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Part-time Montrose were 45 minutes away from one of Scottish football’s greatest upsets

Montrose were 1-0 up at half-time in the 1975 League Cup semi-final against Rangers at Hampden Park in 1975.

It was the night part-time Montrose FC were 45 minutes away from reaching the Scottish League Cup Final.

Montrose had already knocked out a Hibernian team containing stars like Pat Stanton, Arthur Duncan and Joe Harper at the quarter-final stage following a 75-yard winning goal from defender Les Barr which saw the players pocket a £75 bonus.

It set up a semi-final on October 8 1975 against Rangers, who would end the season having won their first domestic treble under Jock Wallace.

Derek Johnstone in action for Rangers during the 1975 League Cup semi-final at Hampden.

Barr put Montrose ahead a minute before half-time, and one of the greatest shocks of all time looked on the cards.

Steve Doyle

Montrose FC historian Steve Doyle said the season was remarkable due to the fact that although there were only 26 league games the Gable Endies actually played 22 cup games that season including the Spring Cup which was introduced to make up more fixtures.

Les Barr scores from the penalty spot in 1975.

He said: “I was at the game that balmy night at Hampden and that season and the mid-1970s in general to me were the golden era.

“We’ve won lower division championships since and that was great but that Hampden occasion for me stands out and is unlikely to be repeated, but we live in hope.

“Montrose would surely have no chance – would they?

“Well anyone thinking it would be one way traffic were about to have their eyes opened by half-time.

“Montrose were 1-0 up thanks to a Les Barr penalty and frankly it could have been more.

“In the second half we hit the post, Stuart Markland got in the way of a goal bound effort from Bob Livingstone and Derek Parlane raced downfield and equalised.

“That was the turning point.”

Derek Parlane.

Rangers turned on the style after the break and ran out 5-1 winners, with goals from Derek Parlane, Derek Johnstone, Alex Miller, Ally Scott and Sandy Jardine.

Steve said: “If a second Montrose goal had gone in I think we would have won.

“The massed Rangers fans woke up and finally ran out 5-1 winners with some late goals.

“It was Montrose’s night however and nobody was going to change that.

“Rangers were packed full of full-time international players and Montrose did well to compete but that equaliser by Parlane was a hammer blow and sapped the adrenaline out of the Montrose lads.

“That was the reason we lost the game but won the hearts and minds of most that night by our gutsy performance against the odds.

“Some years later I was chatting to a Rangers player who played that night and I asked him what manager Jock Wallace said to his players at half-time.

The match took place at Hampden in October 1975.

“Ignoring the ‘adjectives’ he said Rangers must stop playing the ball through the middle where big D’Arcy was winning everything.

“Instead they were to use speed down the flanks and push the attacking Montrose full-back into retreat to eliminate the threat particularly of Les Barr.

“His strategy worked but equally there can be no argument that a full-time club like Rangers whose fans outnumbered those from Montrose many times, would eventually prevail.

“They did, but the final 5-1 scoreline was harsh on the Mo.”

A place in Europe

That same season Montrose were realistically within 90 seconds of qualifying for the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

“In the Scottish Cup we took Hearts to a second replay after the Jam Tarts last gasp equalisers in both the first two games,” said Steve.

“Even in the third game we were 1-0 up and it went to extra time.

“If we had won we would have played Dumbarton in the semi-final and as we’d already won 6-0 away at Boghead Park it might have been Montrose who faced Rangers in the final and thus qualified for Europe as runners-up but instead in was Jammy Hearts who were in Europe!

“As things were Rangers had already qualified for the European Cup so the Scottish Cup finalists would have been in the Cup Winners’ Cup – and so it was.

“It should have been Montrose playing Napoli over two legs the following season.”

Action from the 1975 League Cup semi-final between Montrose and Rangers at Hampden.

When former manager Alex Stuart now looks back, he can’t help but wonder if the goal against Rangers came just a little early.

“There was really nothing between the teams when we came in at half-time,” he said.

“We’d gone into the match with no fear because getting to a semi-final was a tremendous bonus.

“But taking the lead probably gave both teams something to think about.

“I remember wishing there had been no half-time break, and we could have just played a straight 90 minutes!

“Half-time gave our lads time to realise we had something to hold on to, and I knew Rangers manager Jock Wallace would have a few words to say to his team!

