ARBROATH Vics were on league duty again on Saturday when they travelled to Victoria Park to meet Brechin Vics.
With Chris Simpson and Craig Stephen both unavailable, Mark Fotheringham not fully fit and Ryan Owbridge still sidelined by injury, the Arbroath side was forced to make changes to the side that was held at home by Forfar Albion the previous week.
Danny McKenzie and Gary MacFarlane were both promoted from the substitutes’ bench, while former Montrose Roselea defender Ewan Graham slotted in at centre-half as a trialist.
Arbroath made the early running and with only two minutes played, Craig Watson got on the end of a Matty Johnston through ball and got beyond Ewan Cairney on the by-line but his cross was cleared away by Barrie Gourlay.
The away side continued to put pressure on the Brechin rear-guard, but the closest they came to breaking the deadlock in the early stages was a David McLeish free kick, which was partially blocked and was gratefully grabbed by goalkeeper Jamie Robbie.
Brechin came close to scoring in their first worthwhile attack in the ninth minute. Iain Gauld sent Ryan Strachan away and when he released Colin McNaught it required a good save from Lee Hutcheson standing tall to block the striker’s shot away with his body.
At the other end, Johnston very nearly found the mark with a cracking drive from fully 30 yards, which whistled just wide of the post.
Despite having most of the play, it took Arbroath until the 17th minute to open their account. Craig Sturrock swung over a high, hopeful cross, which looked an easy take for Jamie Robbie, but the ‘keeper, perhaps blinded by the low sun, inexplicably allowed the ball to break off his chest leaving CRAIG WATSON, who had followed it in, to turn it into the net from close range.
Two minutes later, Arbroath doubled their lead. After his initial corner was cleared, Gary MacFarlane returned the ball into the box and WATSON rose highest to head beyond Robbie to claim his second goal of the afternoon.
In a brief respite, McNaught picked up a loose ball in midfield and sent a long range drive dipping narrowly over the bar.
Arbroath continued to hold the upper hand and Warren was inches away from connecting with a Watson header at the back post.
It came as no surprise when Arbroath took a 3-0 lead in the 27th minute. Ewan Graham flighted a free kick into the box, which Watson headed down for Danny McKenzie, and although Robbie did well to block his shot on the line he could do nothing to prevent GARRY WARREN from tucking away the rebound.
McLeish was next to have a go picking up a Warren shot in midfield and advancing to send a shot not too far wide.
Brechin began to get their act together and McNaught took the ball up the right before whipping over a cross from the corner flag, which Lee Hutcheson was only able to punch away. Chas McKenzie set up Danny Ross on the 18-yard line, but his shot carried too much elevation and cleared the bar.
Callum Valentine found himself the first recipient of a yellow card when he went through the back of Danny McKenzie before Brechin reduced the deficit in the 39th minute. McNaught fired in a free kick, which deflected off the wall wrong-footing Hutcheson. Although the ‘keeper did well to adjust himself and dive across his line to keep it out, CHAS McKENZIE stabbed it over the line at the post.
Arbroath responded with Terry Gray racing down the right and whipping over a teasing cross, which Paul Ross stuck out a leg to clear and was relived to see it fly straight into the arms of Robbie.
The referee had his yellow card out twice more before the interval, noting the names of Barrie Gourlay, foul on Danny McKenzie, and Graham for a similar offence on McNaught, before the teams headed for the dressing rooms.
Half-time: Brechin Vics 1, Arbroath Vics 3.
Arbroath were quickly off the mark in the second period with Watson gathering in a McLeish pass and turning on the 18-yard line to curl a shot just wide of Jamie Robbie’s left-hand post.
Brechin continued to search for a second goal however and Valentine wasn’t far off target when he ran through and got the break of the ball from Ross, before lashing a shot just wide.
Hutcheson then had to look lively to block a McNaught shot after Valentine and Ross had combined to send him away, with Graham completing the clearance at the expense of a corner.
Arbroath were forced to make a change seven minutes into the second half when Steve Florence picked up a knock and was replaced by Kevin Durno.
Robbie then made a great save; leaping to flick over a thunderous free kick from McLeish after MacFarlane had been impeded.
The home side made a change in the 55th minute when David Easton came on for Young, before McNaught was booked for a late tackle on Graham.
Watson was again denied by the keeper in Arbroath’s next attack when Robbie dived to his right to smother his shot.
Brechin then had claims for a penalty waved aside when Ryan Strachan clipped the ball into the box for Ross who went down, but the referee wasn’t impressed and allowed play to continue as Arbroath cleared their lines.
Both sides then made further changes with Brechin sending on Gavin Cooper for Iain Gauld and Arbroath replacing MacFarlane with Colin Lawson.
With 20 minutes left, Brechin were right back in contention when they reduced the deficit further to 3-2. Gray gave away a free kick almost on the touchline, which earned him a yellow card and when Chas McKenzie whipped the ball into the box, McNaught sent a glancing header beyond Hutcheson. The ball was heading for the net, but ROSS made sure by turning it in from on the goal line.
Further changes saw Ewan Buggins come on for Chas McKenzie while Arbroath threw on Mark Fotheringham for Danny McKenzie.
Brechin threw everything forward in search of an equaliser and Johnston found his name in the referee’s book for halting the run of Strachan illegally.
Durno then gave away a free kick almost on the 18-yard line, but Brechin were unable to make anything of the award.
With time running out, Brechin’s last chance came and went when David Easton got on the end of a Valentine cross, but his header dropped wide of the back post with the Arbroath defence missing.
Arbroath managed to see out the remaining couple of minutes to hold on for the three points, which seemed a formality after the first half hour, but their inability to hold on to a lead almost cost them again as Brechin came close to grabbing a draw late on in the match, but the win was enough to see them move into third place in the table.
Brechin Vics: Robbie, Gauld (Cooper 66), Young (Easton 55), Cairney, Ross, Valentine, McKenzie (Buggins 72), Gourlay, McNaught, Ross, Strachan. Unused subs: Stewart, Matthews and Eaton.
Arbroath Vics: Hutcheson, Johnston, Florence (Durno 52), Gray, Graham, Sturrock, McKenzie (Fotheringham 81), MacFarlane (Lawson 67), Watson, McLeish, Warren. Unused subs: Laing and Duncan, gk.
Referee: Mr. M. Ritchie (Arbroath).
Top side visits
Vics are back on league business again tomorrow (Saturday) when they play host to Dundee Violet.
The Dundee side is top of the league with a 100 per cent record of eight wins out of eight, having averaged just under five goals per game, but a win for Vics would give them and the chasing pack some hope of being able to catch them as the season progresses.
The kick-off for Saturday’s match is at the earlier time of 1.45 p.m.
Winners this week were: £10 – No. 150, Debbie Warren; £5 – No. 127, Ryan Low.
McBookie.com East North League
P W D L F A Pts
Dundee Violet 8 8 0 0 38 7 24
Montrose Roselea 8 6 1 1 25 6 19
Arbroath Vics 8 5 2 1 21 13 17
Dundee North End 8 5 1 2 17 11 16
Kirriemuir Thistle 8 4 1 3 12 9 13
East Craigie 8 3 2 3 18 17 11
Lochee Harp 9 3 1 5 20 30 10
Brechin Vics 8 2 0 6 11 31 6
Blairgowrie 8 1 2 5 14 20 5
Forfar Albion 8 0 4 4 11 18 4
Coupar Angus 7 0 0 7 10 36 0