Loons prepare for new league campaign

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FOLLOWING mixed fortunes in two early season cup competitions, Forfar Athletic kick-off the new season in the Scottish second division this coming Saturday (writes Alan Ducat).

The opening fixture takes the Loons on the long trip south-west to face Queen of the South.

Forfar opened the season on a high with a thrilling three-two victory over Dunfermline Athletic in the Ramsdens Cup, earning them a crack at Arbroath in a derby encounter at Gayfield on Tuesday evening of next week, but they couldn’t quite match that performance against a slick Partick Thistle side on Saturday past.

The Jags swept past the Loons to claim a place in the second round of the Scottish Communities Cup, winning just a tad more tidily than the end two-nil score-line would suggest.

Just how much of a difference it would have made had Forfar converted a spot-kick just prior to the break, following a penalty-box pull by Hugh Murray on Gavin Swankie that earned the Thistle man a red card, is difficult to gauge.

Certainly, even with a man disadvantage the visitors looked well on top, striking the woodwork twice in the second period.

Forfar went into the game on a high after their win over the Pars, but they were to find the men from Maryhill a much better side than the team from Fife.

The men in blue started well enough and Omar Kader almost gave them the perfect start, his shot being saved after a good cross by the dangerous Danny Denholm.

Back came Thistle and they were soon passing the ball well on the new artificial surface.

There was more than enough in their play to suggest they could make things pretty tough for the home side, and, in 17 minutes they struck.

When Iain Campbell elected to play a free-kick into feet, the move broke down and the visitors soon had the ball played back up to the centre circle, where Chris Erskine took control, fended off a couple of challenges and blasted the ball high into the net from the edge of the penalty box.

It was a cracking goal, but a disappointing one to lose from a home point of view.

There was a let-off for the Loons in 28 minutes when a Sean Welsh shot bounced off the woodwork, but Partick kept probing and were two-nil ahead in 36 minutes, Steven Lawless netting with a shot on the angle which gave Scott in the Forfar goal no chance.

It looked game over at this stage, but Forfar kept battling away and, a minute from the break, they were presented with a glorious chance to reduce the leeway.

Gavin Swankie looked to have turned his man in the area, but was pulled back by Murray on the point of shooting, the referee having no choice but to send the Thistle player packing as he awarded a spot-kick.

Swankie stepped up to take the kick but hit it high over the bar, the ball landing somewhere about Strathmore Foods!

With Ross Campbell on for Omar Kader at the start of the second period, the Loons set about getting back into the game.

And, for a spell, they looked as if they may do something, the best chance falling to Keith Gibson, who smacked a shot off the cross-bar.

But Partick weathered the early storm and were soon back in command, despite being that man down.

Indeed, twice in the space of a few minutes, they could have sealed the game,

First Sean Welsh made room for himself and cracked a great shot off the post and then Stephen O’Donnell did likewise, as Forfar tried to hang on in there.

There were a few half chances thereafter, but Partick Thistle were never really in any danger of letting their two-goal advantage slip, and it is they who go safely through to round two of the Scottish Communities League Cup.

The one consolation for the Loons is that they faced a far better side than Dunfermline looked the previous Saturday, and now they must concentrate on making a solid start to the new league campaign.

Reflecting on the Saturday fare, manager Dick Campbell said: “We deserved nothing from the game at all.

“We did not lay a glove on them.

“Maybe some people were thinking we were better than we are. Everyone was speaking about us after the last game.

“We had the plaudits after beating Dunfermline the previous Saturday, but that showed what we have to bring to the table.

“Now we know exactly how we have to step up.”

Following this Saturday’s trip to Queen of the South, Stranraer are in town on Saturday, August 18, with that midweek trip to face the Lichties on Tuesday evening of next week another mouth-watering cup tie for the Loons fans to look forward to.

Yes, the footie season is back in full swing!