League leaders’ first half strikes do the damage

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Arbroath Vics 0, Downfield 2

FOR THEIR final home match of the season, Arbroath Vics faced up to league leaders Downfield in a North Division fixture on Saturday.

Craig Sturrock and Danny McKenzie both returned to the starting line-up, replacing Steve Florence, who picked up an injury in a midweek friendly, and Lee Jones, who was unavailable. Scott McDowell reverted to central defence alongside Kevin Durno.

Vics were first to threaten when Matty Johnston hit the ball deep into the Downfield half where Garry Warren gave chase. Although the ball was headed clear it went only as far as Warren who fired it back goalwards, but his drive took a deflection and went wide.

Gavin Norrie then sent a fine pass down the right looking for Ryan Owbridge, but goalkeeper, Gary Thain was quickly out of his box to thump the ball out of the park.

Downfield almost found themselves a goal to the good in the eighth minute when a misunderstanding between Kevin Durno and Steve Reid saw the centre-half head Kris Rollo’s punt over the advancing keeper, but Scott McDowell got back to turn the ball behind for a corner as it ran towards goal.

Vics had a great chance to open the scoring soon after when Danny McKenzie was played in, but his shot was too near the ‘keeper who managed to dive and make the block.

The Spiders came close when Sean Reilly played the ball up to Stephen Tront who quickly turned it into the path of Andy Payne who sent a 22-yard shot just wide.

Having made a reasonable start, Vics found themselves a goal down in the 15th minute. KIT BREMNER picked up a pass from the right and took a couple of steps forward before drilling a low shot in off the post from outside the box.

Three minutes later, Owbridge nodded a Warren pass forward, looking for McKenzie, but the ball took a fortunate deflection off the outstretched leg of Mark Ferrie and landed in Thain’s arms.

At the other end, a Tront free kick was helped across the box by Kevin Scott and Matty Johnston was forced to turn it behind for a corner at the back post.

With 22 minutes gone, Downfield extended their lead. Bremner fired over a cross from the right and ANDY PAYNE arrived in the box from the opposite wing to blast an unstoppable volley into the back of the net.

Kevin Scott then got in a header, which almost caused embarrassment for Reid who allowed it to slip through his fingers, but fortunately there was little pace on the ball and he recovered in time to prevent it from crossing the line.

With a two-goal cushion, Downfield dominated the remainder of the half without seriously troubling Reid, although both Norrie and Johnston picked up yellow cards for fouls on Tront and Scott as they pushed forward into dangerous positions.

Half-time: Arbroath Vics 0, Downfield 2.

Downfield carried on from where they left off and Tront and Payne carved an opening down the left, inside the first minute, where Anderson did well to nip in before Scott to turn the cross behind for a corner.

Owbridge looked to have a free header at the other end, following a Warren corner, but he failed to get his head to the ball and the chance was lost.

Another sweeping move between Payne and Bremner let Tront in but his chipped shot from just outside the box, drifted wide of the target.

Warren was then an unlikely saviour for Vics in the 53rd minute when, back helping his defence at a corner; he nodded a netbound header from Callum Cox off the line up and over the bar.

Good play by Norrie driving forward from midfield saw him release Warren on the left. The winger’s cross was a dangerous one, but Ferrie reacted quickest, sliding in at the near post to divert it for a corner.

Four minutes later, Warren picked out Norrie after his initial flag kick had been partially cleared and Norrie cut into the box from the right and fired a shot just past the near post.

Bremner then found his name in the referee’s book for a foul on David McLeish almost at the corner flag and from Warren’s free kick, Norrie got in a downward header, but the ball reared up and into the hands of Thain on the line.

At the other end, Scott gathered in a Connaire Connolly pass and spun round on the 18-yard line to send a shot just past the post.

Vics continued to press looking for a way back into the match, but despite having a reasonable amount of possession, Downfield always looked comfortable at the back.

A spate of substitutions broke up the rhythm of play with firstly, Vics sending on Scott Pearson for McKenzie and Downfield replacing Cox, who had taken a knock, stretching to clear a Warren cross for a corner with John Holt. Further changes saw Colin Lawson on for Owbridge, Scott Tovey on for Payne and Danny Brown on for Anderson.

Vics had two chances late on with Warren forcing Thain into a save and Norrie sending a drive just wide, but at the final whistle it was Downfield who had kept their title challenge on track, while at the same time extinguishing any last hopes Vics had of doing so as they slipped back further into the chasing pack.

Teams:

Arbroath Vics: Reid, Johnston, Sturrock, McDowell, Durno, Norrie, McLeish, Anderson (Brown 85), Owbridge (Lawson 80), McKenzie (Pearson 70), Warren. Unused substitutes: D. Warren and Duncan, gk.

Downfield: Thain, Rollo, Connolly, Cox (Holt 72), Ferrie, Tront, Reilly, Henderson, Scott, Payne (Tovey 80), Bremner. Unused substitutes: Hart, Patterson, McHugh, McKaig and Lindsay.

Referee: Mr. G. Harris (Coupar Angus)

Trip north

Vics three remaining league fixtures are all away from home. The first of these is tomorrow (Saturday) when they travel to meet Kirrie Thistle. Kick-off is at 2.30 p.m. and players should meet at Ogilvy Park at 12.30 p.m.