BREATHELESS – There’s no other word that can summarise Alloa’s second-half performance against Montrose on Saturday.

For the final game of the season, Alloa knew that a win, coupled with a defeat or draw for Falkirk, would see them finish fifth.

Brian Rice said after the match that was the aim, and the team came out after the interval to blow the opposition away and give Alloa fans a lot to be excited about for next season.

It was fitting that Alloa paid tribute to one of their biggest obstacles to success this season by going down to 10 men in the first half. Andy Graham was shown a straight red card for pulling down Elijah Simpson after his headed back pass to PJ Morrison was too soft.

Graham was sent down the tunnel and Graham Webster powered the ball past Morrison, who got a glove on the ball but couldn’t keep it out.

Alloa responded almost instantly with Euan Henderson bringing the teams level. A great piece of play between Henderson and Kevin Cawley saw the veteran’s shot blocked for a corner. Stefan Scougall’s delivery was flicked on by Conor Sammon and Henderson was on hand to prod the ball into the top corner.

There is no doubting Rice is a man of his word. He’s spoken in the past of how he wants to see goals and he wants to enjoy watching his team. Swapping Sammon for Cameron O’Donnell at half-time saw the manager go two up top and push for the three points.

“The gaffer shows a bit of bravery as well,” Mark Durnan said after the match. “Last game, we’re not going to go out and just sit back and let a team attack us.

“So we change the shape, go with two up front and leave ourselves a little bit short in the middle but we know with Ross [MacIver] and Hendo they’ve got the pace to hurt anybody in this league and they showed it.

“They absolutely blew them away.”

And blow them away they did. A smart turn by Henderson opened the pitch up for him to drive at Montrose’s defence and a clever give and go with MacIver saw the Hearts loanee one-on-one with Aaron Lennox. He made no mistake in slotting the ball past the keeper.

That was on 46 minutes and 32 seconds.

On 48 minutes and 17 seconds, Henderson was celebrating another goal. MacIver wanted the ball more and jumped higher to win the flick on to Henderson, who gave the ball back, turned and sprinted. MacIver ate up the ground before poking another through ball for Henderson to run onto. He opened his body up and calmly side footed the ball into the far corner.

Alloa were relentless. Great skill by Cawley meant he had a yard to drill the ball across goal and Lennox had to get down smartly to save. Durnan tested the keeper with a header and Scougall’s deflected shot hit the post. Henderson had an effort on target too.

The fourth wasn’t far away. A clearance by Craig Howie was pounced upon by MacIver and he waited for the defender to commit before poking it past him and racing onto the ball. All he had to do was square it for Henderson and he did, with the youngster scoring his 17th of the season to sign off on a terrific loan assignment at Alloa.

In the end, despite a few attempts on goal, Montrose couldn’t cut the deficit. Alloa bowed out for the 2021-22 campaign with a free flowing, entertaining and exciting performance that will leave Alloa fans desperate for the next season to begin.

Rice, whose contract extension until 2024 was announced last week, has completely transformed this club, with a brighter output on the pitch yielding five wins, three defeats and two draws from his first 10 games in charge.

The summer transfer window will be huge for the club with four of Saturday’s starting 11 – Morrison, Mouhamed Niang, MacIver and Henderson – all loanees. Rice brought Morrison and MacIver in and both have performed admirably for the club, so that should bring optimism.

There’s also the matter of who stays and who goes. Players such as Ben Armour and Jordan Armstrong are more than likely to depart, having had next to no game time. Alan Trouten, a much loved player, has hardly played with injuries taking their toll.

Rice was due to have the players in on Tuesday night after Advertiser Sport went to print. Steven Buchanan, a player from the 20s team, and Scougall are already signed on for next season.

A season that looked like it could have ended in disaster has instead ended with a lot of hope. The hard work begins now.

ALLOA: Morrison, Howie, Graham, Durnan, Church, Niang (Armstrong), Cawley, Scougall (King), MacIver, Henderson (Riley-Snow), Sammon (O’Donnell). UNUSED: Hutton.