Loons pull away from title rivals as lively Stirling offer strong test

Pic credit Christopher Coutts.
Pic credit Christopher Coutts.

They say it’s a sign of a truly good team when an outfit are able to win ugly - pick up the points despite turning in a poor performance.

If that’s true then Saturday’s showing at Station Park was a testament to Forfar’s quality because the Loons were very fortunate to beat League One strugglers Stirling Albion.

And on the basis of this fixture, Stirling won’t be toiling for much longer.

The Loons went in front through Darren Dods’ excellent finish before Steven Doris deservedly pulled one back right on the stroke of half time.

It was an open affair after the break with both sides creating chances, but the Loons took over for the closing 20 minutes or so and sealed the victory when substitute Martyn Fotheringham scored with a lovely header.

Dods was delighted with his goal, admitting it’s rare for him to get one with his feet rather than his head.

He said: “It was a good goal, I don’t score many with my foot it’s normally my head, but I took a touch and looked up, and I caught it sweet. I was delighted when that went in.

“I think we’ve played a lot better this season but it was one of those games, it’s just good to get the three points at the end. They were hard conditions, it was frosty on top of the pitch so it was hard to get a passing game going, and they forced us back a lot.”

Manager Dick Campbell fielded an unchanged side after last week’s 2-0 win against Stenhousemuir as the Loons looked to defeat a side that have been stumbling all season.

The Binos had the first opportunity of the game after three minutes when Doris cut the ball back from the byline for Phil Johnston, but his shot was deflected wide and Sandy Cunningham failed to threaten with the resulting corner.

Danny Denholm and Stephen Husband went close four minutes later when Scott Smith sent a corner into the box, Denholm sliced his shot but the ball was cleared to Husband who fired past the post.

Cunningham then shot straight at Rab Douglas after weaving his way through the home defence as Forfar struggled to get into the game.

Angus Beith then blasted over after Cunningham knocked down Craig Comrie’s free kick.

Defender Mark Baxter almost netted his first goal in five years in the 16th minute - Dale Hilson’s shot across goal found the right back but when he attempted to stab the ball home at the far post Callum Reidford made a great stop to deny him.

The Loons took the lead after 26 minutes, Gavin Swankie crossing from a short corner with Dods turning his defender before lashing the ball past Reidford - a strike Swankie himself would have been proud of.

Michael Dunlop nodded wide from Smith’s corner, looking for his second goal in as many games.

Momentum swung back Stirling’s way in a matter of seconds right before the break when Swankie looked to have been pushed to the floor in the penalty area, but the referee gave no foul and Stirling raced up the park, Cunningham swinging a cross into the box for Doris to head home.

The game was a drab affair for the majority of the second half, but came to life in the last 10 minutes when Forfar took the lead again, Baxter sending a cross for Fotheringham to bullet a header home.

Title favourites Dunfermline and Morton dropped points against Airdrieonians and Brechin City respectively, allowing the Loons to increase their lead over the full-time clubs.

But in-form Stranraer’s 4-1 thrashing of Peterhead means Forfar are just two points clear of the Blues at the top of the table.

Defender Dods said the victory spoke volumes for the side’s character.

He said: “It says a lot about our character. We’ve played badly this season and lost but that’s the first time we’ve played poorly and won.”

Forfar Athletic (4-4-2): Douglas; Baxter, Dunlop, Dods, Paterson (Malcolm, 68); Kader (Templeman, 46), Smith, Husband, Denholm (Fotheringham, 74); Swankie, Hilson.

Subs not used: Salmon, James, Malin, Dale.

Stirling Albion (4-2-3-1): Reidford; McGeachie, Hamilton, C Smith, Forsyth (Creaney, 51); Comrie (Weir, 83), Beith; Johnston (Small, 77), Cunningham, G Smith; Doris.

Subs not used: Paterson, McClune, Wedderburn, Smith.