Saturday 8 April 2017, 15.00, Station Park
Scottish League Two action between Forfar Athletic and Arbroath.
First against second in the race for promotion between the two Angus rivals and a rare visit to Station Park.
Forfar Athletic were founded in 1885 when the second team of the existing Angus Football Club broke away to form its own club.
They gained admittance to the Scottish Football League in 1921, and began life in Division Two. They were relegated to the new Division Three in 1924-25 and only just escaped further relegation when that league was scrapped, with ¾ of the league being relegated.
Forfar found themselves in the ‘C’ Division, a new third division, when football resumed after the Second World War. Season 1948-49 saw promotion to the ‘B’ Division and they remained in the second division until promotion was won in 1983-84. Season 1985-86 saw them miss out on promotion to the Premier League by one point.
The late 70s and early 80s also saw a couple of good cup runs, reaching the League Cup semi-finals in 1977-78 where they lost to Rangers after extra time, and the Scottish Cup semi-finals in 1982-82, again against Rangers, where they took them to a replay.
They stayed in the First Division until relegation came in 1992. Reorganisation in 1994 saw them drop into a new Third Division, which they won at the first attempt. The ups and downs have continued apace. Relegation in 1995-96, promotion in 1996-97. Relegation in 1998-99, promotion in 1999-2000.
Relegation came again in 2006-07 and the following year they finished bottom of the Third Division. After many managerial appointment and casualties in the 2000s, Dick Campbell was appointed in May 2008. He steered the club to promotion in 2009-10. The following season, they lost out in the play-offs for promotion to the First Division. The lost in the play-offs again in 2012-13 and 2014-15. A poor start to the following season saw Campbell sacked in December 2015. Gary Bollan became the new man in charge and oversaw relegation to League Two at the end of last season.
The club are nicknamed “the Loons” (‘loon’ is a Northern Scots word for a young man.)
Arbroath FC was established in 1878 and they didn’t have to wait long to make their mark on the world of football. After a Scottish Cup tie in 1884 had seen them triumph 4-3 against Rangers, the Glasgow club complained that the pitch wasn’t wide enough and a replay was ordered, which Rangers won 8-1. Although the events were unusual, it was the following year which made them famous.
Arbroath were drawn to play Bon Accord, a side from Aberdeen in the first round of the Scottish Cup. They proceeded to win by 36 goals to nil. A world record.
Their early years were spent in the Northern League and the won the title in 1893. They began playing in the newly formed Central League in 1909, but retained their membership of the Northern League.
When the Central League resumed after the First World War, Arbroath were excluded and they entered the Scottish Alliance, which was composed mainly of reserve teams.
Season 1921-22 saw them in Division Two of the Scottish League. Promotion was achieved in 1935 and they stayed in the top division until the outbreak of the Second World War. On football’s resumption, they were mystifyingly placed in Division Two.
Season 1946-47 saw them reach the semi-final of the Scottish Cup and they reached the League Cup Semi-Final in 1959-60.
Promotion to the First Division came again in 1967-68, but they came straight back down again from the top tier. They went up again in 1971-72, but were relegated in 1974-75, just as the Premier League was formed. A further relegation came in 1980.
The next two decades proved to be very challenging with a number of finishes at the very bottom of the league pile.
A long overdue promotion from Division Three came in 1997-98 and 2001 saw further success as they reached the second tier. Relegation came again in 2003 and 2004, putting them back in the bottom league.
They were unsuccessful in the play-offs in 2005-06 but had more success in 2006-07 when they went back to the Second Division through that route. They went back down through the relegation play-off in 2008-09 before winning the Third Division the following year. A second place finish in 2011 saw play-offs again, but they were to be denied.
Season 2012-13 was most remembered by those from Arbroath for a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park in the Scottish Cup, with Celtic winning the replay by a solitary goal.
The following season saw relegation once again. Arbroath looked a shoe-in for a league win in 2014-15 but blew a big lead then lost out in the play-offs.
Last season saw a terrible start which looked like it would result in possibly dropping out of the Scottish Football League, but former Forfar manager Dick Campbell came in and steered the team to safety.
Arbroath are known as “the Red Lichties” apparently due to the red light that used to guide fishing boats back from the North Sea to the burgh’s harbour.
When Forfar won at Arbroath in February, they went 11 points clear of their rivals at the top of the table. Since then, Arbroath have picked up 17 points from their eight fixtures. Forfar won their first game of those eight in their previous match, at Stirling Albion. So Forfar go into the clash a point clear of Arbroath with five games to go.
Thomas O’Brien and David Cox both miss the game for Forfar due to suspension.
There were 1,564 in attendance, with what looked like more supporting the away side on a scorching day. (Well scorching for Scotland in April anyway).
Spare a thought for the Forfar mascot who had to wear a costume on the hottest day of the year. (Tapping into the famed delicacy of the area, the mascot is a bridie).
Station Park has a stand on one side of the pitch with terracing in front of it. Opposite is covered terracing with uncovered terracing behind both goals. An artificial pitch was installed in 2012.
With the bulk of the Arbroath fans congregated behind one goal, they moved as one after the coin toss meant their favourites would be shooting towards the other goal in the first half.
Arbroath won a corner in the fourth minute and the ball fell to Doris in the box, but his shot was held by Adam in the Athletic goal.
Scott won a free kick for Arbroath in the 8th minute about 20 yards out when he was hauled to the ground by Travis. McCord took the kick, but it was too near Adam who caught the ball.
Denholm found some space for Forfar on the left in 13 minutes and his cross sought out Lister in the middle. Little managed to get in before him to turn the ball behind. Denholm’s corner was met by the head of Travis from close range, but under pressure he couldn’t get power in his downward header and Gomes gathered the ball.
