Forfar Athletic came from two goals behind to beat ten man East Fife 3-2 to stay third in the Second Division playoff hunt.
The Loons made three changes from last week’s defeat to Alloa with Ross Campbell, Barry Sellars and the suspended Stephen Tulloch making way for Jamie Bishop, Michael Bolochoweckyj and Danny Denholm who was making his return from an injury that had kept him out for almost two months.
The Methil side started the better team and took the lead with only 6 minutes on the clock when Craig Johnstone ran with the ball from his own half before passing to Robert Sloan, who whipped in a cross that wasn’t cleared properly, the ball falling to Johnstone who rifled home from just inside the box.
Forfar struggled to get into the game with only Dale Hilson coming close to scoring after being set up by Gavin Swankie. They were then punished again when East Fife broke up field from the resulting goal kick, and with the defence nowhere to be seen, Paul Willis was able to loop his free header over the advancing Jack Hamilton to make it two-nil after just 20 minutes.
With 25 minutes on the clock The Loons came close again after James Craigen and Willie Robertson linked up well and Robertson’s cross allowed Craigen a shot at goal, his attempt hitting the side netting. Five minutes later they were awarded a penalty when Dale Hilson and Darren McCormack were racing for the ball and Hilson was hauled down, resulting in McCormack being dismissed for denying a goal scoring opportunity. Iain Campbell stepped up to take the penalty and slotted it in to the keeper’s left, this being his third goal of the season, all from the penalty spot.
In the 33rd minute Forfar had Craigen to thank for keeping them in the game when he headed off the line after Hamilton was beaten. Scott Durie was then booked for a bad looking tackle on Danny Denholm.
The Loons then had a shot cleared off the line after Craigen’s corner was punched out to Swankie whose shot was chested off the line by a defender. Paul Willis came close with a couple of minutes left in the half when his curled shot forced Hamilton to pull off an excellent stop.
About 30 seconds into the second half Willie Robertson was booked for a rash challenge and was subbed three minutes later for ex-Spartans midfielder Gavin Malin, who was making his debut after signing on an amateur basis earlier this month.
The Loons went from getting nothing out of the game to getting all three points in the space of two minutes when Danny Denholm’s powerful shot caused Callum Antell to fumble the ball into his own net to equalise, then Denholm’s cross in the 58th minute evaded everyone apart from Gavin Swankie, who curled the ball past the keeper for his tenth goal of the season. Colin Samuel was then replaced by Gareth Wardlaw.
Just after the hour mark Malin did well to beat two players before crossing the ball into the box, Swankie flicking the ball to Craigen, whose goal bound shot came off a defender’s leg and went for a corner. Robert Sloan then came off to be replaced by Liam Gormley.
With twenty minutes left Wardlaw was booked for a dubious challenge on Michael Bolochoweckyj. Danny Denholm then attempted a cross that Antell palmed out only as far as Gavin Swankie, but his shot hit Chris Templeman’s thigh and went over the open goal.
In the 78th minute Bolochoweckyj came close to scoring when his header from Craigen’s corner went just over. Dale Hilson was then replaced by Martyn Fotheringham. Chris Templeman came close five minutes later when his shot crept past the post when the keeper was beaten.
Gavin Malin almost made himself known to the Loons support in the last minute of normal time when his shot cannoned off the bar, Fotheringham then put the ball back in, Templeman laid the ball off for Iain Campbell who couldn’t connect properly and his attempt went wide. This was Templeman’s last involvement in the game as he was then subbed for Ross Campbell.
With seconds left Craig Johnstone was booked for an awful tackle on Fotheringham and things threatened to boil over on the touchline as Dick Campbell and East Fife manager Billy Brown exchanged heated words.
The Loons now entertain Angus rivals Brechin City on Wednesday 2nd January and will look to avenge the 4-1 hammering at Glebe Park in November.