Forfar Athletic go into an exciting final day of the season after a 4-2 victory at home to Ayr United means they are now three points behind the fourth placed side; defeats on Saturday for Ayr and Stenhousemuir coupled with a Forfar win would give the Loons the final play-off spot.
With Gavin Swankie and Stuart Malcolm both banned, Dick Campbell made three other changes from last week’s defeat to Arbroath, with Chris Duggan, James Dale and Mark Baxter all missed out, with Jamie McCluskey, Marvin Andrews, Omar Kader, Gavin Malin and Ross Campbell coming in.
Forfar scored within the first 60 seconds of the game, Omar Kader ran down the left hand side before cutting the ball into Jamie McCluskey, McCluskey beat the Ayr defence as he advanced into the box before calmly slotting the ball past David Hutton for his second of the season.
Ayr United composed themselves after the goal and went looking for an equaliser, with Michael Donald having a shot blocked before Alan Lithgow headed over in the sixth minute.
Ross Campbell came close to doubling the advantage a quarter of an hour into the match, receiving a through ball from Hilson and then nipping past Gordon Pope but his effort went the other side of the post and hit the sidenetting.
Dale Hilson, in potentially his last game for Forfar, looked dangerous as the Ayr defence struggled to cope with his runs at them, this time beating Lithgow again before seeing his shot saved by Hutton.
In the 25th minute Forfar scored a second, a counter attack after a long range effort from Michael McGowan was saved, Chris Templeman flicked the ball onto Dale Hilson and he ran from the half way line, beating Lithgow before firing home from 25 yards low into the bottom corner.
Chances after this were few and far between, with Michael Moffat shooting wide in the 30th minute before Brian Gilmour blasted over on the stroke of half time.
HALF TIME: Forfar Athletic 2 Ayr United 0
The Loons went looking for a third after the break, in the first four minutes an Iain Campbell cross was knocked down to Templeman by Gavin Malin and he volleyed straight at the keeper.
Two minutes later it was three nil, a great pass from McCluskey found Omar Kader and as he raced towards goal the Ayr keeper came out of his goal and slipped, allowing Kader to place his shot in the back of the net.
Forfar had another chance in the 55th minute, a corner from Campbell was met by Andrews and his header was cleared off the line by Gilmour.
A minute later the Loons had a massive penalty shot when Hilson was bundled over by sub Kyle McAusland as he shaped up to shoot, but the referee gave no penalty.
On the hour mark, Ayr were awarded a penalty of their own, Michael Donald capitalising on an error by Fusco and he went down under pressure by Darren Dods. PFA League One Player of the year nominee Michael Moffat stepped up and put the ball out of reach to add to his impressive goal tally.
McAusland denied Hilson from getting a shot in in the 61st minute, a long free kick from Campbell was knocked on by Darren Dods and McAusland nipped the ball off Hilson’s feet as he looked to fire home.
Ayr looked to find another goal to open the game up again and went close in quick succession with Pope blasting over before Alan Forrest saw his effort go past the post.
In the 72nd minute Dale Hilson grabbed his second of the day and 13th of an excellent season, racing clear of the Ayr defence, rounding David Hutton before lobbing a grounded Alan Lithgow who thought Hilson would shoot before he did.
Hilson had another claim for a penalty in the 77th minute, Lithgow knocking him over in the box but again the referee said it wasn’t a foul.
Both teams had chances in the space of a minute when there was ten to go, an Iain Campbell error allowed Brian Gilmour in and his shot was blocked by Hill and then cleared. From the corner Martyn Campbell’s header was cleared off the line by Iain and a counter attack ended with Omar Kader setting up Hilson for his hat trick but he blazed his effort over the bar.
In the 83rd minute sub Mark Shankland set up Craig Malcolm but he fired at Darren Hill. At the other end Chris Duggan was sent clear but he could only send his shot at Hutton and the ball was cleared eventually.
Ayr scored a second deep into injury time, Michael Moffat passing to Gilmour who fired home from outside the box.
This victory means that Forfar are still in the play-off hunt going into the final day despite sitting in sixth. They are three points behind Ayr United and one goal behind on goal difference, Ayr are on minus four with the Loons on minus five, while Stenhousemuir are a point behind Ayr but seven goals worse off on minus eleven.
Forfar Athletic play third placed Stranraer away on Saturday, and the Stair Park outfit could still miss out on the play offs, depending on other results.
3rd Stranraer: They play Forfar Athletic and a draw will see them into the play-offs regardless of the other results. If they lose and Stenhousemuir and Ayr United win they will not be in the playoffs.
4th Ayr United: They play East Fife and a win will see them secure a play-off spot. If they were to draw they must hope Stenhousemuir do not win. If they lose and Forfar Athletic or Stenhousemuir win they will miss out on the play-offs.
5th Stenhousemuir: They play Brechin City and a win along with an Ayr United loss will give them fourth spot. They could also win along with Ayr and grab a play-off spot if Stranraer are defeated. They could draw and still get a play-off place but Ayr United would have to lose by eight goals.
6th Forfar Athletic: They play Stranraer and anything other than a win coupled with an Ayr United defeat and Stenhousemuir failing to win will mean they miss out on the play-offs.
Forfar Athletic: Darren Hill, Gary Fusco, Iain Campbell, Marvin Andrews, Darren Dods, Gavin Malin, Omar Kader, Jamie McCluskey (James Dale 70), Chris Templeman (Chris Duggan 76), Dale Hilson (Paul McLellan 79), Ross Campbell.
Subs not used: Keith Gibson, Liam Keillor, Craig Smith, Rab Douglas (gk)
Ayr United: David Hutton, Michael McGowan (Kyle McAusland 54), Gordon Pope, Martyn Campbell, Alan Lithgow, Brian Gilmour, Alan Forrest (Mark Shankland 81), Scott McLaughlin, Michael Moffat, Craig Malcolm, Michael Donald.
Subs not used: Kevin Kyle, Adam Hunter, Robbie Crawford, Anthony Marenghi, Shaun Newman (gk)