A SEVERELY understrength Arbroath Vics travelled into Perthshire on Saturday to meet Blairgowrie in a league fixture.
With no fewer than nine players unavailable, former player, Danny Brown was called upon to fill a jersey, while Scott Pearson, who had yet to make an appearance all season, was listed as substitute alongside assistant manager Arthur Walker. Scott McDowell was forced to play despite having a broken wrist, while Gavin Norrie, Stuart Richardson and Steve Reid all took starting places despite not being 100 per cent fit.
The home side was quickly out of the blocks with their aggressive style of play putting Vics on the backfoot. An early chance came the way of Darren Neave who latched on to a clearance from goalkeeper Gordon O’Brien and cut inside Danny Brown before firing in a shot which Steve Reid did well to hold.
With only eight minutes played, the home side took the lead. Gary Axworthy made ground down the left before crossing into the box where STEVEN FINDLAY connected to knock the ball past Steve Reid.
Blairgowrie were forced into a change in the 10th minute when Mark Christison went off to be replaced by Richie Robertson.
Vics were struggling to find any cohesion to their play and Blairgowrie carved out another opening a minute later. Stewart Nicoll pulled the ball back for Darren Neave and when he clipped it into the box, Ryan Menzies stuck out a leg, but could only prod it wide.
It was the 13th minute before Vics put Gordon O’Brien under any sort of pressure and the ‘keeper only just managed to stretch and hold on to a Norrie free-kick from wide on the right which almost sneaked in under the bar.
At the other end, a Gordon Pirie cross landed at the feet of Axworthy and it required a good stop from Reid to prevent the Blairgowrie player’s shot from extending their lead.
Midway through the half, Norrie was booked for one foul too many.
With 31 minutes played, Vics got back on level terms. Anderson and Norrie combined in midfield to release RYAN OWBRIDGE and the striker burst through the Blairgowrie defence to round the ‘keeper and roll the ball into the empty net.
Before the restart, Norrie was forced to go off with Pearson coming on from off the bench.
McKenzie almost gave Vics the lead in the 35th minute with a low shot from distance which almost caught O’Brien unawares, but the ‘keeper managed to dive along his line to scramble the ball away at the base of the post.
With five minutes of the half remaining, Menzies had a great chance to regain the lead for the home side, but he headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
Half-time: Blairgowrie 1, Arbroath Vics 1.
Only two minutes of the second-half had elapsed before Brash found his name in the referee’s book for a foul on Owbridge.
Vics looked the better team as the second half got underway and a good move involving Anderson, Pearson and Lawson ended with Anderson curling a 20-yard shot inches wide of the post.
Soon after, Owbridge nodded on a Steve Reid clearance to send Pearson away, but his shot was deflected across the face of goal and behind for a corner.
Blairgowrie then made a second change, sending on Gary Mackie for Axworthy.
The home side were fortunate to still have 11 men on the park when Mark Brash took out Anderson, but the referee let him off with a final warning when a second yellow card looked inevitable.
With 15 minutes left, Vics edged in front from the penalty spot. McDowell sent McKenzie down the right and when he cut into the box, Robertson, quite bizarrely dived on the ball with both hands after he had stumbled. He was perhaps fortunate to escape with only a yellow card before PEARSON netted the spot-kick.
Blairgowrie surged forward looking for a quick reply and Brash wasn’t far off target with a header which just cleared the crossbar following a Menzies corner.
With seven minutes left, Vics extended their lead to 3-1. A clearance down field found its way to OWBRIDGE and he ran through an exposed home defence to steer the ball beyond the advancing ‘keeper.
Dewar then picked up a yellow card for kicking the feet away from McKenzie on the edge of the box. Owbridge also found his name in the referee’s book for a bit of afters before McDowell drilled a shot wide after the initial free-kick had been charged down.
Owbridge almost grabbed a hat-trick with the last kick of the game when he cut in from the right and fired an angle drive over the bar, but by then Vics had bagged all three points.
Blairgowrie: O’Brien, Pirie, Nicoll, Dewar, Christison (Robertson 10), Knowles, Menzies, Brash, Neave, Findlay, Axworthy (Mackie 69 ).
Arbroath Vics: Reid, Richardson, McLeish, Norrie (Pearson 32), Johnston, Brown, McDowell, Anderson, Owbridge, Lawson, McKenzie. Unused substitutes: Walker and Duncan, gk.
Referee: Mr. N. Fraser, Dundee.
Vics are at home to Forfar Albion in the league tomorrow (Saturday). Kick-off is at 2.30 p.m.
This week’s 150 Club winners were: £70 – No. 137, Peter Longmuir; £30 – No. 94, A. Bates; £15 – No. 108, Russell Ruxton; £15 – No. 116, L. Hodson; £10. – No. 113, Emma Ruxton; £5 – No. 123, Willie Anderson.
East Region North District League
P W D L F A Pts Montrose Roselea 17 12 2 3 35 17 38 Downfield 18 11 4 3 44 24 37 Dundee Violet 17 10 2 5 38 24 32 Dundee North End 15 10 1 4 41 25 31 Arbroath Vics 18 9 4 5 38 27 31 Blairgowrie 18 9 2 7 50 36 29 Arbroath SC 16 7 5 4 34 24 26 Kirrie Thistle 14 5 6 3 34 28 21 East Craigie 17 4 3 10 24 39 15 Forfar Albion 17 3 4 10 28 45 13 Brechin Vics 16 3 3 10 21 40 12 Lochee Harp 11 3 1 7 13 23 10 Coupar Angus 18 1 1 16 15 64 4