Forfar Athletic 1, Stranraer 2
Victories against Forfar Athletic in Angus are as rare as the autumnal sunshine that bathed Station Park on Saturday.
The omens had not been good with the few travelling Blues supporters fearing the worst after only four minutes as Stranraer’s nemesis of many years, Chris Templeman, put the home side 1-0 up.
The goal against a changed Stranraer defence – Scott Rumsby, a pillar since his loan signing from Aberdeen, was missing – was a simple affair with the Loons fullback Mark Baxter sweeping the ball crossfield to the unmarked Gavin Swankie, who had time to pick out the giant hit man and he had the simple task of heading past David Mitchell.
The Blues keeper had to use the full area of his box to deny former Stranraer striker Paul McManus from doubling the score as he was put through again by the impressive Baxter.
Stranraer then began to settle and from their first attacking effort won a corner from the right. The ball was played in and, from the clearance, Grant Gallagher played in Scott Robertson who swivelled and fired just past Darren Hill’s post.
The game was end to end. Dale Hilson swung in a hopeful ball that was latched upon by the on rushing Swankie but his shot sailed high over Mitchell’s bar. Stranraer fired back with some outstanding play between Martin Grehan, Andy Stirling and Chris Aitken but not for the first time in the opening 15 minutes, the final ball went astray.
The Blues had Mitchell to thank for keeping the deficit to one as a great run by Hilson fed Swankie who crossed for McManus who headed towards goal.
Stranraer then surged forward. Stirling’s shot into a crowded goal mouth was partially cleared by Hill but only as far as Jamie Longworth, whose strike put the Blues level.
Stranraer were now in the ascendancy but Forfar’s long ball game was still finding chinks in the defence.
But with 36 minutes on the clock it was Stranraer who were to take the lead. There looked little danger when Gallagher played an innocuous pass to Chris Aitken 30 yards from goal but the Blues playmaker looked up and pinged a sweet drive past the stranded Loons keeper.
Stranraer looked to capitalise on their territorial supremacy, Hill making a great stop as Stranraer’s captain Frank McKeown shot from a loose clearance following a Blues corner. Just before the break Aitken looked to add to his tally, his free kick from some 25 yards narrowly missing the left-hand corner.
Sean Winter replaced Corcoran at the start of the second half. Stranraer were working hard and putting the home midfield and defence under pressure at every opportunity. Longworth on such an occasion hounded the defence and won a corner that was easily held by the home keeper. At the other end, Templeman had a drive that stung Mitchell’s hands, and the keeper also had to be alert to reach the ball before McManus a couple of minutes later.
Robertson was booked and conceded a free kick on the edge of the box. Hilson fired in but once again Mitchell was on hand to tip over the bar.
Dick Campbell’s tactics now saw Marvin Andrews used as a battering ram striker. This tactic almost paid dividends as the former Rangers and Raith Rovers player rolled back the years with a diving header that Mitchell blocked with his legs.
The final 25 minutes saw Stranraer in control and looked like they were eventually going to add a third that would have definitely secured the points. Stirling went on a run, beat three home defenders and unleashed a shot, but it was off target. The remaining minutes were to be much of the same with Stranraer creating but not taking some fine opportunities. Only a Gavin Malin strike that was dealt with by Mitchell gave the visitors any difficulties late in the match.
This was a well-deserved victory for a Stranraer team who have taken 10 points from a possible 12 in four matches that have propelled Stranraer into sixth place in a very tight league. With some home fixtures next up, confidence in the camp is high.
Forfar Athletic: Darren Hill, Mark Baxter, Iain Campbell, Gary Fusco, Marvin Andrews, Darren Dods, James Dale (Gavin Malin 46), Dale Hilson (Omar Kader 74), Chris Templeman, Gavin Swankie, Paul McManus (Jamie McCluskey 72). Subs not used: Ross Campbell, Neil McCabe, Robert Douglas.
Goal: Templeman 4
Stranraer: David Mitchell, David MacGregor, Mark Docherty, Scott Robertson, Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken, Andy Stirling (Steven Bell 85), Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth (David McKenna 79), Mark Corcoran (Sean Winter 46). Subs not used: Ryan Borris, Adam Forde, Chris Fahey
Goals: Longworth 18, Aitken 36
Referee: D Roache