Forfar increase lead over rivals despite draw at home to Blues

Picture credit Christopher Coutts.
Picture credit Christopher Coutts.

A Dale Hilson strike earned Forfar Athletic a share of the spoils against Stranraer at a Station Park rattled by strong winds.

The visitors went in front in the first minute when Sean Winter scored a free header as the Loons started poorly.

But top scorer Hilson hit a delightful equaliser just on the stroke of half time to ensure Forfar maintained their unbeaten run at home - and increased their lead at the top of League One to two points after Dunfermline’s late 2-1 defeat to Morton.

Manager Dick Campbell felt the draw was the right result after his players failed to apply themselves properly.

He said: “I thought that the draw was a fair result. We made a mistake in the first few minutes, and they’ve buried it. They’ve had one real goal-scoring chance I think and they’ve buried it, and credit to them. What a lift it gave them. But Stranraer were in the top four the whole of last season, so they’re not a bad side.

“On the back of what we did last week I was worried about this game. We should have beat Dunfermline so we didn’t need to motivate our players for this game. But all credit to Stranraer. I thought we were guilty of not applying ourselves properly.”

The gaffer added that while the hosts’ performance wasn’t necessarily poor, it wasn’t to the standard that the League One leaders have set for themselves so far this campaign.

He continued: “It wasn’t a bad performance but I just feel that our standards are higher than that.

“We got a goal and what a great goal it was, we had that wee bit of football and we worked our way through. We’ve had two or three good chances but we didn’t really penetrate them. We’re still top of the league and it’s not a bad result drawing with Stranraer.

“I’m not happy drawing 1-1 at home with anybody but at least we keep our unbeaten run intact.”

There was just the one change for the hosts as Chris Templeman made his long-awaited return from injury up front in place of the unavailable Gavin Swankie.

Templeman joined on-fire Hilson in attack as the heavy winds whipping around Station Park looked to be right up the big striker’s alley.

But things didn’t start to Forfar’s liking with Stranraer going right for the hosts’ throats from the kick-off, taking the lead after 60 seconds.

A burst down the left flank saw Mark Baxter slip, and the cross was met easily by Winter with Darren Dods and Stuart Malcolm caught flat-footed.

It was almost two shortly after but Daniel Stoney - on-loan from Rangers - fired wide.

There were further chances for Stoney, Willie Gibson and Craig Malcolm as Forfar struggled to get any foothold in the contest.

That changed as the half wore on and the home side began to play some of the slick passing football that has seen them surge to the top of the table.

Templeman almost celebrated his return to the starting line-up with a goal but he somehow bundled his effort just wide of the far post following Danny Denholm’s terrific cross from the left hand side.

But affairs were soon levelled when Jim Paterson, Denholm and Stephen Husband combined superbly on the left flank before Hilson fired a lovely effort beyond David Mitchell from the edge of the area, seconds after seeing an effort blocked.

That gave the Loons added impetus and they were all guns blazing after the restart, Husband, Denholm and Hilson all going close - with the latter failing to score from two superb opportunities when through on goal.

Forfar continued to press and the Blues had chances of their own through Chris Aitken and substitute Jamie Longworth, with their top scorer firing wide, but the game ended level.

Forfar Athletic: Douglas, Baxter, Malcolm, Dods, Paterson, Kader (Smith, 87), Husband, Dale (Malin, 79), Denholm, Templeman (Fotheringham, 89), Hilson

Subs not used: Salmon, Dunlop, Smith, Keiller, McLellan.

Stranraer: Mitchell, Gallagher, Longridge, Rumsby, McKeown, Aitken, Winter, Stirling (Bell, 74), Malcolm (Forde, 90), Stoney (Longworth, 72), Gibson

Subs not used: Tobin, Marenghi, Russell, McCloskey