Watson the hat-trick hero as Vics end season on a high

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Arbroath Vics 3, Blairgowrie 2.

Arbroath Vics brought their season to an end with a league fixture at home to Blairgowrie last Saturday.

Vics didn’t have their troubles to seek before the match, with Lee Hutcheson and Steve Florence being added to an already lengthy list of injuries.

Craig Sturrock and Colin Lawson were both unavailable, leaving Vics with only 13 players, two of whom, Chris Simpson and Matty Johnston took on the role of substitutes despite being nowhere near fit.

Trialist Ross Scott was drafted in to take over in goal, with David McLeish reverting to left-back and Mark Fotheringham switching to central defence.

On the plus side, Andy Cowan and Grant Mowatt were both available again and came into the starting line-up, with trialist Kane Hester retaining his place.

Blairgowrie were lying in third place, just behind Forfar West End on goal difference, and were still in with a chance of gaining the runners-up place and promotion to the Premier Division. Like Vics, Blairgowrie were also down to only 13 players and could only list two substitutes on the bench.

Vics made a positive start and almost straight from the kick-off, McLeish sent Garry Warren away on the left and he won a corner off Robbie Hood as he tried to cut into the box. However, Grant Mowatt’s flag-kick was cleared away by the Blairgowrie defence.

At the other end, Greg McDonald worked the ball across to Graeme French, but his low shot was comfortably gathered by Ross Scott down to his right.

The trialist keeper was not afraid to come out and gather crosses and he was clattered by Andy Murison as he clutched a high ball into the box soon after, the Blairgowrie forward being penalised for the challenge.

Hester put Vics back on the attack, winning the ball in midfield before playing it on to Mowatt. He in turn released Warren on the left and his cross was turned behind for a corner. Mowatt’s cross bounced around the six-yard box before Kevin Durno tried to force it in at the back post, but his attempt was blocked away by Scott Tovey.

Warren almost made the breakthrough for Vics two minutes later when he linked up with Hester to take the ball into the box, but his shot towards the near post was turned behind for a corner by the knees of goalkeeper Gordon O’Brien.

Vics were making the most of the forward running, but Blairgowrie’s high line constantly saw them caught offside, with Craig Watson in particular being halted more often than not by the referee’s whistle.

On the one occasion the striker was allowed to continue, his drive was blocked by Robbie Hood as he advanced into the box on to a Hester through ball.

In a promising Blairgowrie attack, Steven Findlay, James Simpson and Andy Murison combined to open up Vics, but full-back James Simpson, who had continued his run, made a hash of the final shot sending it bobbling wide without troubling Ross Scott in Vics goal.

Vics responded by forcing a corner in their next attack and when Abdourahman Njie tracked Mowatt’s cross to the far side of the box, he pulled the ball back into the middle for Watson, but his header was straight into the arms of O’Brien stationed on the line.

Watson was denied again eight minutes later when he met a Craig Stephen cross on the volley and his shot cannoned away from goal off the body of Tovey.

A minute later, a Hester cross deflected off a Blairgowrie head and looped towards the back post where Warren got on the end of it, but from a tight angle, he could only drill the ball over the bar.

When a goal did arrive it was at the other end, and it carried a fair slice of luck for Blairgowrie. Stephen broke up a visiting attack with a fine tackle wide on the right, but the ball broke back off his body straight into the path of ANDY MURISON. leaving the centre with a clear run in on goal, which he duly finished off with a shot into the corner.

Before the break, Warren found his name in the referee’s book for preventing the ball from going out for a throw-in by dragging it infield with his hand.

Half-time: Arbroath Vics 0, Blairgowrie 1.

Blairgowrie were first to show after the break when French broke over the half-way line and picked out Darren Neave, who clipped a cross into the box that McLeish did well to nod away from Danny Millar coming in behind him.

In the 50th minute, Vics struggled to clear a James Simpson throw-in and were indebted to Ross Scott, who pulled off a fine save to keep out Neave’s close-range shot.

Njie put Vics back on the front foot with a run down the right before playing the ball across to Hester, but his shot lacked enough pace to trouble O’Brien in the visitor’s goal.

Durno was yellow carded for dissent after giving away a free-kick just a few yards outside the box a couple of minutes later, but Blairgowrie failed to make anything of the resultant free-kick.

Vics kept pushing on and eventually drew level in the 56th minute. McLeish sent Warren away down the left and he left a couple of defenders in his wake as he cut in from the left before laying the ball across the face of goal for WATSON to slam home with an accomplished side foot finish.

Three minutes later, Hester was unceremoniously flattened by O’Brien a yard outside the box as he tried to go round him.

