FORFAR Athletic launched themselves into the First Division play-offs with a stunning 2-1 win over Ayr United on Saturday, writes Sarah McLean.
With play-off hopes before the game riding high on a good result the Loons did just that with two first half goals proving enough for the three points.
Forfar started strongly with a free kick awarded ten minutes in after Ayr United’s Kyle McAusland tripped up Danny Denholm. Iain Campbell stepped up and the ball came close to going in but just sneaked over the top of the bar.
But the first goal came just moments later when a Gavin Malin corner was met by Chris Templeman and headed straight in past visiting ‘keeper Graeme Smith.
With Forfar on top they kept pressing on and another good chance came in the 19th minute but quick thinking from Ayr’s Darren Brownlie stopped the Malin effort.
The visitors came close a minute later when an Anthony Marenghi corner went dangerously close to the near post but Mark McCulloch cleared the ball to safety.
In the 24th minute a powerful strike from Denholm 25 yards out was caught well by Smith.
Just over 10 minutes later disaster struck for the Station Park side when Ayr equalised with a Michael Bolochoweckyj own goal as he failed a clearance attempt.
But things got bad for the visitors just before half time when Darren Brownlie brought down Templeman in the box and was given his marching orders by referee Craig Charleston.
Iain Campbell stepped up to take the penalty and slotted it away neatly to take the home side back into the lead.
With just seconds left to go of the first half Ayr manager Mark Roberts made a tactical substitution bringing on Christopher Smith to replace Anthony Marenghi.
Half-time: Forfar Athletic 2, Ayr United 1.
A minute into the first half Dick Campbell made his first change of the game when he replaced Bolochoweckyj with Mick Dunlop.
The visitors picked up another booking when Neil McGregor saw yellow for unsporting behaviour.
Another was picked up just before the hour mark when McAusland also saw yellow.
A minute later Ayr’s Robbie Crawford was replaced by Michael Wardrobe.
Ayr came close to equalising four minutes later but Malin cleared the ball well.
Two minutes later a Scott McLaughlin corner was caught well by Forfar ‘keeper Darren Hill.
Moments later Ayr tried their luck but McAusland sent the ball just past the right post.
In the 71st minute Campbell replaced Denholm with Omar Kader.
Ayr picked up yet another booking two minutes later when McLaughlin saw yellow for unsporting behaviour.
In the 73rd minute a Malin corner looked likely to go in but Smith was quick to clear well.
A minute later McLaughlin’s shot was also caught well by Hill.
In the 75th minute Willie Robertson picked up a booking for Forfar for unsporting behaviour.
A minute later McLaughlan proved to be having an increasingly frustrating afternoon when he was denied again by Hill.
With nine minutes left to go a Malin corner was punched to safety by Smith.
In the final few minutes neither side had many chances and it was just a case of Forfar holding on to their lead.
As full-time drew closer news filtered through that Arbroath had gone 1-0 down to Alloa Athletic at Gayfield and at the final whistle it was confirmed that the Loons had cemented their place in the play-offs.
Forfar: Hill, Robertson, Bolochoweckyj (Dunlop 47), McCulloch, Iain Campbell, Hilson, Brown, Malin, Denholm (Kader 72), Templeman, Ross Campbell. Subs not used: Salmon, Sellars, King.
Ayr: Graeme Smith, McAusland, McGregor, Brownlie, Longridge, McLaughlin, Wyllie, Crawford (Wardrobe 62), Donald, Moffat, Marenghi (Christopher Smith 45). Subs not used: William Muir, Shankland, Ross Campbell.