Forfar Athletic 1, Stranraer 0
The Blues lined up against the Loons for the second time in a week looking for a marked improvement.
They showed three changes to the starting line-up, with Frank McKeown returning from suspension to replace Lloyd Kinnaird in defence, Steven Bell returning in midfield and top scorer Jamie Longworth preferred to David McKenna up front.
It was no surprise that Forfar had only the one enforced change, bringing Stuart Malcolm into defence in place of Darren Dods, harshly sent off in the previous clash.
The visitors started brightly and a long-range effort from Bell whistled over the bar but not by much. A towering clearance from David Mitchell caused the Forfar defence lots of trouble and Longworth got it under control before firing in a shot from a tight angle that Marvin Andrews blocked.
Forfar created a chance when awarded a free kick on the left. Iain Campbell swung the ball in and Stuart Malcolm got on the end of it but headed wide.
With a quarter hour gone, the Loons took the lead with a solo effort from Dale Hilson. Picking up the ball on the left, he skipped past a couple of challenges before shooting from the edge of the box. Although not the cleanest strike, it did enough to elude Mitchell and nestled in the bottom corner.
Hilson almost created another chance straight away when this time he elected to pass to Chris Templeman but his shot was blocked by McKeown who got his body in the way.
Stranraer though, were looking much more like their old selves and enjoyed more than their fair share of possession. An equaliser should have come after 25 minutes when the ball broke to Sean Winter inside the penalty area. His first touch was excellent and got him past Campbell but with only Rab Douglas to beat from 12 yards, he shot straight at the former Scotland keeper.
Stranraer looked dangerous as the second period began and Campbell twice was called upon to intervene as they drove into the Forfar box. Firstly he headed away a decent Grehan cross before it reached Stirling and then as Mark Docherty tried another delivery towards Stirling, the defender did his job once again.
Stranraer continued to battle and, playing a passing game into the wind, looked a team that could be returning to their best before too long after the two recent performances.
Douglas had to react smartly as Gallagher chased down a Malcolm backpass but the chances began to dry up as the half progressed and with neither side able to grab control of a game that either could have won, the early goal was looking more and more like being decisive.
Stranraer had strong claims for a penalty which the neutrals seemed to support as Gary Fusco appeared to handle a through ball but the referee didn’t award it. Forfar responded with a long-range effort from the impressive Hilson that went over Mitchell’s crossbar. Ryan Borris was given a rare opportunity and almost converted a Docherty cross at the back post, just unable to get enough contact on it to get it on target.
Another Docherty pass sent Grehan through and he shot wide from a tight angle when had he spotted Borris to his right, the substitute had made a great run into space and would have been a better option.
The Loons had done enough to win but Stranraer had acquitted themselves quite well and were unfortunate to be leaving empty handed.
Stranraer boss Stephen Aitken thought his team had been the better side through most of the game and played the better football, believing that on another day they would certainly have taken something from the match. With players returning from injury and position and still in a strong position, the squad will enjoy a good week of training without a midweek fixture and be ready for the two home games coming up.
Forfar Athletic: Robert Douglas, Mark Baxter, Iain Campbell, Marvin Andrews, Stuart Malcolm, Gary Fusco, Omar Kader (Craig Smith 70), Martyn Fotheringham (Gavin Malin 70), Chris Templeman, Gavin Swankie (James Dale 75), Dale Hilson.
Goal: Hilson 15
Stranraer: David Mitchell, David MacGregor, Mark Docherty, Scott Rumsby, Frank McKeown, Steven Bell, Sean Winter (Ryan Borris 75), Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth (Adam Forde 84), Andy Stirling. Subs not used: David McKenna, Lloyd Kinnaird, Stephen Stirling, Chris Fahey
Referee: M Northcroft