensured the ball found its way to Gammie. A great bit of footwork from the Montrose number nine gave her the space for a shot which she fired into the top right-hand corner of the Stonehaven net.
Stonehaven looked a little shaken by the goal and Montrose enjoyed a good spell as a result. A free-kick fired straight into the ball and a shot over the bar following a melee in the box were the closest the visitors came to extending their lead.
Montrose were starting to look comfortable as the game entered its final stages and Stonehaven didn’t quite seem to have enough to find an all-important equaliser. The cold October wind again whipped up as Stonehaven finally pushed in front of goal. A Rhona Gordon corner flashed across the Montrose goal-mouth as the minutes ticked down and the visitors suddenly looked vulnerable.
Some good work by Reid on the break managed to take some time off the clock for Montrose as she had the presence of mind to carry the ball into the corner flag in the closing stages.
Both teams had clearly given all they had as tiredness set in and despite the addition of six minutes of stoppage time, Stonehaven couldn’t find the goal that they needed.
There were scenes of celebration at the final whistle as the Montrose players, both on and off the pitch, ran into the centre of the park to get their title party under way.
The title race was a tightly contested affair and it was no surprise that the game played out in similar fashion. Montrose had just a little more on the day though and they deserved the 2-1 victory which saw them crowned Champions in just their second year in existence.