Vics hold on for win after late flurry by Blair’

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Arbroath Vics 3, Blairgowrie 2

HAVING seen off Perthshire opposition in the league the previous week, Arbroath Vics were again pitted against opponents from the same county when they entertained Blairgowrie in a league fixture on Saturday.

There were two changes in personnel to the side that won at Coupar Angus with Steve Florence and Garry Warren both returning to the starting line-up at the expense of Colin Lawson and Danny McKenzie.

Kevin Durno was deployed in a central position in midfield leaving Craig Sturrock in central defence. Included on the substitutes’ bench as a trialist was former ASC player Gary MacFarlane.

Having won comfortably against Blairgowrie in the DJ Laing League Cup back in August, Vics were quick to put pressure on the visiting side and David McLeish had a shot charged down inside the first minute.

Soon after, Kevin Laing sent a tempting cross into the box, which Kevin Durno headed across for Craig Stephen, but although he got his head to the ball, it was just a fraction too high and he was unable to direct it on target.

Vics had a scare in the sixth minute when a Craig Sturrock clearance fell to Steven Harris at the angle of the box and he fired off a first time shot, which just cleared the bar.

Two minutes later, however, Vics were in front. The Blairgowrie defence failed to deal with a Warren corner properly and when he was given a third chance to send the ball into the box. It was knocked down for MARK FOTHERINGHAM who guided a shot beyond goalkeeper Gordon O’Brien.

Ryan Owbridge almost found a way through the Blair defence as he chased after a McLeish through ball, but Gavin Shannon got back to make a tackle and clear the danger.

Another long ball, this time from deep inside his own half by Sturrock, saw Owbridge and Stephen, both set off in hot pursuit, but O’Brien was quickly out of his box to boot clear.

A mistake by Sturrock almost let the visitors back into the match when he got in a tangle inside his own box and it allowed Harris to close him down. However, the defender was fortunate that the referee didn’t see him tug at the number 10’s shirt before he managed to clear, otherwise it would have been a certain penalty.

At the other end, Matty Johnston picked out Fotheringham, who sent a great ball through the Blairgowrie defence for McLeish and James Simpson just did enough with his outstretched leg to divert the cut-back over his own bar.

Lee Hutcheson kept Vics in front with an instinctive save in the 21st minute when he somehow pushed aside a Simpson flick from close range after Gary Axworthy had delivered a cross into the six-yard box.

Vics responded with Fotheringham nodding a McLeish corner back to Johnston, who let fly with a 20-yard volley, which looked netbound until it struck Owbridge and was blocked away.

Blairgowrie then caught Vics on the break when O’Brien launched a clearance downfield, which was seized upon by Harris and his shot got the slightest touch off Hutcheson as he raced towards the edge of his area, which was enough to divert it wide of the goal.

In the 43rd minute, Vics increased their lead from the penalty spot. Johnston picked out the run off Owbridge, who raced clear of the defence with Blairgowrire appealing for offside. The striker appeared to lose control of the ball as he entered the box and collided with the ‘keeper, but the referee decided he had been impeded and awarded a spot kick. Despite heated protests from the visitors, GARRY WARREN kept his composure to net the kick, once the dust had settled.

Still aggrieved at the decision, Blairgowrie had Greg Ryder yellow carded before the half-time whistle sounded.

Half-time: Arbroath Vics 2, Blairgowrie 0.

Vics were first to show after the interval with Durno nodding a Johnston free kick towards the by-line, where Warren hooked the ball back over his shoulder, but O’Brien was able to clutch it at the near post.

Three minutes later, Gordon Pirie clipped the ball into the box for David Salisbury who went down under a challenge from Sturrock, but the referee wasn’t interested in the visitors’ claims for a penalty. Vics, however, lost concentration for a second and when the ball ran into the path of Harris his attempt from a tight angle caught the top of the bar and dropped over.

Salisbury continued to debate the point with the referee and ended up being yellow carded for his troubles.

Blairgowrie made a change soon after when Farquharson was replaced by Mark Byrne.

In the 62nd minute, Blairgowrie pulled a goal back out of the blue. Owbridge conceded a free kick inside his own half when he backtracked and upended Simpson, which earned him a booking. Axworthy delivered the resultant kick into the box, which Hutcheson came to gather but failed to reach, and GORDON PIRIE took full advantage by glancing a header into the net.

It took Vics only eight minutes to restore their two-goal advantage however. Warren sent a free kick deep into the Blairgowrie box where Matty Johnston kept the ball alive by heading it back into the six-yard box, allowing RYAN OWBRIDGE to nod it over the line from close range.

Vics made a change in the 73rd minute when Laing was replaced by Craig Watson. That resulted in Sturrock switching to left-back and Durno moving into central defence.

Axworthy then had a shot blocked away for a corner by Florence, but it eventually led to Blairgowrie bringing the score back to 3-2. Axworthy’s cross was only partially cleared and when Pirie returned it into the box, JAMES SIMPSON swept the ball high into the roof of the net.

The goal seemed to unsettle Vics and for the remainder of the match, they struggled to find any pattern to their play as Blairgowrie threw everything at them in search of an equaliser.

Firstly, Hutcheson was called upon to push a Harris drive around the post. Then, an Axworthy corner almost found its way straight into the back of the net, but Durno managed to head it clear from under the bar by conceding a corner at the far side.

In the 80th minute, Vics were stretched again when Simpson got above the defence to get on the end of a Byrne cross, but his header drifted wide of the post.

Vics then made a double substitution when Stephen and Warren were replaced by Colin Lawson and MacFarlane.

Blairgowrie had one more chance before the close when Byrne fired off a low drive, which Hutcheson was forced to dive full length across his line to push away. The ball fell for Simpson whose cross looked to be deflected behind, but the referee awarded a goal kick, which infuriated the Blairgowrie player who was booked for his protests.

However, Vics managed to hold on for the win and seconds from the end, Blairgowrie were reduced to 10 men when Salisbury was dismissed following a second yellow card following a rant at the referee.

Arbroath Vics: Hutcheson, Laing (Watson 73), Florence, Johnston, Durno, Sturrock, McLeish, Fotheringham, Owbridge, Stephen (Lawson 82), Warren (MacFarlane 82). Unused subs: Simpson, McKenzie and Cargill, gk.

Blairgowrie: O’Brien, Shannon, Mackie, Ryder, Pirie, Simpson, Farquharson (Byrne 60), Millar, Salisbury, Harris, Axworthy. Unused subs: Fyffe, Ford, Kelly and Mackie, gk.

Referee: Mr. S. McBurney, Dundee.

Tomorrow’s match

Vics are out of town tomorrow (Saturday) when they travel to Beechwood Park to meet Lochee Harp in a league fixture. Kick-off is at 2.30 p.m. and players should meet at Ogilvy Park at 12.45 p.m. East North League

P W D L F A Pts

Dundee Violet 5 5 0 0 19 4 15

Dundee North End 5 4 0 1 11 5 12

Montrose Roselea 5 3 1 1 15 3 10

Arbroath Vics 5 3 1 1 10 8 10

Lochee Harp 5 3 0 2 14 13 9

Kirriemuir Thistle 5 2 1 2 9 8 7

East Craigie 5 2 1 2 10 13 7

Blairgowrie 6 1 1 4 11 15 4

Brechin Vics 4 1 0 3 6 14 3

Forfar Albion 4 0 1 3 4 10 1

Coupar Angus 5 0 0 5 8 24 0