Threadbare Blues thumped again

Martin Grehan hits a close-range shot
Martin Grehan hits a close-range shot

Stranraer 0, Forfar Athletic 4

Stranraer’s heavy schedule in recent weeks has drained their threadbare squad as Stephen Aitken’s team succumbed to a convincing defeat.

The loss came at the hands of a Forfar side who had to play more than an hour with only 10 men.

Now the Blues face the second part of a double header at Station Park on Saturday.

Stranraer started the game strongly with Grant Gallagher as captain because Frank McKeown was suspended after his red card at the weekend.

The visitors responded in devastating fashion and took the lead on their first foray into Blues territory. Iain Campbell delivered the ball from the left for Dale Hilson to challenge for. Although David Mitchell blocked his first attempt, there was nothing he could do about the rebound and the danger man poked the ball home from close range.

Hilson turned supplier as the Loons drove forward again minutes later but David MacGregor, restored to the Stranraer defence, dealt with his dangerous cross.

Stranraer struggled to find any cutting edge but when Mark Docherty and Andy Stirling combined to earn a corner which the Blues winger delivered into the danger zone, Loons keeper Rab Douglas palmed it away.

On 24 minutes Stranraer were given a boost when the visitors were reduced to 10 men. Darren Dods was adjudged to have denied David McKenna a goal-scoring opportunity.

Superb defending by Campbell from the resulting free kick as he threw himself to block Sean Winter’s shot did the trick and kept the Loons in front. Stranraer continued to press and Docherty delivered a tantalising cross into the box that McKenna reached under pressure from Gary Fusco but he couldn’t direct the ball towards the target.

Forfar immediately punished the Blues for wasting these chances. Hilson fired in a shot that struck Scott Rumsby. It fell at the feet of Omar Kader, who simply slotted the ball under the helpless Mitchell.

Forfar saw out the half with some well-organised defending.

Stranraer knew the next goal was vital and set about trying to make it happen quickly, winning a succession of corners but they were unable to create anything clear cut.

The visitors were still keen to be seen as an attacking force and after a couple of half chances had been missed, Hilson took the attack to the Blues and was felled by Rumsby inside the box. Martyn Fotheringham stepped forward just before being substituted and sent Mitchell the wrong way from the spot.

The Loons burst forward again with purpose, belying the fact they were short of a player. Templeman sent Hilson wide on the left. The winger looked up and picked out Gavin Swankie who controlled and took aim from 20 yards. It was a sweet strike, but one that looked to be heading straight towards Mitchell. Whether partially unsighted, beaten by the swerve or not concentrating, the keeper missed it and the rout was complete.

The home supporters were heading for the exits when Scott Robertson hit the bar with a header from a corner. It was to be another forgettable Stranraer performance and they would be left to ponder the task ahead at the weekend: a trip to face the same opponents at Forfar this coming Saturday.

Forfar boss Dick Campbell was extremely happy afterwards citing the result and the manner of the performance as one of the best of his time as a manager and was delighted at such a great result away from home.

Stephen Aitken could not hide his disappointment and highlighted the need to get some of their injured squad members back to fitness so they can continue to build on the excellent work that has the Blues sitting in third place with just eight games remaining. Stranraer need to keep sight of the fact they are in much better position than expected at the outset.

Stranraer: David Mitchell, Lloyd Kinnaird (Jamie Longworth 58), Mark Docherty, Scott Rumsby, David MacGregor, Scott Robertson, Sean Winter, Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan (Adam Forde 66), David McKenna, Andy Stirling. Subs not used: Stephen Stirling, Steven Bell, Chris Fahey

Booked: Robertson, Grehan

Forfar Athletic: Robert Douglas, Mark Baxter, Iain Campbell, Marvin Andrews, Darren Dods, Gary Fusco, Omar Kader (Jamie McCluskey 80), Martyn Fotheringham (James Dale 62), Chris Templeman, Gavin Swankie, Dale Hilson (Gavin Malin 84).

Sent off: Dods

Goals: Hilson 8, Kader 36, Fotheringham 61 Pen, Swankie 68

Attendance: 342

Referee: D Robertson