Fortunately for the Blairgowrie keeper he was only yellow carded as a defender had got behind him before he committed the offence.

From the free-kick, O’Brien spilled Watson’s shot, but Mowatt, following up, was unable to convert the loose ball, knocking it wide.

Blairgowrie almost edged back in front in the 63rd minute when Steven Findlay sent Neave through on goal with Vics appealing for offside but his parting shot went across goal and wide of the far post.

It was Vics’ turn to have the next chance when Mowatt picked up a Stephen cross and sent the ball back into the middle for Hester, whose shot was blocked at close range by O’Brien before it eventually ran out for a corner.

Midway through the half, Blairgowrie made a change placed by Paul Maloney.

In the 69th minute, Vics went in front. Andy Cowan sent a pass through the Blairgowrie defence and this time the referee waved away the visiting claims for offside as WATSON ran on to it before taking the ball round the keeper and slotting it into the net.

The lead only lasted seven minutes, however, before Blairgowrie got back on level terms. Findlay played the ball forward to French and he helped it into the box where MILLAR fired a shot beyond Scott. Sixty seconds later, Millar nodded a Steven Findlay cross down inside the box into the path of Neave, but he didn’t connect properly and his shot spiralled over the bar.

O’Brien then did well to punch a Stephen free-kick off the head of Andy Cowan inside a packed penalty area as play returned to the other end.

The keeper then kept Blairgowrie on level terms a couple of minutes later when he got his foot to a Watson shot despite diving in the opposite direction to send the ball spinning wide of the post.

From the corner, Watson got above the defence to reach Warren’s cross, but his header went inches wide of the target.

In the 89th minute, Robbie Hood could have won it for Blairgowrie when a Graeme French free-kick landed at his feet inside the box but he was denied by Scott, who made a fine block at his feet as he fired a shot goalwards.

Vics raced to the other end to grab a winner with the clock showing 90 minutes.

Njie was played into the box only to see O’Brien block the ball away with his chest. The keeper, however, in his eagerness to get the ball up to the other end of the park, chased it to the touchline, but was beaten to it by Mowatt, who whipped a cross into the box where WATSON threw himself headlong to head into the net and claim his hat-trick with his 25th goal of the season.

In stoppage time, Scott Tovey was yellow carded for a crude challenge on Hester and Andy Cowan followed him into the book for taking exception to it.

No sooner was Hester back on his feet when he was flattened again out on the far touchline. This time he was unable to continue and Chris Simpson was sent on to replace him. With Vics having won a corner and over five minutes into time added on the substitute must have made the briefest ever appearance on the field of play in a Vics jersey in 132 years when the referee blew for time up a soon as the ball was touched; his involvement lasting barely 10 seconds.

Vics had the satisfaction of ending the season on a winning note, and it was a win they deserved despite the clinching goal coming late in the game. For Blairgowrie, however, the defeat means their promotion hopes are over for another season, despite them having one more match to play.

Arbroath Vics: Scott , Stephen, McLeish, Fotheringham, Durno, Cowan, Mowatt, Hester (Simpson 90), Watson, Njie, Warren. Unused sub: Matty Johnston.

Blairgowrie: O’Brien, Simpson, Nicoll, Hood, Tovey, McDonald (Maloney 67), Findlay, Millar, Murison, French, Neave. Unused sub: Hay.

Referee: Mr. W. Ferguson (Forfar).

Yellow cards: Vics: Garry Warren, Kevin Durno, Andy Coawn. Blairgowrie: Gordon O’Brien, Scott Tovey. Red cards: None.

150 Club

Winners this week were:

£70 – Jimmy Stewart

£30 – Lois Simpson

£15 – Lee Ferrier

£15 - Gareth Ruxton

£10 – Andy Cowan

£5 – Bev Smith

P W L D F A Pts

Dundee N E 30 24 4 2 113 33 76

Forfar WE 28 18 2 8 80 41 56

Star Hearts 29 17 2 10 86 54 53

Blairgowrie 29 17 2 10 75 46 53

Downfield 26 15 5 6 55 39 50

Newburgh 26 14 7 5 81 41 49

Luncarty 26 15 1 10 84 49 46

Thornton Hibs 26 14 3 9 81 52 45

Arbroath Vics 30 12 5 13 71 76 41

Lochore Welfare 26 12 4 10 51 55 40

East Craigie 27 12 2 13 62 46 38

Scone Thistle 28 11 3 14 58 73 36

Brechin Vics 29 8 3 18 38 62 27

Lochee Harp 29 5 5 19 56 82 20

Forfar Albion 30 4 0 26 37 133 12

Coupar Angus 25 0 0 25 13 159 0