Today’s destination was Montrose.
Just 40 minutes away on the train, it was a breeze compared to trips earlier in the season. In terms of travelling time, I’m fairly sure that Montrose required the least of any ground I have visited so far, apart from Pittodrie.
For all the miles covered, and hours spent travelling, it was nice to wind down with a short trip.
I have become more familiar with this train than I had expected to. I would have to look back to get an idea of how often I have been on this exact route this season, but it’s sure to be a fair number.
I know the stops off by heart, I know the landmarks and I know when my phone will, inevitably, lose signal.
I used to enjoy people watching on the train, observing the amusing quirks that we all share. At this point, it feels like I’ve seen it all.
The train service might have taken a beating from politicians in the last year, but I have almost nothing but positive things to say about my experience. The staff have been friendly and helpful, even in the face of some rather angry passengers. Those passengers, with whom train travel is a shared experience, share an understanding. Our fate on the train is both linked, and outwith our control.
With just one final long trip to Motherwell to come next week, public transport has not once let me down.
People might moan about it, and when I was delayed by hours on the way back one Saturday evening, I felt like moaning too, but it works.
I couldn’t help but marvel during the week, when Barcelona overcame PSG in the most remarkable way possible. It was undeniably brilliant. The bit I enjoyed the most was the passion in the stands, on the field and from neutrals all around the world.
We can’t boast the same talent in Scotland, and we probably couldn’t match that particular ending, but there is no lack of passion. We regularly have the wild celebrations, the unbridled joy at a last minute winner. Montrose might not be Barcelona, but to their fans they are just important. When Chris Templeman scores a last minute winner, that is no less important than when Sergio Roberto scored Barcelona’s sixth.
People marvelled at that game, but similar moments of brilliance happen in Scottish football during every year. Whether Edinburgh City winning their first game or Dundee scoring five goals in the first half against Motherwell, there is so much to love.
I’m preaching to the converted here, but if people that prefer to moan would only give Scottish football a chance, they might just find themselves enjoying it.
Anyway, today’s game was between Montrose and Stirling Albion. Two sides that have improved in recent weeks and months, showing that an astute managerial appointment can make a difference. Stewart Petrie at Montrose has his team playing an improved brand of football. Dave MacKay has made some shrewd signings to put his team on the kind of form that wins titles, if maintained over the course of a full season, although it looks like a mid-table finish is more likely.
Links Park is a ground I have been to a few times. Last time I was there, kickoff was delayed due to the large crowd. At that point they were fighting at the very bottom of the league. Things have improved somewhat since then.
The main stand is an impressive size. Both tall, and fairly wide it provides a good number of seats with a decent view of the game.
My favourite thing about the ground is that the supporters switch ends at half time to stand on the terracing their team is shooting towards. Try doing that at the Nou Camp!
The people working at the gate, selling programmes and half time draw tickets are friendly, and seem genuinely pleased to be interacting with their fellow fans. For me, that is the kind of experience which makes watching lower league football such a pleasure.
The game got off to a flying start when Stirling Albion took the lead after just five minutes. A neat through ball found its way to Darren Smith, who rounded the keeper and left himself a tap in. It was too easy, and meant Montrose were up against it early on.
After that the remainder of the first half was even. Both sides created chances, with a Montrose half volley hooked inches wide of the post.
Credit too, to the Montrose goalkeeper, who just about managed to keep the ball out as it bounced directly in front of him from a corner. A Montrose fan sitting near me remarked that it was probably for the best that there is no goal line technology at Links Park…
At half time, Stirling Albion deserved their lead as they had, ultimately taken their chance. Montrose had possession, but rarely threatened the Binos goal.
In the second half, Stirling Albion were able to extend their lead further.
First, an impressive header from a corner saw Ross Kavanagh beating almost everyone from the edge of the box. A home defender got his head on the ball, but he couldn’t prevent it from going in.
Montrose pushed forward, and when Stirling Albion had a man sent off for a second yellow, it looked like they might have had a chance. They kept putting pressure on the away side, but didn’t manage to break through the away side’s stubborn defence.
With The Mo pushing up the pitch, the Binos were able to score a third goal with an incisive counter attack. At that point it was game over.
There was, though, time for a consolation goal for the home side.
Kerr Hay curled the ball in to the net with his left foot, from range. It was probably the best goal on the day, but it ultimately didn’t matter.
Having diced with the trap door in recent years, Montrose look to be in a safer position this season. They are sitting comfortably in mid-table, and having had a change of management midway through the campaign, they will surely be happy to finish the season without any drama at the bottom of the table.
Perhaps, with their new manager in charge, and a slightly increased level of optimism, the future will prove to be brighter for the Angus club.
Montrose 1 Stirling Albion 3