FORFAR Athletic blew Stranraer away with a great second half performance to clinch their place in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup on Saturday.
It was always going to be a tricky replay, with a gale-force wind blowing the length of the park, but the Loons adapted to the conditions much better than their third division opponents - and the players can now look forward to hosting premier league opposition in the form of Aberdeen at Station Park in early January.
As far as entertainment value was concerned, Saturday’s first half was somewhat of a non-event, with no goals, no clear-cut chances and play very much confined to midfield.
Forfar seemed content to shut up shop in the opening period, playing against the elements, although they were denied what looked like a stone-wall penalty for a push on Greg Ross,
That all changed in the second period, with the home side pushing forward in numbers.
Playing with three up front, they soon had the men from Stair Park defending in depth and it was no surprise when the goals came in the 67th, 76th and 87th minutes.
Forfar manager Dick Campbell was in bubbly mood after the game - over the moon that his side had overcome a tricky Scottish Cup hurdle at the second attempt to earn a money-spinning fourth-round tie against Aberdeen, the match set to go ahead over the weekend of January 7/8.
“It is a massive result for Forfar Athletic Football Club to get Aberdeen here in the next round of the cup,” he commented.
“Financially it will help the club a lot in the plight to keep the head above the water.”
Campbell admitted to being disappointed not to have completed the job at Stair Park the previous Saturday, the Loons having defended extremely will throughout the game, only to concede a leveller right at the death.
However, he had nothing but good words to say about his team on Saturday, as they demolished Stranraer with some clinical finishing in the second half.
“Nobody wants to play in a gale like that,” commented Dick Campbell. “It wasn’t conducive to good football.
“But we mastered the conditions better than Stranraer and scored three goals of real quality.
“I was very happy with a nil-nil draw at half time, because we struggled to put three passes together and it was difficult to clear our lines in the conditions.
“I knew my players would give it a real go in the second half - and any one of the goals was worthy of winning the cup tie.
“The opening goal was fantastic, finishing off a great move with a penetrating pass and a great run. Gibson’s goal was also well taken while Templeman got a break but wheeled and finished well.
“We had some great performances in the conditions. David Mowat was outstanding in midfield and Greg Ross also played very well.”
Dick admitted that it was brother Ian’s ploy to play three up front in the replay and was more than delighted that it paid handsome dividends.
Now the manager will have to wait and and see if Craig Brown and Archie Knox will allow him to field on-loan signings Joe Shaughnessy, who was another Saturday stand-out, and Nicky Low in the fourth round tie.
“This is something we will talk to Craig about but we will do the right thing by Aberdeen,” added Dick.
“My problem is that the two of them are under-21 and the stupid rules that the SFA put out regarding naming two under-21 players in the squad leaves us a bit short in that department if we can’t play Joe or Nicky.
“However, I have time in the transfer window to bring players in, while we also have an under-19 team, although it would be asking a lot of young players to pitch them in against Aberdeen.”
With the wind gusting up to 70 mph at times, Forfar fans made their way to Station Park on Saturday, with the Scottish Cup nerves tingling more than a tad.
In conditions such as witnessed on Saturday, football can be a bit of a lottery - unless you get the tactics spot on.
But Forfar had obviously done their homework and, when called upon to face the elements in the first period, they dug in and made sure Stranraer saw as little of the whites of Greg Patterson’s eyes as possible.
Indeed, it is hard to recall a chance of note for the away side in the first period, while Forfar really should have had a spot-kick.
Minutes before the break, Chris Templeman sent a great pass through for Greg Ross to go one-on-one with the keeper. Greg got to the ball first, and was impeded by the goalkeeper, but, unbelievably, ref Brian Colvin waved play on!
Into the second period, and the fans were given a taste of what was to come when first Ross Campbell got his head to a Fothringham corner to direct the ball into the arms of the keeper and then Foxy saw his well-taken floater of a free-kick tipped on to the bar by David Mitchell.
Chris Hegarty warmed the fingers of the visiting keeper with a rasper of a shot from 30 yards before the Loons opened the scoring in scintillating style in 67 minutes.
The home side probed down one wing and then the other, before man-of-the-match Mowat produced the pass of the match to send Greg Ross clean through on the goal, the latter finishing with aplomb to send Forfar on their way to round four of the cup.
That meeting with the Dons was all but secured in 76 minutes when Chris Templeman fastened on to a loose ball on the edge of the area on the right, before wheeling and crashing a shot into the net for number two.
Stranraer had no option but throw caution to the wind thereafter, and it took a great point-blank save from Greg Patterson too prevent them from pulling a goal back.
That was as close as they were going to get, Forfar rounding off a great afternoon’s work with a third goal courtesy of substitute Graham Gibson, who fastened on to another well-placed through ball, before rounding the goalkeeper and picking his spot.
Now it’s roll on January and that mouth-watering home tie against Aberdeen. The Loons return to league business this coming Saturday when they travel to take on Dumbarton, with Stirling Albion at Forfar next Tuesday evening.
Forfar Athletic - Patterson, Hegarty, I. Campbell (Motion), Bishop (Bolochoweckyj), Shaughnessy, Mowat, Fotheringham, Ross, R. Campbell (Gibson), Templeman and Low.