WITH the weather at last releasing its icy grip, Arbroath Vics were able to get their league match at home to Coupar Angus under way at the third time of asking on Saturday.
Despite having not played a match at Ogilvy Park since the 1-1 draw with Montrose Roselea on December 3 last year, Vics were without several players due to a variety of reasons, and it was a much changed line-up that took to the field.
Prior to the kick-off, both teams observed a minute’s silence in memory of former manager and committee member Jim Hodson who died at the end of January.
Coupar kicked off, but Vics were soon in around the visitors’ box and Terry Gray sent a drive into the body of goalkeeper, Laurie Spence after his initial throw-in had been knocked back to him.
Soon after, Craig Watson headed against the bar after Matty Johnston had nodded on a David McLeish corner, but play was halted before anyone could reach the rebound for a foul to the visiting team for pushing.
Gray came within inches of giving Vics the lead in the seventh minute when he fired in a volley, which glanced wide off the foot of the post with the ‘keeper beaten.
Vics’ early pressure was rewarded with the opening goal in the 11th minute. Liam Campbell played the ball on for Craig Watson who spotted the run of McLEISH and the midfielder burst through the visiting defence to fire a low shot beyond the reach of Laurie Spence.
A minute later, Vics doubled their advantage when Kevin Laing played the ball up the right for Chris Simpson who pulled it back from the by-line and LIAM CAMPBELL, in only his second start, swept a shot into the back of the net.
Sixty seconds later, Gray almost notched a third, but his shot was deflected just wide of the post with Spence beaten as a rout looked on the cards.
Coupar were struggling to get out of their own half and Ryan Valentine was forced to get back and help his own defence by heading a McLeish corner over his own bar before Craig Sturrock could get on the end of it.
Johnny McBride picked up a booking for dissent in the 29th minute, as did Ross McCaw from the substitutes’ bench.
Having hardly been seen as an attacking force, Coupar pulled a goal back out of the blue in the 32nd minute. A hopeful shot from distance didn’t appear to be causing any trouble but it took a deflection and landed at the feet of Valentine inside the box. Any chance he had of reaching the ball, as Chris Cargill came out to try and gather it, was gone when he was pulled back by Johnston. The referee had little option but to point to the penalty spot, with Johnston fortunate to be shown only a yellow card instead of a red. JOHNNY McBRIDE took the kick and scored confidently.
Vics should have restored their two goal advantage three minutes later when McLeish swung a cross to the far side of the box, but Watson glanced his header wide from close range.
Further chances went a-begging as Watson just failed to reach a Sturrock cross and Campbell fired over from 18 yards.
With seconds of the half remaining, Coupar stunned Vics by drawing level from a second spot kick. Sturrock was booked for a rash challenge on Dean Rooney midway inside the half and when Alan Smith swung the ball into the box, Johnston was again guilty, this time of jersey pulling. McBRIDE again made no mistake with what was the last kick of the half and as the teams left the field, Gray was yellow carded for dissent.
Half-time: Coupar Angus 2, Arbroath Vics 2.
Having squandered a two-goal lead, Vics set about trying to make amends and a run by Campbell was only halted when he was pulled back on the edge of the box. McLeish sent the resultant free kick goalwards and although Spence failed to hold it at the first attempt, he managed to grab it on the line before anyone could react.
Duncan Cocker was booked for dissent before the visitors replaced Paul Stewart with McCaw.
Stephen was getting plenty of joy down the right and he easily got beyond Michael Malone before whipping over a dangerous cross, which bounced behind for a corner off Derek Duncan.
Sturrock then did well to keep the ball alive, heading a Johnston free kick back from the by-line and into the six-yard box, but after nodding the ball into the air, Watson failed to get enough purchase on his second header and Duncan was able to block it on the line, allowing Spence to grab the rebound.
In a rare foray into Vics’ half, McBride got in a header from a Smith free kick, but it was easily claimed by Cargill.
Midway through the half, Vics made a change when Colin Lawson came on for Johnston, allowing Sturrock to switch to central defence.
Against the run of play, Coupar almost took the lead when Ali Townsley played the ball up to McBride who turned and fired in a shot, which required a good save from Cargill, diving full-length to push it away. The danger still wasn’t over as the rebound was heading towards Cocker until McLeish got in a foot to clear it away.
Play quickly returned to the other end with Watson volleying a Stephen cross over the bar, before Chris Simpson somehow contrived to turn the ball past the post from a few yards with only the ‘keeper to beat.
Just when it looked as if Vics profligacy in front of goal might come back to haunt them they regained the lead in the 76th minute. Gray made space for Stephen to again get past his marker down the right and when he whipped the ball into the box, WATSON turned it into the net.
Stephen then robbed Cocker before driving forward and playing in Simpson, but his shot was pushed behind for a corner by Spence, diving to his left.
Laing then sent Campbell away on the opposite wing and his cross almost found Watson in the box, but Smith just got to it first to turn it behind for a corner.
Cocker had a chance for Coupar in the 86th minute when he picked up a slack pass in midfield, but his finish was well wide of the target and failed to trouble Cargill.
With seconds remaining, Cocker picked up his second yellow card of the afternoon for a foul on Stephen leaving Coupar to finish the match with 10 men. From the free kick, Watson headed Stephen’s cross wide at the near post allowing the referee to end the match.
Having raced into an early lead inside the first 12 minutes, Vics looked on course for an easy win, but two crazy penalties and an inability to convert chances meant they had to settle for a 3-2 win, which nevertheless was enough to move them into fourth place in the table.
Arbroath Vics: Cargill, Laing, Sturrock, Gray, Johnston (Lawson 65), Florence, Stephen, McLeish, Watson, Simpson, Campbell. Unused subs: Hutcheson and Duncan.
Coupar Angus: Spence, Rooney, Malone, Townsley, Smith, Cocker, Stewart (McCaw 51), Cassidy, Valentine, Duncan, McBride. Unused subs: Webster and Mason.
Referee: Mr. K. Beats, Finavon.
Vics are out of town tomorrow (Saturday) when they travel to Dundee to meet East Craigie in a league fixture. Kick-off is at 2.15 p.m. and players should meet at Ogilvy Park at 12.30 p.m.
Winners this week were: £10 – No. 109, Luna Ruxton; £5 – No. 114, Jay Cooper.