Anyone fortunate enough to witness Forfar Athletic dismantle Ayr United on Saturday would be forgiven for thinking they were watching the Loons of 12 months ago.
That vintage was a relentless attacking force anchored by a miserly defensive core, and while Saturday’s performance wasn’t quite to the standard set by that team it was nonetheless a ferocious offensive display that saw Forfar run roughshod over their opponents.
Tam O’Brien and Gareth Rodger suffocated Ayr’s forwards, Danny Denholm and Omar Kader tortured their full-backs and Gavin Swankie dictated the game from deep like an NFL quarterback.
But it was the strike duo of Andy Ryan and Steven Craig who put the finishing touches on the team’s performance as they scored three terrific goals between them, with Craig’s looping half volley the pick of the bunch.
It was a result that Gary Bollan’s side have been itching to achieve, with recent displays lacking everything but the kind of razor-sharp finishing that was on display on Saturday.
Ryan put the hosts ahead in quick fashion, blasting the ball into the roof of the net from a narrow angle after receiving a lovely whipped cross from Denholm inside five minutes.
The movement of the Loons’ forwards was causing the visitors a lot of problems but it was the Honest Men who were next to find the back of the net inside the quarter hour mark, Ryan Stevenson ghosting through an absent Forfar defence to rattle the ball across goal and in at the far post.
A sickening clash of heads saw United’s Paddy Boyle and Ross McCrorie leave the field bloodied to be replaced by Gerry McLaughlin and Mickey Donald.
The game resumed after a lengthy stoppage and Rodger had to be sharp at the back to stop United taking the lead through Craig Moore.
Trouten then had an effort on goal but it was deflected wide by some last gasp defending, the ball striking Michael Kennedy on the back.
Denholm almost had the third goal of the day but his floating header was just wide following Gavin free kick.
But it was Ryan who put the Loons into the lead as he rifled home from Smith’s cut-back pass, the ex-Dundee United midfielder taking a long ball down with a gorgeous first touch.
Craig added the third when he hit a ball over the top from Smith into the net with a lovely dipping half volley.
And though the Honest Men rallied back and penned the hosts in for the final 10 minutes, Forfar held on for a massive victory in the League One relegation race.