FORFAR Athletic’s brave bid to win a place in the Scottish first division came to an end on Saturday.
And, while it was always asking way too much for the Loons to come back from a three-goal deficit following an uncharacteristically poor defensive display in their promotion play-off semi first-leg at Station Park, they signed off for the season with a creditable performance at Ayr United.
In the end, the three-all draw saw Dick Campbell’s men bow out on a seven-four aggregate score.
However, the Loons can be justifiably proud of their achievements in reaching a play-off spot in the first place, having only been promoted from the third division the season before.
The Forfar manager admitted that the tie was effectively lost at Station Park last midweek.
Reflecting over Saturday’s display he added: “I thought we competed well and could have scored a lot more goals.
“We had at least seven more great chances and didn’t take them.”
Dick was far from amused at the performance of referee Brian Winter, ending up getting banished to the stand for comments he made to the whistler after Forfar had twice been denied the chance to take a quick free-kick.
Forfar went into the game four-one down, having struggled to cope with the pace of the Honest Men in the first leg at Station Park.
The fans had hardly settled into their seats in the stand when Ayr raced into the lead as early as the second minute, the nippy Michael Moffat fastening on to a good through ball from Jonathon Tiffoney to slide the ball under Neil Duffy for the opener.
Forfar did well to respond in positive fashion, a series of corner kicks ending with a great headed leveller by Chris Templeman from an Iain Campbell pin-point cross.
The home side survived a dangerous moment on the half hour when Moffat raced clear on goal to slide the ball past the keeper and on to the base of the post.
But, five minutes later, the same player tormented the Loons again, this time cutting in from the bye-line for his cross to be touched by Ross and then McCulloch before crossing the line.
Forfar tried hard to work their way back into the game, but, as the second half progressed, Ayr always looked the more dangerous on attack.
Duffy saved the day with a point-blank stop from a Martyn Campbell header, but there was nothing he could do when Ryan McCann broke clean through on goal to crack home from 18 yards.
Four minutes from time and Forfar’s promotion dream was all but extinguished, as Andy Rodgers found himself perfectly placed to clip home after a cross from the right was headed back into the mix. Still they headed west on Saturday, in hope more than anything else.
And, the fans who made the trip were rewarded with a spirited performance by the Loons, that almost ended up in an away victory.
Once again, Forfar lost an early goal, Michael Moffat firing home from 12 yards in the 12th minute.
But, just as they did at Station Park, they fought back well and Dale Hilson had them back on level terms in 31 minutes, converting from close range.
Mark McLaughlin headed the hosts back in front three minutes into the second period, only for Barry Sellars to level matters with a 55th-minute drive.
The Loons took the lead with a Ross Campbell penalty on 90 minutes but any hopes of signing off the season with an away success were dashed when Alan Trouten’s injury-time spot-kick ensured a draw on the day.
Forfar’s penalty came after Martyn Campbell fouled Christopher Templeman while it was a foul by Stephen Tulloch on Trouten that led to Ayr’s leveller.
Forfar will be joined in the Scottish second division by Cowdenbeath, the Fifers losing out to Brechin City in the other play-off semi-final encounter.
The men in red now go on to face Ayr United away on Wednesday evening (tonight) and at home on Sunday to decide who takes the step up a flight and who remains put alongside Forfar, who will be joined in league two by an Arbroath side promoted from the Scottish third division as champions.
The teams on Saturday were as follows:-
Ayr United - Martin, Lauchlan, Smith, Malone, Campbell, McCann (Tiffoney), McLaughlin, Trouten, Bannigan (Easton), Moffat and Roberts (Robertson).
Forfar Athletic - Duffy, Ross, Iain Campbell, Tulloch, McCulloch, Brady (Ross Campbell), Martyn Fotheringham (Gibson), Sellars, Templeman, Hilson (Deasley) and Dow.