IT WAS another case of grinding out the points for Arbroath on Saturday as they faced a battling Albion Rovers.
Arbroath player-manager Paul Sheerin said: “I don’t know if either team deserved to win to be honest with you.
“The first half especially it was kind of like one of those end of season games with two teams who haven’t got much to play for, which is surprising given the position they’re in and the position we are in.
“A wee bit frustrating, but we’ve stumbled over the line, we’ve got three points which is a big thing. We’ve not won at home for a while and it’s good to get that as well.”
Albion manager Todd Lumsden was bitterly disappointed with the defeat after his side seized the lead early in the second half.
He said: “I can’t fathom how we haven’t won that game, let alone take a point. They haven’t really put us under that much of a threat. They’ve got pressure but no real cutting edge.
“Not to have the three points is a sore one.”
On a bright but cold day kicking off into the sun Arbroath were an order of magnitude more alert than they were against Stenhousemuir the previous week and inside the first minute Steven Doris was off down the left flank for a decent run before the Rovers’ back line locked him down.
For the first five minutes Arbroath were the dominant force and had the Wee Rovers on the backfoot.
Sheerin was on spot-kick duty and he had plenty of work in the early stages. One of his attempts after just five minutes was narrowly intercepted by Marvin Andrews, but Colin Hamilton was on hand for a thunderous volley on the rebound, possibly the best of Arbroath’s early chances.
David Crawford earned the first yellow card from referee Bobby Madden after just nine minutes for a solid foul on Euan Smith.
It seemed to take Albion the first 10 minutes or so to wake up, but when they did the Arbroath defence was sorely tested by Alan Reid, and Mark Baxter and Alex Keddie worked hard to keep him, David Crawford and Andrews out.
Rover’s Christopher Dallas also proved to be a thorn in the side for Arbroath and always seemed to be in the mix to take advantage of a mistimed pass or a chink in the Gayfield line.
By the 20-minute mark Albion had boxed up the Lichties in their own half and forced three corners in the space of a handful of minutes putting real pressure on their hosts.
Ross Chisholm found his name in Madden’s notebook two minutes later after he steamrolled Patrick Walker, but Ciaran Donnelly’s resulting free kick sailed harmlessly into touch.
The visitors seemed strongest in midfield and were able to create their own opportunities on the fly as they forced Arbroath to work to stay level.
On 33 minutes Albion nearly opened the scoring as Patrick Walker set up Dallas for a powerful strike and, working in tandem Crawford, was alert enough to try his luck with the rebound as Scott Morrison proved his mettle.
Arbroath continued to push Albion and after 38 minutes a Holmes header to Smith gave him a chance on goal but the ever-present Andrews intercepted it for a throw in.
The Lichties continued to apply the pressure with a corner from the throw in but Donnelly broke free and made off down the centre to Gary Phillips who attempted to nod it past Morrison.
Despite a good but brief run of play from Baxter, Holmes, Sheerin and Travis Dallas was able to step in at the last and turn the ball back down the park for Walker who rushed the shot and sent it skyward with two minutes to go until the whistle.
Half time Arbroath 0, Albion Rovers 0.
Both sides came out swinging and Sheerin opened up a path for Chisholm but Andrews was there to fight him off.
Danny Rennie, who had replaced Smith after the break, made his presence felt a minute later as he went one on one with ‘keeper Matthew McGinley but failed to find the net with his shot.
Just five minutes from the hour mark Arbroath found themselves in a tight spot as Phillips fired a corner cross into a swirling melee which WALKER was able to capitalise on without hesitation.
Albion tried to build on their lead and for the next 10 minutes Crawford and Dallas probed the Arbroath line repeatedly.
Rennie took the lead on the Arbroath counter-attack and with the help of Chisholm and Hamilton bought the Lichties breathing space for Graham Bayne to replace Travis with 15 minutes to go.
Reid was then shown yellow after holding up Hamilton and then knocking him down.
The last 15 minutes were critical for both sides Arbroath needing to find the net and Albion desperate to kill the game.
In an attempt to galvanise his team gaffer Lumsden switched out goalscorer Walker for Christopher Boyle, quickly followed by Donnelly off for Glenn Thomson.
The fresh legs were needed as Barry Russell’s straight red for violent conduct saw the Wee Rovers reduced to 10 men with eight minutes to go.
In almost the same breath Scott Robertson had his world turned upside down by Donnelly inside the box providing Arbroath with a much needed lifeline and Albion with another yellow card. Stepping up to the mark was Doris and with no preamble he sent the ball thumping into the back of the net to even the scores.
With six minutes left Kevin Greene replaced Dallas but Arbroath were in the ascendant with a couple of excellent chances from Rennie who, with just a minute to go found KEDDIE lurking in the Albion box with a clear shot to clinch the win.