LOONS CAN HOME IN ON PLAY-OFF PLACE

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HAVING picked up three points from a possible six on the road over the course of the past week, Forfar Athletic are continuing to strengthen their hopes of a promotion play-off spot for the second season in succession (writes Alan Ducat).

The Loons left it late to bag all three points at Ayr United last midweek, but then lost out by three goals to one back on their travels, this time to Airdrie United, on Saturday.

The results mean that Dick Campbell’s men had a seven-point cushion over the chasing pack going into the first of a trio of home matches on Tuesday evening (last night), just as the Dispatch and Herald were going to press.

However the Loons fared in the home joust with the Diamonds (and you will know the result by the time you are reading this) there will be further opportunities to consolidate that top-four slot in the coming week - with Stenhousemuir at Station Park on Saturday and Ayr United visitors to town on Tuesday evening of next week.

Forfar are back at Ayr on Saturday, April 9, for the third-last away day of the season, with Stenhousemuir making a return trip to the toonie on Tuesday, April 12.

If the weather holds up thereafter, it will be four straight Saturdays of match action - at home to Alloa Athletic (April 16), away to Brechin City (April 23), at home to Peterhead (April 30) and away to Dumbarton (May 7).

Of course, the season won’t end there, for there will be the excitement of the play-offs for fans to look forward to - assuming there is no late season dip in form!

Not that anyone at Station Park will be counting the chickens just yet.

It will be a case of taking it one game at a time, and keeping racking up the points.

The management team has strengthened the hand by snapping up St Mirren striker Paul McQuade an emergency temporary transfer until the end of the season.

The 23-year-old Fifer moved to Paisley from Cowdenbeath along with manager Danny Lennon last summer, but first team opportunities have been limited.

The striker wasted no time in getting on the score-sheet at Airdrie on Saturday - although his contribution was not enough to allow the Loons to take anything from the game.

The end result would suggest a comfortable time for the home side, but it was anything but.

True they held all the cards in the first period, but they had to survive a fair bit of visitors’ pressure to hold on to their three-one advantage.

Airdrie took the lead in the 22nd minute and, not for the first time this season, it was cruel luck on on-loan Ranger Scott Gallacher.

Graeme Owens fired in a shot which struck the post and then rebounded off the keeper’s head into the net.

But, nine minutes later, the Loons were back on level terms, courtesy of a McQuade cracker.

The on-loan striker fastened on to a pass from Hilson, swivelled and hit a great 25-yard shot into the net off the post.

Back came Airdrie and then regained the lead five minutes from the break.

Owens was judged to have been fouled in the box by Mark McCulloch and up stepped Ryan McCord to slot the penalty past Gallacher.

Worse was to follow two minutes from the interval, when Ryan Donnelly headed home a Gary Mackay-Steven’s cross to make it three-one in United’s favour.

In a bid to get back into the game, Forfar made two changes at the start of the second period, Dow and Hilson being replaced by Gibson and Deasley.

The Loons had more than their fair share of the play in that second period, carving out a number of opportunities but a series of near misses and blocked efforts suggested that it wasn’t to be the Loons day - and, in the end, they had to accept defeat.

However, the way they keep going to the end of each game typifies the spirit in the squad.

At Ayr United last Wednesday evening, it was the Honest Men who were on top for large spells in the game, but, while it remained nil-nil, there was always the chance that Forfar could bag the points, And, that’s how things turned out.

For the fans clocking in back home there was confusion when the updated result of the only senior league match in Britain that evening suggested Ayr had grabbed that all-important late lead.

But the correction eventually filtered through - confirming that Bryan Deasley, in the 86th minutes and just seven minutes after replacing Dow, had rifled home from 22 yards out to make sure Forfar were moving on to the 42-point mark for the season. Not a bad tally for a side having just returned to the second division!