Forfar Athletic were victims of a smash and grab by Angus rivals Arbroath on Saturday after conceding an undeserved equaliser with virtually the last kick of the ball.
The Loons made two changes to the team who beat Ayr United two weeks ago with Martyn Fotheringham dropping to the bench and the suspended Mark McCulloch being replaced by Barry Sellars and Dale Hilson, who was making his third debut in a Forfar shirt after signing on loan from Dundee United for a month last week.
The Station Park side started off stronger with Arbroath looking tired after their heroics running Celtic close in midweek, and had a chance within 60 seconds when the ball was played to Chris Templeman who hit his volley just over the bar. Two minutes later Gavin Swankie saw his shot from the edge of the box smothered by Red Lichtie custodian Tony Bullock.
In the tenth minute Willie Robertson was at the centre of good play, laying the ball off for James Craigen, whose shot went straight at the keeper. A minute later Robertson almost set up an Arbroath goal when his misjudged pass let in ex-Loon Darren Gribben, who only had Jack Hamilton to beat, he tried to take it round Hamilton, but the keeper did well to stop the ball going with Gribben.
After quarter of an hour another former Loon, Stuart Malcolm showed why he is better as a defender when his shot from Paul Currie’s free kick went all the way out for a throw in.
In the 16th minute Currie then put Connor Birse clean through, his attempt on goal thwarted by Hamilton coming out of goal yet again. A minute later the same player had another shot saved by the on-loan Hearts keeper.
Four minutes later Arbroath left back Colin Hamilton had a promising long range shot deflected wide by Michael Bolochoweckyj, the resulting corner from Birse headed over by Alex Keddie. James Craigen collected the game’s first booking from Iain Brines, after what looked like a 50-50 challenge on Currie after 22 minutes.
In the 24th minute Bolochoweckyj made a mistake deep in the Forfar half which let Steven Doris in, but Doris was diverted away from goal and his poor pass into the centre of the box was then cleared.
Willie Robertson then collected the ball in the middle of the park after 27 minutes, making an excellent run past players before cutting it back for Gavin Swankie who could only put his shot wide. 60 seconds later Robertson had almost a carbon copy run, switching the ball with Ross Campbell, before shooting straight at Bullock.
There were no more attempts at goal in the last 15 minutes of the half apart from a Swankie shot which went over in the 40th minute.
Half Time: Forfar Athletic 0 Arbroath 0
In the 54th minute Swankie’s excellent play allowed him to have another shot, unfortunately his shot was directly at Bullock. A minute later Barry Sellars put in a cross that evaded everyone and fell at Dale Hilson’s feet, but he placed his shot wide with the goal gaping.
In the 57th minute the Loons came close again when Ross Campbell sent in a cross from the right and Swankie’s strong header was tipped over the bar by Bullock. On the hour mark Arbroath made the first substitution of the day, with Danny Rennie replacing Forfar local Connor Birse, who had looked quite dangerous all day on the left.
Forfar then came close three times in 5 minutes, with Robertson having his shot fumbled by Bullock, Swankie having his shot diverted for a corner after a good run by Hilson set up Iain Campbell, who couldn’t get a shot off, but laid it off for Swankie, and Templeman seeing his shot go wide of the post.
With 70 minutes gone Paul Currie received the game’s 2nd booking and James Craigen was subbed for Martyn Fotheringham.
Three minutes later the Loons took a deserved lead when Mark Baxter fouled Dale Hilson, the resulting free kick from Fotheringham was put out for a throw in. Iain Campbell’s long throw was then nodded by Templeman, and Swankie flicked it down to Hilson who then rifled home for a debut goal.
The Red Lichties then took Paul Currie off for ex-Scotland internationalist Brian Kerr. Two minutes later Steven Doris, who had been quiet all game in comparison to Wednesday against Celtic, squared the ball to Darren Gribben, whose mishit shot allowed Lee Sibanda to have a go, his effort failed to trouble the keeper and was eventually cleared.
With ten minute to go Gribben was then replaced by striker Derek Holmes. Gavin Swankie was booked a minute later for a tackle on Kerr.
Four minute before the end Dick Campbell sent on Michael Dunlop and Charlie King for Barry Sellars and Ross Campbell to try and see the game out. The Loons almost had a second a minute later when Iain Campbell unleashed a rocket from 30 yards and saw his goal bound effort just tipped wide by Tony Bullock. Willie Robertson then saw his ambitious cross land just wide of the goal in the 89th minute.
With seconds left Arbroath had one last chance to equalise, and didn’t disappoint the travelling support when Doris’ cross evaded everyone bar Derek Holmes, who volleyed back towards goal and saw his effort diverted in by the unfortunate Jack Hamilton.
Forfar now have two away games in a row before Christmas when they travel to Albion Rovers on Tuesday, weather permitting, and this coming Saturday to Alloa Athletic’s 3G pitch at Recreation Park, that game having been moved from Boxing Day.
They also move up to 3rd in the Second Division table after Brechin City lost 1-0 away to leaders Queen of the South, with the Loons now on 20 pts, Arbroath also on 20 and Brechin, now 5th, on 19, although are still nine points behind second placed Alloa.
Full Time: Forfar Athletic 1 Arbroath 1
Forfar Athletic: Hamilton, Sellars (Dunlop 86), I Campbell, Craigen (Fotheringham 70), Bolochoweckyj, Tulloch, R Campbell (King 86), Robertson, Templeman, Swankie, Hilson.
Subs Not Used: Motion, Scott (gk).
Booked: Craigen 22, Swankie 81
Scorer: Hilson 73
Arbroath: Bullock, Baxter, Hamilton, Robertson, Malcolm, Keddie, Sibanda, Currie (Kerr 74), Doris, Gribben (Holmes 80), Birse (Rennie 61).
Subs Not Used: Sheerin, Hill (gk).
Booked: Currie 70
Scorer: Holmes 90+1