FORFAR Athletic have not had the best of starts to 2013, writes Sarah McLean.
The new year kicked off for the Loons with a derby against closest rivals Brechin City.
A crowd of 903, the largest at Station Park for a league game in some time, turned out for a thrilling encounter.
And with five goals - all in the second half - they got just that, but it didn’t go the way the Forfar fans wanted.
Forfar looked the stronger side by far in the first half and it seemed like it would not take long for the Loons to open the scoring.
Instead, all the goals were scored in the second half as Brechin repeated the 4-1 scoreline they pulled off against the Loons at Glebe Park in November.
Chris Templeman forced a good save out of Brechin ‘keeper Michael Andrews in the 15th minute before Jonathan Brown’s free kick was saved by Jack Hamilton at the other end.
Further chances came for Templeman, Dale Hilson and Danny Denholm but none managed to find the back of the net.
Much to the home crowd’s dismay, the visitors took the lead two minutes after half-time as David McKenna found the top corner from 25 yards.
Brown doubled the lead in the 58th minute with a close-range strike before turning provider for Derek Carcary’s low finish from the edge of the area.
Forfar managed to pull one back through their man-of-the-match Gavin Swankie in the 80th minute when he fired home from 18 yards.
The hope did not last long as a minute later Scott Dalziel found the bottom corner from the edge of the box to restore the three-goal lead.
On Saturday, Forfar were looking to redeem themselves after the devastating derby defeat against Brechin City but Stenhousemuir had other ideas.
Two goals in close succession in the second half proved more than enough for Stenhousemuir to move four points above the relegation play-off place.
Forfar started strongly once again and Dale Hilson came closest to opening the scoring in the first half but the Forfar striker saw his effort come back off a post.
There were few more chances for their side in the first half and it drew to a close with a scoreline of 0-0.
The woodwork denied the Loons again in the second half as Christopher Templeman’s header narrowly missed giving Forfar a lead.
But it was Stenhousemuir who broke the deadlock in the 65th minute Sean Dickson headed in the opener from Greg Ross’ right-wing cross.
Just two minutes later Darren Smith fired into the top corner from the edge of the area to secure the three points for Stenhousemuir.
Alastair Donald, Forfar Athletic chairman, is disappointed with recent results and knows the team have a power of work to do to turn it around. He said: “It’s been the story of our season, we will be doing well and then if we lost one goal more will follow in quick succession.
“It’s become a little bit of a trend and the manager and I need to find out why as it is costing us points.
“It’s very, very difficult but I will say that the players, the management and the board are all upbeat - we cannot lose sight of the fact we are in the top four and in the last 16 of the Scottish Cup.
“You also have to bear in mind that at the top of the league you have about five of these clubs that have had big money ties against Rangers or Celtic. So they will have bigger budgets and more money coming in from those games.
“The teams at the bottom of the league have not had that income so if you look at it that way we are punching above our weight.”
Forfar Athletic are now in the fourth play-off spot in the Second Division, just ahead of fellow Angus side Arbroath on goal difference.
Attention now turns to this Saturday’s home game against Ayr United. The two sides last met in the Scottish Cup where Forfar Athletic just managed to squeeze a win to take them through to the fourth round.
Manager Dick Campbell has an almost full complement of players to choose from as he looks to get the side back on form, however, Keith Gibson remains sidelined.
Stephen Tulloch has now served his three-match suspension after his sending off against Alloa Athletic in December.
Loan signing James Craigen has returned to Partick Thistle, while Dale Hilson will return to Dundee United after Saturday’s game.
There has been some good news, however as the club announced extensions to both Willie Robertson’s and Jack Hamilton’s loan deals.
Robertson has had his loan from Dundee United extended to the end of the season ,while Hamilton’s loan from Hearts has been extended to mid February.
Mr Donald added: “There are no easy games in this league. But we go into every single game expecting to win.
“We have a good track record against Ayr United and are looking for this to continue.
“The manager and I know that there is a lot of work to be done and there has been a lot of dialogue between us.
“We have a good squad and money has been made available to the manager for January so we will be looking to add more faces.”