New Year Blues for the Loons as Stranraer move six points clear

Pic credit Christopher Coutts.
Pic credit Christopher Coutts.

Forfar Athletic were beaten 4-2 by League One leaders Stranraer at a wind-battered Stair Park - and fell six points behind the title-chasing Blues.

Craig Malcolm scored twice for the hosts with Steven Bell and Jackson Longridge also on the scoresheet.

There were goals for the visitors at either end of the second half from Dale Hilson and Gavin Malin but they weren’t enough to stop Dick Campbell’s side falling to third in the league behind Greenock Morton.

After last week’s derby defeat, three changes were made: Jim Paterson, now at Dunfermline, was replaced by Stuart Malcolm while Omar Kader and Danny Denholm dropped to the bench in favour of debutant Michael Travis and Chris Templeman.

Youth player Jason King was named as a trialist on the bench with Ross Salmon unavailable.

New lad Travis joined Stephen Husband in midfield, tasked with holding in front of the centre halves Malcolm and Dods, while skipper Gavin Swankie took the right flank with Scott Smith on the left.

The brutal winds were always going to have a bearing on the game and Stephen Aitken’s side elected to play with the wind at their backs for the first half after winning the coin toss.

Sean Winter wasted Stranraer’s first chance in the third minute, firing past the post when one on one with Rab Douglas.

Willie Gibson then sent an effort at Douglas before Winter nodded over from the winger’s corner in the seventh minute.

Forfar struggled to get into the game and the closest they came to a chance was Templeman’s weak shot from an angle at David Mitchell.

The home side took the lead in the 33rd minute after Craig Malcolm fooled Michael Dunlop into a rare mistake, and he stepped past him before curling home.

It was 2-0 four minutes later in bizarre fashion, Douglas tipping a Bell shot on to the post but the ball came back and went in off the keeper’s back - an unfortunate goal for big Rab to concede.

Forfar were struggling to get any foothold in the game, losing the midfield battle with little fight while Jamie Longworth and Malcolm were constantly breathing down the necks of Dods and Malcolm.

Templeman saw a decent volley held by Mitchell as they went into half time trailing the league leaders.

Just over 60 seconds into the second half Forfar reduced the deficit, Hilson weaving past players before firing home under Mitchell - his ninth goal in all competitions this year, his seventh in the league and first since November 1.

Smith, looking much livelier after the break, set up Templeman in the 50th minute but Mitchell was more than capable of holding the shot.

Craig Pettigrew and Longworth wasted chances before Stranraer restored their two goal advantage with 20 minutes left, Gibson swinging a free kick in for Malcolm to sweep home for his second.

The addition of Kader and Malin seemed to galvanise the Loons in the final 10 minutes, with Swankie setting up Malin for a shot that was pushed wide before the subs combined for Templeman to volley over the bar.

Mark Baxter’s cross in the 86th minute found Templeman but his flick-on was stabbed wide by Kader, before captain Swankie sent an attempt at the keeper two minutes later from Travis’s long ball.

Kader saw his follow-up to Templeman’s saved effort cleared off the line before Malin slipped the ball past the keeper in the last minute to give the side and travelling support hope they could salvage something.

Those hopes were dashed almost straight away though as left back Longridge made sure of the result with the first attack after the kick off. Seconds before the final whistle Swankie sent a shot past the post.

stranraer (4-4-2): Mitchell; Pettigrew, Rumsby, McKeown, Longridge; Gibson (Russell, 84), Bell, Gallacher, Winter; Longworth (McShane, 71), Malcolm (Stoney, 90).

Subs not used: Tobin, Aitken, Stirling.

FORFAR ATHLETIC (4-4-2): Douglas; Dunlop (Dale, 66), Malcolm, Dods, Baxter; Swankie, Travis, Husband (Kader, 71), Smith (Malin, 71); Hilson, Templeman.

Subs not used: Trialist, Fotheringham, Denholm, James.