Jock Wallace.

“It was an easy team-talk to give because I just asked for more of the same.

“At that point, I did consider that we might at least get a draw and take it into extra-time.

“I have to give great credit to our lads.

“They played out of their skins for the whole match.

“In 11 years as a player with Dundee, I’d played at all of the big grounds.

“That sort of occasion, however, was completely new for my lads.

“I’d taken guys like Les Barr, Dennis D’Arcy and Harry Johnston from amateur and junior clubs.

“They took the opportunity and became very good, established players.

“But at that time, they’d only have been to Hampden to play Queen’s Park.

“Rangers had real quality in their ranks, and their superior fitness definitely made a difference as the game wore on.

“But we could be proud of the way we played and giving them a real fright, even if it was just for half of the game.”

Montrose finished the season in third place by winning 12, drawing six and losing eight with 53 goals scored and 43 conceded.

The Gable Endies were the 13th highest placed team in the land and it was the closest Montrose had ever come to promotion to the top flight.

Montrose through and through

Montrose manager Stewart Petrie alongside Steve Doyle after the Gables Endies were crowned League 2 champions in 2018.

Steve is from Carlisle but has been a Montrose supporter since the early 1950s.

He recently published a book with all proceeds going to the club which gives complete results season by season going back to 1879 including hundreds of friendly games in the late 1800s.

“When I first started to go to Montrose games in the early 1950s it was from Carlisle with my father as we had relations in Hamilton,” he said.

“The men always went to a footy game on Saturday and the women went shopping or something.

“We invariably went to watch Montrose at places like Hamilton, Clyde, Third Lanark, Queen’s Park in the mid 1950s but to ‘C’ Division games at Kilmarnock, Hibs and Hearts before that, but it didn’t occur to me why the away team was always Montrose.

“All those menfolk sadly died whilst I was still quite young so I never found out why but as the Mo usually ended up losing heavily the Mo just stuck with me and I’ve stuck with them through thin and thin with a few good times in between.

“I like to think my dad at least was a covert Mo fan but I’ll never know for sure.”

Driving test

Steve’s first home game was in 1955 when Montrose got back into ‘B’ Division and he managed to persuade his parents to go on holiday to Montrose for a week to coincide with a home game against Third Lanark.

Steve Doyle with his Montrose book.

He said: “When I reached 17 years old and passed my driving test I immediately started to go to more and more games, mostly away games but to a couple of home games each season by train in the days when you could get there and back in a day by train.

“Nowadays all my trips to games both home and away, I rarely miss a game, are by car.

“Many long journeys such as a 400-mile round trip, crazy I know, but so what?

“The secret is and I learned this through experience, is that because most seasons have been shall we say, a bit thin on wins, the secret is always to save a couple of sarnies for the way back so I have something to look forward to.

“If we actually win then those sarnies are a bonus treat!

“I’ve driven home in the dark, I’ve driven home through snow, fog and annoying diversions but one trip back from a midweek game away at Kilmarnock stands out in my mind. It was a game which I went to by train and could get home by train.

“For some reason at 90 minutes it was a draw and the referee played on and blew the final whistle when Killie scored the winner.

“I missed the last train to Carlisle but got as far as Dumfries then managed to cadge a lift in the guard’s van of a goods train the rest of the way thanks to a kind guard who took pity on me.”

Steve said he has always been and will always be a Montrose fan.

“That wee football club has been part of my life, but there were times after a few successive big defeats I recall thinking to myself, why do I bother,” he said.

“Fortunately I got over it by the next game and I’ve never regretted it.

“I love that football club and have many friends there including ex-players who still keep in touch.

“Lads like Jimmy Kemp from the late 1950s, Brian Third from the 70s, Bob Livingstone, Dennis D’Arcy, the list goes on and on and I must not forget the great managers such as Alex Stuart and Ian Stewart who I’m still very much in touch with.

“Despite the passing decades we are all still part of the Montrose FC family.

“Finally the present board of directors must be praised for their efforts in recent years and not forgetting the Montrose Community Trust who work wonders in the local community and also represent Scotland in that capacity mixing it with the likes of Barcelona, Ajax and Juventus.

“Not bad for a wee club from Angus…”