Arbroath 1 Stranraer 0
by Shaun Niven
Irn Bru Scottish League – Division Two
Gayfield Park – Saturday 20th April 2013, 15:00 KO
The travelling Blues contingent trooped away from Gayfield on Saturday, bemused and bewildered as to how Stranraer had managed to leave the seaside venue with nothing to show for their efforts after dominating the game for long spells as promotion paly-off chasing Arbroath. Much as had happened back in November it was a case of bad luck and bad finishing as the visitors once again let their hosts sneak away with the points they scarcely deserved but on this occasion the effects of results elsewhere served to deepen the pain of the afternoon.
Traditionally at Arbroath, it is cold, windy and bleak and these conditions were duly served up as expected with the children’s theme park against the far boundary wall looking as unappealing as a discarded Smokie Supper as the patrons huddled under the covered shelters that border the playing surface. The wind usually blows straight down the park and today was no exception and it was the home side that took advantage of the elements for the opening half.
Arbroath had an early half chance when Graham Bayne nodded down for Steven Doris in the danger but a timely Lloyd Kinnaird intervention launched a counter attack that saw the first of two early Blues chances. Ryan Borris had collected the ball and his solo run down the left channel ended when he cut inside and fired a stinging right foot shot from twenty yards than Tony Bullock did well to beat away diving to his left. The following opportunity was even better when a corner from Chris Aitken was sliced back across the face of goal by Mick Dunlop. Borris picked up the loose ball and chipped it back to Craig Malcolm who turned Michael Travis superbly and blasted goalwards only for the veteran Bullock to make a superb instinctive save and keep the score blank. The Blues had all the best chances but Arbroath did threaten briefly when Doris tried a long range curling effort only to see Dunlop deflect the ball away with his head and the danger was averted. Almost immediately the Red Lichties had cut Stranraer open with an incisive move and grabbed the lead. David Banjo played the ball to Bayne inside the penalty area and his link up with Paul Sheerin allowed the manager to get through on goal and a composed finish saw him neatly tuck the ball past the stranded David Mitchell. Grant Gallagher almost fed a ball through towards Malcolm as the Blues retaliated and only a well-executed block by former Blue Alex Keddie prevented a clear break at goal. Arbroath though had enjoyed the bulk of the possession and territorial advantage for a twenty minute spell but without creating any clear cut chances and Stranraer went back up the tunnel fairly content that had shown enough that with the benefit of the conditions at their back, they could make inroads after the restart.
What followed will long be remembered by those who witnessed it as a classic case of the one that got away. This was a mighty fish that eluded the Blues as they created all the chances of the half and did everything but score while Mitchell became little more than a spectator at the other end with the visitors defence able to cope comfortably with the rare Arbroath attacks. Darren Gribben controlled the ball in midfield and found Borris who surged into the penalty area but was unable to find the target then another fine move down the right from Borris again who linked with Robert Love and they set up Aitken to shoot from 20 yards but he did so straight at Bullock who wasn’t troubled by the effort. Too many touches from Malcolm and Gribben who both may have pulled the trigger eventually saw Gallagher have a long range chance but again his shot, a fairly tame one, run right to Bullock who again saved easily. The one way traffic continued and an Aitken free kick from just outside the box curled round the defensive wall but agonisingly stayed just a foot wide of the far past and it was becoming abundantly clear that there was only one team likely to score. To their credit the Lichties were determined to hold on to the score that would see them claim an important victory and they defended for their lives at times but it was certainly effective if not always pretty to the eye. Best illustrated by a stramash in the home penalty area following an Aitken corner as the ball ricocheted around and Gribben notably was unable to finish from a few yards out and eventually the massed ranks in maroon were happy to blooter the ball to safety. Kinnaird created the next chance as his cross was half cleared by Keddie and fell to Aitken on the edge of the box but again his effort although well struck missed the target by the narrowest of margins. Aitkens corners were causing consternation in the home defence and another chance arose from the next one but Frank McKeown was the guilty party on this occasion rising well to meet the header but putting his effort over the top. By the time Gallagher headed another corner wide it was time for the artillery and Michael Moore swiftly followed by Armand Oné were introduced in an attempt to increase the bombardment on the Arbroath goal that would surely yield a deserved equaliser. Mark Staunton created the next chance as his pass found Malcolm whose turn and shot went straight at Bullock. All the while, Mitchell at the far end could only look on wondering if he would be called upon. In fact he needn’t have worried as his second half efforts consisted of catching one cross such was the Blues dominance of the play. Oné in particular was proving a handful and he got on the end of a Gallagher diagonal ball but suffered the same fate as those before him when he shot wide from twelve yards albeit from a tight angle. He had another opportunity a moment later but as the Blues contingent screamed for him to have a crack he attempted to pass and the chance was lost. With only minutes to go the final insult was delivered by the officials who failed to spot a blatant body check by Keddie on Oné, as clear a foul as anyway could but to the disgust of the Blues, the disbelief of surrounding neutrals and the delight of the Lichties the referee waved play on. There was still time for Bullock to make a late save from Aitken as the chance count went past double figures but the goal count crucially would remain the same and with results elsewhere not being favourable the day could and should have been a much better one.
Paul Sheerin was gracious enough to concede that his team had been somewhat fortunate to grab all three points but praised his defenders for battling well as a unit and admitted that at this end of the season the result was more important than the performance.
Stephen Aitken on the other hand couldn’t believe that the Blues had come away empty handed from Gayfield for a second time this season after outplaying their hosts again and as he described, creating enough chances to win three games and having witnessed one of the worst refereeing decision he’d ever seen. That said they didn’t help themselves by missing so many chances but there is plenty of encouragement to take into the next game.
Arbroath: Tony Bullock, David Banjo, Mark Baxter, Scott Robertson (Stuart Malcolm 90), Michael Travis, Alex Keddie, Scott Adams (Lee Sibanda 58), Ross Chisholm, Graham Bayne (Derek Holmes 78), Steven Doris, Paul Sheerin.
Subs Not Used: Danny Rennie, Josh Gray.
Goals: Sheerin 25
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Lloyd Kinnaird, Mark Staunton, Frank McKeown, Mick Dunlop, Chris Aitken, Sean Winter (Robert Love 15), Grant Gallagher, Darren Gribben (Armand Oné 78), Craig Malcolm, Ryan Borris (Michael Moore 75).
Subs Not Used: Jamie Campbell, Russell Cadwell
Attendance: 562 Referee: B Cook