With 15 minutes gone a lofted ball forward by McLaughlin over the top of the Arbroath defence found Lister, but the flag was up as he controlled it well and fired the ball into the corner of the net.
A lofted ball forward by Forfar in 23 minutes was misjudged in the air by Hamilton and Peters took the ball and ran towards goal. With Hamilton trying to catch up, he struck for goal from the edge of the box, but dragged his shot wide.
In 27 minutes it was Peters again shooting for goal, this time his shot going narrowly wide after taking down a pass from Denholm on the edge of the box.
It was Arbroath’s turn to attack a minute later after Doris took the ball down well on the half way line after a Gomes kick out. He fed Kader on the right who sprinted forward and put in a good cross to the back post, but Linn’s volley was high and wide of goal.
McLaughlin mishit a cross into the Arbroath box in 30 minutes and Hamilton continued the miskicks as he put the ball over his own bar.
With 33 minutes gone, Scott robbed Linn of the ball deep in the Arbroath half. He quickly played the ball to Peters. The ball was eventually worked to Denholm who played a clever ball into the box for Peters, but Little’s sliding challenge managed to deflect his shot away from goal.
Swankie burst forward into the Arbroath half in 42 minutes and played the ball left to Lister. He returned the ball to Swankie on the edge of the box who made some space for himself before curling just wide of the far post.
No goals at the break with the home side the better of the two sides, but unable to convert any of their chances.
In the opening minute of the second half, a long ball forward by Forfar found Denholm on the left. He played it inside for Swankie. He struck for goal from around 22 yards and Gomes was down to save the ball in the corner. He let the shot escape from his grasp and Peters was on hand to tap home from a yard out to give Forfar the lead.
In 48 minutes, Peters latched onto a mistake by Travis, but the Arbroath defender managed to get back and get a foot in. The ball fell to Lister, but he miscued his effort. There were claims he had been clipped, but the referee awarded a corner, which looked unlikely.
Travis went into the book in 50 minutes for a foul on Arbroath’s Scott.
Arbroath’s Whatley was yellow carded in 52 minutes for a foul on Swankie, who was booked himself 5 minutes later.
Denholm tried a shot at goal in 61 minutes, but dragged it wide of the Arbroath goal.
Linn swung over an Arbroath corner in 63 minutes which was headed clear to the edge of the box. Scott went to clear and took a heavy touch and lunged at the ball as Kader went to strike it, catching him. There was a bit of a ruckus for a few seconds as players jostled with each other and Arbroath’s Little and Forfar’s Denholm were booked for their part in it. Scott was also booked for the challenge.
Two minutes had passed by the time McCord stepped up to take the free kick after Scott’s challenge and although Adam got a hand to it, he couldn’t keep it out and Arbroath were level.
In 72 minutes, McCord stood over another free kick, this time on the touchline. He crossed into the Forfar box and it was missed by everyone and Adam just managed to scoop the ball off the line. Travis delayed in clearing and Kader sneaked in to poke the ball in, but Bain managed to get himself in the way to block it behind.
McCord played the ball into the Forfar box in 73 minutes and substitute Prunty ran onto the ball but saw his shot stopped by Adam’s legs.
A cross from the right by Linn in 77 minutes saw Adam palm the ball away from the head of McCord and the ball hit Bain and rolled straight into the arms of the grateful keeper.
Munro got his head on a Forfar corner in 83 minutes, but saw it blocked. The ball came back to him and his shot was also blocked.
Forfar broke forward in 85 minutes and Malone played the ball from the left into the feet of Denholm. He pulled it back to Swankie on the edge of the box, but he screwed his shot well wide.
In 86 minutes, Lister showed some great control in the Arbroath box after the away side had failed to clear a corner, but he hit his shot straight at Gomes.
In the final minute, a chipped free kick into the Forfar box was headed down by Doris for Prunty, but Adam claimed the ball at his feet.
Deep into injury time, Whatley fed Linn on the right. His ball to the back post found the head of Doris, but his looping header was just too high.
So it was as you were at the top with Forfar maintaining their one point lead over Arbroath. While Forfar had bossed the first half, the visitors were the better side in the second, but couldn’t find the winner. A draw was probably a fair result in the end. Both keepers would have been disappointed with the goals the conceded.
Denholm and Peters looked most likely for Forfar, while Doris and Hamilton stood out for Arbroath.
Full Time: Forfar Athletic 1 Arbroath 1
Forfar Athletic: 1 Grant Adam, 2 Jamie Bain, 5 Andy Munro, 4 Michael Travis, 3 Chris McLaughlin, 7 Marc Scott, 6 Eddie Malone, 10 Gavin Swankie, 11 Danny Denholm, 9 Jim Lister, 8 Josh Peters (Malone 80). Subs: 12 Lewis Milne, 14 Martyn Fotheringham, 15 Stuart Malcolm, 16 Eoghan McCawl, 17 Michael Kennedy, 18 Aiden Malone, 21 Jason King.
Arbroath: 1 Ricky Gomes, 2 David Gold, 4 Ricky Little, 5 Colin Hamilton, 3 Bryan Hodge, 7 Omar Kader (Ferns 82), 8 Ryan McCord (Malin 86), 6 Mark Whatley, 11 Bobby Linn, 9 Steven Doris, 10 Martin Scott (Prunty 70). Subs: 12 Bryan Prunty, 14 Jassem Sukar, 15 Gav Malin, 16 Matty Smyth, 17 Donald McCallum, 18 Eddie Ferns, 21 Rab Douglas.
Referee: Gavin Ross