ARBROATH edged Angus rivals Forfar Athletic out of the Ramsdens Cup in an exciting end to end clash on Tuesday night at Gayfield.
Forfar won the toss and elected the Maroons to start off with the low evening sun in their eyes, which seemed to make some impact as the visitors stormed out of the gate.
The Loons front was all over the Arbroath half and good defending from the back three kept the worst of the pressure off ‘keeper Darren Hill.
The first attempt on goal came after just a couple of minutes when Charlie King thundered a volley from a Forfar corner but his attempt was slightly off and his strike found only advertising hoardings.
Arbroath were straight back in the mix and Jake Mair did a good job of feeding the ball up the left flank despite heavy pressure from Forfar’s Mark McCulloch.
Daniel Rennie was on side for the pass but the crowd of blue shirts caused him to rush and he sent the ball sailing over the crossbar.
Undeterred, the Lichties attacked again. Brian Kerr and Mark Baxter kept Forfar in their own half, but sent the ball just a touch too far for Derek Holmes to get to in time.
The game became quite physical, with a lot of clashes and some serious battling for possession, which made for an exciting game, but also a fair number of bookings.
Ex-Lichtie Gavin Swankie and Paul Currie clashed head on, with Currie coming off second best in the encounter and then Michael Travis received a warning for his challenge on Iain Campbell.
Arbroath stayed in the Forfar half, but the Loons’ defence locked them down on the right flank, trapping them for a solid minute against the corner flag until Currie managed a great header which unfortunately failed to find the net.
Another heavy clash on 11 minutes saw Darren Gribben led off for treatment when he hit the ground after colliding with Martin Fotheringham, who received a yellow for his trouble.
A few minutes later I. Campbell also received a yellow for a brutal two-footed tackle on Currie.
A lot of the possession stayed in the midfield as both sides fought over the ball, until Arbroath managed to pin Forfar down long enough to snatch a corner.
Mair took the kick, but the set piece was wasted as the ball flew over the mass of bodies in the box, only to be picked up by a blue shirt and sent upfield.
Baxter was on form throughout the game, and several times during the first half hour he was called on to plug gaps in the Maroon defensive line.
CURRIE then showed his worth. Despite taking some punishment from the Loons’ defence he eluded his covering man long enough to take a cross into the box from Mair and slot it into the back of the net on 22 minutes.
Player-manager Paul Sheerin must have regretted losing Swankie as time after time in the first half his former striker linked up with Ross Campbell on the flank to threaten the Arbroath goal.
On the restart Swankie broke loose and Hill had to run forward and face him down. However, I. Campbell and Danny Penholm gathered the ball and forced Hill onto the backfoot, where he narrowly avoided letting in an equaliser.
But a few minutes later, on the half hour, SWANKIE was back, foxed Alex Keddie outside the box, ran round Hill and posted the ball neatly between the sticks.
For want of a better cliché, the first half really was an end to end game, as long balls from goal kicks and the increasing number of free kicks awarded for heavy tackles broke up the flow and essentially ended any kind of passing play. Both Mair and Keddie received yellows for separate incidents of unsporting behaviour at this time.
GRIBBEN came into his own following the Forfar goal and he scored two consecutive goals in the 35th and 38th minutes.
For the first counter he took an early pass from Currie and ran almost the entire length of the pitch, dodging past McCulloch, Fotheringham and Tulloch to regain the lead for Arbroath.
In his second, GRIBBEN found himself on the edge of the box to collect a Rennie pass and despite the tight angle he slotted it past the ‘keeper’s left hand.
In the closing minutes of the first half Forfar took the offensive, charging up the right flank with Campbell finding King in midfield who worked in Keith Gibson for a shot on goal.
Their efforts paid off, and after a couple of false starts, a minute before the whistle former Maroons’ favourite GIBSON found himself with the ball just outside the Arbroath box with time to spare and he fired a shot into the net.
Half-time: Arbroath 3, Forfar 2.
The second half was by far the scrappier of the two, with both sides looking a little played out after the restart.
Keddie was lucky with a very risky pass back to Hill as Penholm charged in looking to level the scores a few minutes into the half,
Currie, still limping from his encounter with I. Campbell, was switched for Lee Sibanda after 51 minutes, and Sibanda was straight to work rallying Arbroath forward.
Gribben had another couple of chances, trying to duplicate his run from the first goal, but the Forfar back row had got the message and made a point of speedily closing down any Lichtie thrusts.
Swankie again burst forward after just 15 minutes, but his long shot was almost leisurely, allowing Hill to easily intercept.
At the same time Rennie went down under the boots of I. Campbell who received his second yellow of the game and consequently a red, leaving Forfar with just 10 men and a goal deficit.
Credit to the Loons, the red card fired them up and Arbroath didn’t get many easy chances on goal after that.
Arbroath clung onto their lead, but had to make do with chances from corners. Even against Sibanda’s speed the Forfar defence blocked aggressively.
On 73 minutes gaffer Sheerin made an appearance for Arbroath as he replaced Kerr in an attempt to tip the balance forward.
Forfar also took this opportunity to make substitutions of their own, switching King for Chris Templeman and Ross Campbell for Omar Kader.
A few minutes later Gribben, despite showing some much needed creativity up front was subbed for Lichtie stalwart Steven Doris.
The match entered a bit of a deadlock at this point, both sides having decent chances on goal, but no real finish to them.
The only credible chances came from Kader at this time, who tried a run of his own in the final 15, and was rarely out of the Arbroath end.
In the dying minutes a desperate Forfar pulled out all the stops, but the end result was too heavy handed and both Michael Bolochowckyj and Kader earned yellows for talking back to the referee.
In a last-gasp Forfar secured a corner. Fotheringham fired it into the melee but in the confusion Tulloch missed out and Swankie’s recovering shot was off target.
Post-match Forfar manager Dick Campbell was understandably disappointed with the result. He said: “Ultimately that usually happens when you go down to 10 men, you play a bit better. Swankie missed a few at the end there, but any team I’ve ever managed in my life I’ve always had workers. They worked hard tonight, but there was no quality, I felt for them, I really did feel for them.”
Lichtie boss Sheerin added: “We held on. Forfar, they made it hard for us and we didn’t keep the ball well enough, which is a real frustration from our point of view.
“But saying that Darren [Hill] made some great saves, but other than that it was all huffs and puffs.”