ROCK SOLID LOONS

Darren Brady - scored Forfar's opener.
Darren Brady - scored Forfar's opener.

SATURDAY afternoon football at Station Park has become somewhat of an alien concept in 2011 (writes Alan Ducat).

However, the return to normality after a nightmare winter didn’t put the Loons off their stride, as they bounced back to winning ways with an odd goal in three result against Dumbarton, the form team in the division at the moment.

Having tasted defeat at Airdrie United in midweek - going down two-nil to second half strikes by Ryan Donnelly and Scott Gemmill after dominating for the first hour - Forfar fans were expecting a tough home joust against a Sons side going great guns in their bid to get back into the promotion play-off picture.

And the match was as close as the end score-line would suggest, the Loons edging it by hitting two quality goals to Dumbarton’s one.

The result delighted Forfar Athletic assistant boss Ian Campbell.

“In recent weeks we have played really, really well and perhaps not taken as much out of some games as we deserved,” he commented.

“Against Airdie United in midweek, for example, I thought for 65 minutes it is the best we have played, although the home side did well towards the end of the game.

“On Saturday we knew we would be in for a tough game, for Dumbarton have been on a run, and are playing with a lot of confidence and a free spirit.

“But we have got to hand it to our players.

“I always talk about trying to win ugly and, although I wouldn’t say we won ugly on Saturday, it was a testing game.

“In the first half we created four or five guilt-edged chances with crosses into the box.

“In fairness to Dumbarton, they were a bit better than us in the second period, but we scored a great winning goal.”

Campbell could be forgiven for taking the credit for the strike that decided the game, for he introduced Ross Campbell for Calum Smith and the substitute, who missed a few sitters in midweek, netted with his first meaningful contribution to the game.

Having had to weather a few storms throughout what has been a long hard winter it was good to see the sun shining over Station Park on Saturday.

And, considering the battering the park has taken in terms of snow and rain-fall, all credit to groundsman Martin Gray, the surface was in great shape for a contest between two good passing teams.

Forfar looked in the mood from the kick-off and created two or three excellent opportunities.

The best of the chances came from clever crosses into the middle courtesy of a raft of free-kicks conceded, primarily for fouls on the tricky Bryan Deasley, and, with a bit of luck, Templeman and Smith could have been on the score-sheet in the early minutes.

That first goal was just round the corner though, and was worth waiting for, the goalkeeper only able to parry a Fothringham strike and never getting a look in when Darren Brady (pictured above) plastered a 20-yarder past him and high into the roof of the net.

The goal in the fifth minute settled Forfar and they went hunting for a second.

Gradually, though, Dumbarton managed to get a toe-hold in the game, although rarely looking like finding a way past the excellent Jamie Bishop and Mark McCulloch at the heart of the Forfar defence.

But, with time ticking towards the interval, Dumbarton fashioned out a chance from a free-kick conceded by the home side just outside the area.

Jon McShane struck a great shot which cannoned off the cross-bar and, unluckily for Scott Gallacher, he got on the scene just in time for the ball to ricochet off his back and over the line for the leveller.

That set up an intriguing second period, and there remained little between the sides.

Martyn Fothringham was easily the best home player and it was fitting that he should have a hand in what was to be the winning goal.

With Mark Gilhaney spurning a couple of good opportunities to put the Sons of the Rock in front, Fothringham led the surge out of defence in 77 minutes.

And, just when he looked set to opt for a ball out to Gibson on the left, he spotted substitute Ross Campbell galloping down the right, the ball to the substitute threaded through the eye of a needle.

It was inch-perfect for Ross to run clean through on goal and fire low past the on-rushing keeper into the corner of the net.

The move proved a three-pointer, taking Forfar on to 35 for the season, to move five points clear of the chasing pack, led by Airdrie United.

The Loons also have the cushion of having played four or five games less than the teams that can yet beat them to a promotion play-off spot and while there’s still a lot of football to be played in such a short space of time, things are looking good for the men from Station Park.

At the time of going to press on Tuesday (yesterday), Forfar were heading to face league leaders Livingston that same evening, while Saturday sees Forfar make the trip north to take on struggling Peterhead.

Next up at Station Park is a local derby, with Brechin City - another side very much in the thick of the action at the top end of the table - in town on Tuesday evening of next week.