Forfar to face Ayr in play-off

FORFAR Athletic will face Ayr United in promotion play-off semi double header later this month - that is now certain.

What has yet to be decided is who plays at home first - and that all depends on who finishes as league runners-up and who finishes third.

At the moment it looks as if the Loons will be at home on Wednesday, May, 11, and making the trip west for the return match on Saturday, May 14.

But that could all change if Forfar get the better of Dumbarton this weekend and Brechin do the business when the Honest Men make the trip to the Glebe for the final league match of the current campaign.

Forfar kept their hopes of finishing second to runaway champions Livingston very much alive with a gritty win over already relegated Peterhead on Saturday.

The Station Park fare was far from pretty and, indeed, the Loons had on-loan stopper Neil Duffy to thank for keeping them in front at the break, his two blinding saves including a penalty stop after a rather soft spot-kick award by an otherwise pretty competent Willie Collum.

But a much-changed side from the one that clinched a play-off spot at Glebe Park the previous Saturday did enough to earn all three points come the end of the ninety minutes.

Assistant boss Ian Campbell agreed that it wasn’t the best game seen at Station Park.

“It wasn’t our best performance of the season - but it was enough,” he commented.

“We went into the game with several changes to the starting line-up, giving the fringe players an opportunity to get a game under their belts ahead of the play-offs.

“The game needed a goal in the first half and we scored a well-worked one. We also created several good chances.

“All in all, it was a professional performance, with a lot of boys playing out of position.

“We achieved our objective, winning the points and giving certain players match practice.

“It is likely that we will rest the players who are a yellow card away from suspension when we play Dumbarton this Saturday, and that will mean we will have a full pool of players available for the play-offs.”

Ian Campbell is free of suspension, while Chris Templeman misses out on the trip to Dumbarton, but will be available for the double-header with Ayr United.

Reflecting over Saturday’s ninety minutes one has to agree with the manager that it wasn’t a spectacle.

But the result keeps Forfar in with a squeak of overhauling Ayr United and grabbing second spot in the table.

Peterhead, with the pressure off, gave Forfar a run for their money and could so easily have been ahead before Forfar grabbed the opener in 34 minutes, the impressive Bryan Deasley doing exceptionally well to hit the by-line on the left and cutting the ball back for Callum Smith to net.

That should have provided the platform for the Loons to go on and record a comfortable victory but the Blue Toon were having none of it, and goalkeeper Neil Duffy had to be on top of his form to keep the home side in front at the interval.

He pulled off a couple of cracking saves as half-time approached, the best of them coming when he dived full-length to palm away a Derek Wyness spot-kick after the ref judged that Stephen Tulloch had felled Callum McDonald in the box as Forfar struggled to clear their lines.

Peterhead continued to probe for a leveller in the early stages of the second period, with Graeme Sharp particularly dangerous.

And, the teams were all square again in 64 minutes when Forfar allowed Neil McVitie space to provide a cross for Wyness to turn and crash a great shot past the helpless Duffy into the corner of the net.

The best way to recover from such a set-back is to go back up the park and score again - and that’s exactly what Forfar did.

Barry Sellars did the trick with a clever 25-yard free-kick that caught out the Peterhead keeper.

Minutes later Callum Smith blew a great chance to make it three-one when he was set up by Dale Hilson.

The striker had all the time in the world to pick his spot but ballooned the ball over the bar when it looked easier to net.

That made for a nail-biting final few minutes, but Forfar held out to take all three points to take their tally to an impressive 58 for the season.

Getting past the sixty mark and Brechin getting the better of Ayr this coming Saturday would be the icing on the cake - for now!