Scorers: Hilton (22) and Pignatiello (80); Montrose – Masson (76) and Callaghan (78)

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THREE goals in five minutes towards the end of the second half ultimately meant Stranraer and Montrose had to settle for a share of the spoils.

The Blues took the lead midway through the first half through James Hilton but Montrose turned the game on its head late on.

Terry Masson pulled them level before Liam Callaghan’s clever turn and finish seemed to have given the visitors all three points.

However, the hosts hit back quickly with Carlo Pignatiello ensuring both teams would begin the league season with a point.

Stevie Farrell was missing Cameron Elliott and Grant Gallagher through injury, with Scott Robertson sidelined due to suspension.

However, he was able to welcome back Mark Stewart and Leon Murphy, with David Dangana making his first start for the club.

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Montrose had already had the ball in the net before Stranraer opened the scoring.

Ross Campbell, player/assistant manager for the visitors, put the ball in the net but referee Lloyd Wilson had already blown for an infringement.

Then, the hosts took the lead with a fine move.

Hilton – goalscorer against Berwick earlier this season – got the ball moving and found Stewart.

The experienced striker rolled his man and fired in a cross along the six-yard box with Hilton continuing his run and firing home from close range.

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Montrose should have been level moments later but Matty Allan missed the ball completely before Graham Webster blasted high and wide.

Stranraer’s game plan would be disrupted just after the half hour.

Kerr Waddell’s crude challenge on Stewart signalled the end of the striker’s afternoon, with Pignatiello brought on in his place.

The remaining good chance in the first half would come from the hosts and would come from a set piece.

Adam Cummins had scored twice from set plays last weekend against Ayr and this time put his header back across the goal from Hilton’s corner.

Dangana did his best to divert it goalwards but hooked his overhead kick over the bar.

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Stranraer seemed content to keep Montrose at arms length for much of the second period.

Stewart Petrie’s men saw plenty of the ball but the Blues packed the defence and Max Currie had little to do.

With 17 minutes left, Stranraer were dealt a second injury blow of the afternoon when Jordan Allan went down under another hefty challenge, with the left back having to go off clutching his shoulder and collarbone.

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The game was turned on its head in a crazy three-minute spell.

Stranraer failed to deal with a throw in on the left and, after a spot of defensive confusion and miscommunication, Masson was on hand to capitalise and bundle the ball over the line.

Like a shark smelling blood, Montrose went for the winner and must surely have thought they had found it just three minutes later.

Blair Lyons did well to set up Callaghan and he rolled the defender before curling home from barely 12 yards out.

Stranraer must have wondered what hit them but there would be one more twist in the tale as the Blues showed real character to salvage a point.

Hilton and substitute trialist Robert Jones were involved before the ball came back to Pignatiello, whose deflected shot beat Allan Fleming.

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Mixed feelings would be a fair description for the Stranraer faithful.

Disappointed at conceding two quickfire goals, with the first not an advert for great defending, but equally they demonstrated real spirit to hit back and grab a point.

Stranraer: Currie, J Allan (Murphy 74), Cummins, Hamilton, D Smith, Hamill, McManus, Hilton, Thomson, Stewart (Pignatiello 32), Dangana (Jones 72).
Not used: I Smith and Burgess.

Montrose: Fleming, M Allan (Lyons 60), Steeves, Dillon, Waddell, Masson, Webster, Cregg (Watson 67), R Campbell (McLean 70), Callaghan, Milne.
Not used: I Campbell, Skelly, Rennie and Lennox.

Referee: Lloyd Wilson
Attendance: 343
HT: 1-0

Photos: Bill McCandlish