Keena's free kick wizardry and last-gasp Ruth leveller salvage a point for Falkirk

Montrose 2, Falkirk 2

Saturday, 25th September 2021, 4:58 pm
Updated Monday, 27th September 2021, 10:00 am
Robbie Mutch saves the first-half penalty from Graham Webster (picture by Michael Gillen)

Falkirk snatched a last-minute equaliser in a thrilling game at Links Park to break their sequence of four league losses on the trot.

Seb Ross’ cross from the right swirled and swerved towards goal and Michael Ruth just got the final touch as the Bairns came back from 2-0 down.

Graham Webster had hit two goals for Montrose and also saw a first-half penalty saved by Falkirk ‘keeper Robbie Mutch.

Some enforced changes meant Falkirk head coach Paul Sheerin had to reshuffle the side which met Dumbarton last week – Samuel Ompreon was out injured and Leon McCann also sat this one out, while Gary Miller dropped to the bench. Ryan Williamson, Cammy Williamson and Declan McDaid were in the starting XI.

A lively opening spell saw Aberdeen loanee Michael Ruth test Allan Fleming in the Montrose goal with a fourth-minute shot, while Craig McGuffie fired narrowly over soon afterwards. James Keatings, on loan at Links Park from Raith Rovers, was free in the box after seven minutes but his glancing header went wide.

Ryan Williamson and Falkirk stopper Robbie Mutch were a touch irresolute over a 16th-minute pass back but got away with it, as Craig Johnston and Blair Lyons lurked nearby to snap up any error for Montrose.

Falkirk missed a gilt-edged chance to take the lead on 19 minutes when McDaid set up Ruth from close range with a perfect left-hand cross but Fleming made a brilliant save from point-blank range.

On 24 minutes, Montrose were presented with a splendid opportunity after a push in the box on Andrew Steeves as a corner kick was coming over. Graham Webster fired the resulting penalty kick low and firm but Mutch dived well to his left to save it.

The excitement continued soon afterwards when Charlie Telfer of Falkirk rattled a 25-yard free kick against the crossbar.

Montrose claimed a Falkirk hand was used in the penalty area to block an overhead kick on the half hour by Keatings but the appeals were disregarded.

The home side had a major escape when Aidan Nesbitt had a chance following a blunder by Lewis Milne and Montrose’s Kerr Waddell thundered the ball against his own post while trying to put it clear. Ruth was only inches wide with an angled shot for Falkirk moments later.

Gary Miller of Falkirk came on to replace the injured Ryan Williamson six minutes from half time.

Three minutes into the second half, there was another spectacular near miss. Falkirk’s McDaid surged forward with a long ball and crossed perfectly for Ruth, whose effort crashed off the bar and on to the line, Geoff Hurst-style, but agonisingly didn’t cross it.

Aidan Keena replaced Aidan Nesbitt for the Bairns seconds later, while Waddell received a yellow card on 51 minutes for hauling down Ruth during a promising run on the right flank.

Stewart Petrie’s men opted for a double substitution on 57 minutes, with Keatings making way for Mark Whatley and Lyons being replaced by Sean Dillon.

A couple of minutes later, the deadlock was broken when Falkirk looked to have cleared their lines after a Montrose attack but hadn’t quite managed it and Webster atoned for his earlier penalty miss by rifling home a right-foot shot.

Seconds afterwards, Paul Dixon showed the Falkirk threat was still there by heading inches over the top from a free kick. Seb Ross came on after 66 minutes for Cammy Williamson. Matty Allan of Montrose was booked for protesting at a 71st-minute Falkirk free kick.

Montrose stretched their lead in 75 minutes after another Falkirk error. Brad McKay’s pass went straight to the advancing Lewis Milne and he passed to Webster, who thumped it high into the net.

Home sub Dillon was cautioned soon afterwards for a foul – and Falkirk hauled themselves back into the game on 78 minutes as Keena superbly smashed home the ensuing free kick to make it 2-1.

Aidan Quinn took over for Montrose at the expense of Waddell in 84 minutes, five minutes ahead of Falkirk’s late leveller.

Montrose – Fleming, Ballantyne, Steeves, Allan, Waddell, Masson, Webster, Milne, Keatings (Whatley 57), Johnston, Lyons (Dillon 57). Subs (not used) – Watson, Brown, Antoniazzi, Lennox.

Falkirk – Mutch, R. Williamson (Miller 39), Dixon, Hetherington, Ruth, Nesbitt (Keena 49), McGuffie, Telfer, McKay, C. Williamson (Ross 66), McDaid. Subs (not used) – Martin, Hall, Krasniqi, Wilson.

Referee – Dan McFarlane.

Attendance – 918.