Stranraer 1, Arbroath 1
Few gave this match much hope of surviving as Stair Park had suffered yet another rain-soaked week.
But with a mounting fixture backlog already facing Stranraer, everyone was delighted the game was on.
Stephen Aitken paired Stephen Stirling and Steven Bell in midfield for the first time, with Sean Winter dropping to the bench.
Arbroath started on the attack but Stranraer’s defensive unit coped easily with early sorties. The Blues also created early chances but Arbroath looked sharp on the counter and this was to prove the case on the quarter hour. Ross Chisholm played an excellent ball in that evaded the home centre-half pairing and Paul McManus at the back post slid in to give his team the lead.
Stranraer were stunned by this early reversal and went in search of an equaliser. A loose ball was hit cleanly by Jamie Longworth, Sandy Wood having to move quickly to block at his near post.
Martin Grehan and Stephen Stirling combined to force a corner from ex-Queens Park fullback Ricky Little. From the corner, another ex-Blue, Alex Keddie, headed high into the air and beyond the penalty box. The ball dropped nicely for Mark Docherty, whose clean strike brought the best out of Wood as he palmed over.
Longworth saw a great opportunity when sent clear from a Gallagher pass, but Wood charged from his goal to boot the ball high over the “Cooshed”.
Many of the Stranraer moves were thwarted time after time by the interventions of Michael Travis and Keddie. Kevin Nicoll committed three fouls in quick succession to try the patience of referee Somers. Little was the first name in the book when he lunged at Docherty, leaving the fullback writhing as the visitors began to put in some agricultural challenges.
Travis, at the heart of the Arbroath defence, was proving a nemesis to Stranraer, blocking everything thrown at him. Docherty went on a rampaging run down the left, cut inside Little and was scythed to the ground, but Mr Somers brandished a yellow card to the Stranraer player.
Sheerin replaced himself with Chris Scott as the second half started.
Andy Stirling found the drier stand side more to his liking as he went on some of his jinking runs, from one such run on the 53rd minute he unleashed a shot from an unusual angle that took Wood unaware but unfortunately found the left hand post.
Steven Bell was replaced by Sean Winter as Stranraer looked to add extra width to their attack, and Arbroath were left to have rare counter-attacks. But McIntosh could have put the final nail in Stranraer’s coffin as he latched on to a speculative forward ball but his shot cannoned off the post.
McKenna, Winter and Longworth were working tirelessly to keep Arbroath under pressure and it was paying dividends as Stranraer moved up a gear. Arbroath still looked dangerous on the rare occasions they ventured upfield but it was all Stranraer, Andy Stirling’s corners and crosses causing the visitors no shortage of trouble.
With 11 minutes to go, Stranraer got a richly deserved equaliser, Docherty, who was man of the match, played the ball to Grant Gallagher and his low drive took a slight deflection off Chisholm and nestled in the bottom corner, a fine way to mark his 150th appearance for the club since signing from Celtic.
Given the results of others in the league, Ayr United and Brechin City both losing, the point gained is another step in securing a play-off spot.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Robertson, Mark Docherty, Scott Rumsby, Frank McKeown, Steven Bell (Sean Winter 55), Stephen Stirling (Adam Forde 76), Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan (David McKenna 66), Jamie Longworth, Andrew Stirling. Subs not used: David MacGregor, Lloyd Kinnaird, Ryan Borris, Chris Fahey.
Goal: Gallagher 79
Arbroath: Sandy Wood, Ricky Little (David Banjo 82), Colin Hamilton, Kevin Nicoll, Michael Travis, Alex Keddie, Bobby Linn, Ross Chisholm, Leighton McIntosh (Kenny Deuchar 86), Paul McManus, Paul Sheerin (Chris Scott 46) Subs not used: Dayle Robertson, Johnny Lindsay, Lari Yao, Lenny Wilson.
Booked: Little, Linn, Nicoll
Goal: McManus 14
Referee: D Somers