Blairgowrie 0, Arbroath Vics 0
Having been left without a game the previous week when their fixture at Brechin Vics was washed out, Arbroath Vics were on dangerous ground again on Saturday when they travelled to meet league leaders Blairgowrie in a McBookie.com North Division fixture.
Heavy overnight frost had necessitated a pitch inspection at Davie Park, but by the time kick-off came around the surface was definitely playable.
Vics included loan signing Ryan Winter from Lochee United in their starting line-up in a midfield role, while Garry Warren also returned to the side.
The home side were first to show their intentions with right-back Ryan Menzies breaking forward and winning a corner in the first minute. Menzies himself took the flag kick and when Gavin Burns turned his cross back to Gary Axworthy, his shot from the corner of the box was held by Alex Cargill.
Vics responded quickly with Winter sending a good ball through for Garry Warren who clipped a cross from the left to the far post where Kane Hester got on the end of it, but the angle was too tight and his header ended up in the side-net.
Soon after, Axworthy played the ball up to Kelly who chested it back into the path of Kit Bremner, but his 20 yard shot flew over the bar.
Play began to settle down, but despite Vics being neat and tidy on the ball, it was Blairgowrie who carried more purpose in the opening exchanges and when a Sean Kelly shot deflected into the path of Bremner inside the box, Kieran MacGregor had to react quickly to turn it behind for a corner before the number 10 could get his shot away. Menzies swung in a teasing cross from the corner, which Cargill had to fist away from under his own bar and behind for another flag kick at the opposite side.
In the 20th minute, Greg McDonald sent Stewart Nicoll free down the left, but Cargill dived out to smother his cut back before anyone in a blue jersey could get on the end of it.
Cargill then produced a great save a minute later leaping to tip a Kelly shot round the post after the Blairgowrie player had broke through the Vics’ defence to fire goalwards.
At the other end, Craig Sturrock slipped a pass through the Blairgowrie defence where Scott Donald eluded the offside trap, but goalkeeper Gordon O’Brien was quickly out of his box to clear before the striker could reach.
Blairgowrie responded with Stewart Nicoll firing a diagonal pass into the path of Axworthy who clipped a cross to the back post where MacGregor did well to head away from the incoming Kelly.
Jamie Thomson drove Vics on in the 30th minute before finding Warren on the left, but his cross was just too high for Matthew Swan inside the area and the ball drifted away out of the danger area.
The home side pushed forward a again and a neat interchange of passes on the edge of the box led to an opening for Kelly, but he just failed to get a touch to the ball and it ran through for Cargill to scoop it up.
Sturrock then prevented Kelly from getting into the box with a tremendous sliding tackle to win the ball, when any error would have surely resulted in not only a free kick, but a red card.
A mistake by Winter saw him give the ball away to Bremner in a dangerous area allowing him to play in Darren Neave, but Cargill came to Vics’ rescue by getting behind the number 11’s shot to save.
Vics still posed a threat when they pushed forward and Warren got up the left and rolled the ball into the path of Winter who knocked it into the box, but the ball just eluded the outstretched leg of Donald and ran behind for a goal kick as he was challenged.
With a couple of minutes of the half remaining, Axworthy jinked his way through Vics’ defence, but Cargill ensured the sides went in level at the break, by diving low to his left to push his angled drive round the post.
Half-time: Blairgowrie 0, Arbroath Vics 0.
Blairgowrie had the first chance of the second period when Sturrock was penalised for lunging into a tackle just short of the box, but Axworthy failed to find the target from the free kick, his shot skipping wide of the post.
In the 55th minute, Swan was booked for clattering into Neave, while a minute later, MacGregor was also yellow carded for kicking the ball away after he was stranded in an offside position in the Blairgowrie half.
Warren had a chance to give Vics the lead just before the hour mark when Swan picked him out with a diagonal pass, but Menzies just got a foot in to flick the ball away as O’Brien dived at his feet.
Cargill then found his name in the referee’s book, presumably for something he said, but the match restarted with Vics being awarded a free kick out on the touchline deep inside the Blairgowrie half, which almost led to the opening goal. Warren swung the ball into the box which Donald prodded goalwards from around six yards, but O’Brien somehow got his foot to it clear off the line despite diving the wrong way.
Midway through the half, Blairgowrie made a double substitution when Gordon Pirie and Paul Maloney were sent on for Burns and Kelly.
With 67 minutes played, the home side had a great chance to take the lead when Sturrock tangled with Neave just inside the area and the referee pointed to the spot. Menzies stepped up to take the kick, but Cargill dived full length to hold on to his shot low down at the post.
Hester broke through the Blairgowrie defence but was beaten to the ball by O’Brien who had advanced well out of his box. The ‘keeper’s clearance sailed straight into the path of Maloney, leaving him one on one with Cargill, but the ‘keeper stood his ground to block away his shot.
The home side made a third change when Robbie Hood was replaced by Steven Findlay before Steve Florence was yellow carded before going through the back of Neave.
As the match entered the last 15 minutes, Sturrock put Vics on the offensive, picking out Warren who slipped a pass through the home defence for Hester to run on to, but his shot dropped wide of the post as O’Brien came out to narrow the angle.
Hester came even closer in the 80th minute when he got on the end of a Winter pass and got beyond O’Brien but his shot from a tight angle was cleared off the line by Brash and behind for a corner.
Four minutes later, Blairgowrie found themselves down to 10 men when Menzies was sent off for manhandling Donald to the ground a couple of yards outside the box as he was bearing down on O’Brien with no one else in sight. The resultant free kick from Hester was held on the line by the ‘keeper.
Pirie was next to be shown a card, this time yellow, when he swiped the feet away from Hester as he broke over the halfway line.
Vics might have grabbed a winner in the 89th minute when a long ball from Florence sent Hester away, but he took one touch too many as he entered the box and the ball ran slightly out of his control, allowing O’Brien enough time to dive and smother it at his feet before he could get his shot away.
Despite there not being any goals, it was a good competitive game, with plenty of incidents to keep everyone entertained. Both ‘keepers made excellent saves at crucial times in the match, which helped the keep the scoreline blank. Vics will probably be happier with the point away to the league leaders, the second time they have held them to a draw this season, but they might just have won all three in the latter part of the game.
Arbroath Vics: Cargill, MacGregor, Sturrock, Johnston, Florence, Winter, Swan, Thomson, Donald, Hester, Warren. Unused subs: Lawson, Riddell, Tindal, Whitton, gk.
Referee: Mr. K. Beats (Finavon).
Vics are at home to Luncarty in the league tomorrow (Saturday). Kick-off is at 1.45 p.m.
Winners this week were: £20 – No. 75, Bob Duncan; £10 – No. 45, Craig Smith; £5 – No. 37, Colin Lawson.
McBookie.com East North League
P W D L F A Pts
Blairgowrie 14 9 2 3 37 20 29
Downfield 11 9 1 1 31 11 28
Newburgh 13 8 1 4 35 22 25
East Craigie 13 7 3 3 41 22 24
Brechin Vics 12 8 0 5 36 21 24
Star Hearts 14 6 4 4 45 35 22
Thornton Hibs 11 6 3 2 44 22 21
Luncarty 13 6 2 5 32 25 20
Scone Thistle 14 6 1 7 33 34 19
Arbroath Vics 13 4 4 5 24 29 16
Lochee Harp 13 5 0 8 27 28 15
Kirrie Thistle 14 3 4 7 19 34 13
Kirkcaldy YM 13 3 2 8 30 47 11
Lochore 14 3 1 10 24 52 10
Forfar Albion 14 1 0 13 15 70 3