Lacklustre Blues put to the sword

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Stranraer 0, Forfar Athletic 3

Stranraer’s final home match presented another chance to secure second division status when promotion play-off chasing Forfar Athletic made the long journey south last weekend.

The Blues entered the stage in good fettle too, buoyed by some good performances on the road in recent weeks and safe in the knowledge that they still held matters in their own hands.

Eyes and ears could still turn to Dumfries where East Fife were visiting but the most important thing was to do the business for themselves at Stair Park and worry about that later.

The early exchanges were quite even. Sean Winter chipped across to Craig Malcolm but Forfar cleared.

Mick Dunlop had barely recovered from an injury when a break resulted in Forfar’s opener. Danny Denholm delivered a swinging cross towards the near post that the unfortunate Dunlop only succeeded in slicing past David Mitchell to give the Loons the lead.

Worse was to follow for Dunlop, whose miserable afternoon ended 12 minutes later with a suspected broken nose but there was one little ray of sunshine with the welcome return to action of long-term absentee David MacGregor.

Armand Oné had a couple of half chances for the Blues, first with a shot from the edge of the box and then with a header after Ryan Borris had crossed but neither troubled Darren Hill.

However, the respite was only temporary as a free kick from the right saw Chris Templeman and Iain Campbell combine and the giant striker nodded home from a few yards.

Stranraer tried to get back into the game as the next goal would surely be crucial and a stretching Malcolm was only inches short of connecting with Chris Aitken’s through ball.

Grant Gallagher found Malcolm with another fine pass and the Blues’ top scorer weaved past a couple of defenders but just ran out of space to shoot at the crucial moment. Jordon Brown then forced the final action of the period with a shot from the edge of the penalty area but Mitchell dived to his left to turn the ball wide.

The Campbell/Templeman combination almost unlocked the Stranraer defence just after the restart but this time Templeman headed wide.

Stranraer responded in fine style when Lloyd Kinnaird delivered into the penalty area for Malcolm to knock down for Oné. The Blues’ striker was poised to pull the trigger until a timely tackle from Willie Robertson denied him the opportunity.

Forfar introduced Omar Kader and it took him only three minutes to wrap up the points for the Loons. Dale Hilson played a pass down the inside right channel for him to run on to and he calmly rolled the ball under Mitchell.

The game was well in the control of the visitors and they never looked threatened by Stranraer. It could have been a much worse afternoon for Stranraer with the news coming along the A75 from Dumfries that relegation play-off rivals East Fife were leading by two goals against Queen of the South and the murmurings around the ground confirmed this would be a scenario that would see the Blues drop to second bottom and lose control over their own destiny.

Dumfries and Galloway rivalry had been set aside as Queens fired two late goals to retain their unbeaten home record but also ensure a hammer blow for the Fifers that keeps them two points behind Stranraer in the table and the Blues now know that they only need to match the result gained by East Fife on the final weekend to ensure safety.

Stephen Aitken was unhappy with the level of the Blues’ performance, struggling to fathom how they could play so poorly in such an important match. The favour that Queen of the South delivered was a great boost and the team will be ready to go again next week with a winner takes all situation.

Stranraer: David Mitchell, Lloyd Kinnaird, Mark Staunton, Frank McKeown, Mick Dunlop (David MacGregor 22), Chris Aitken, Sean Winter (Robert Love 46), Grant Gallagher, Armand Oné (Darren Gribben 60), Craig Malcolm, Ryan Borris. Subs not used: Michael Moore, Russell Cadwell

Booked: Gallagher

Forfar Athletic: Darren Hill, Michael Dunlop (Willie Robertson 40), Iain Campbell, Mark McCulloch, Michael Bolochoweckyj, Jordon Brown, Dale Hilson, Gavin Malin (Omar Kader 67), Chris Templeman, Ross Campbell (Charlie King 77), Danny Denholm. Subs not used: Barry Sellars, Ross Salmon.

Booked: None

Goals: Dunlop (og) 10, Templeman 28, Kader 70

Attendance: 422

Referee: D Robertson