I'd like to have written a positive report to finish off a season of away match reporting. I'd like to....but I can't. This was another poor performance by Queens who were again outplayed by a team who looked like they wanted, and needed, the points much more than we did. Much like Saturday's game (and one or two others recently), it was also very much a game of two halves. The first was generally very poor but probably shaded by Queens who therefore deserved the half-time lead. The second was dominated by Forfar, start to finish, and they could indeed have won by more goals in the end as, unlike Stirling, they were able to turn dominance into end product.
John Connolly made just one change to the team that faced Stirling, Steven Walklate replacing Phil Nixon in the centre of defence. Resources were certainly thin with the early release of Hughes, Muir and McQuilter and that saw Dennis Boyle, also already told to find a new club, replacing Mark Angel on the bench. Alan Hogg was also named as a substitute but didn't appear to be in attendance.
The first half hour of the game was poor fare, with neither side creating too much. A couple of efforts from O'Neill, one easily saved and one a couple of feet over, were all we had to show for our efforts. For their part, Forfar had offered even less with just a free header over the top following a half cleared corner. However, out of nothing we produced a goal in the 31st minute. It started when Andy Aitken stepped forward to intercept a pass on the edge of his own box. He strode forward to halfway before lifting the ball forward. Iain Good was first to it but his control certainly wasn't "good" and Weatherson gained possession. He laid off to John O'Neill who turned inside two challenges before returning a pass to Peter Weatherson. "Nelly" held off a challenge before burying the ball past Jim Moffat and into the bottom left corner of the net for his twentieth goal of the season. That was basically it for the first half action although Euan Donaldson did miss a decent chance for the "Loons" when he found himself clear on the left of our box but shot across goal and didn't even force a save from Campbell.
The second half was a different story although it began positively enough. Andy Aitken hit a free kick from halfway to the back post area where Warren Hawke rose for a free header towards an unguarded net. Unfortunately the contact was mistimed and the chance lost. Two minutes later Forfar came very close to an equaliser. A right sided corner was crossed in far too deep but picked up by Donaldson and returned to the near post where Liam Keogh rose to head against the crossbar with Campbell stranded. A further two minutes later, after Des McKeown had been seen to be physically sick on the pitch twice, Barry Sellars burst into the penalty box and drove across goal just missing the left post.
On the hour mark, Queens had a reasonable shout for a penalty for handball turned down and Forfar punted the ball clear. The ball dropped out of the sky to Andy Aitken on the edge of his own box. Andy's control let him down and the ball bounced up and hit his arm. It was accidental but he did clearly gain an advantage so a free kick was awarded. Campbell lined his wall up but he hardly need have bothered as the players in it saw fit to jump up and split as Barry Sellars ran up to take it. Consequently, his strike found it's way under and through the wall and, although Campbell was able to get something on the ball, he could only help it into the net for the equaliser. Straight from the restart, Peter Weatherson tricked his way past the centre half and drove just over the bar from about fifteen yards out.
There was a slightly controversial moment in the 65th minute when John O'Neill, back helping the defence, stretched to cut out a low cross and diverted it towards the touchline. Jamie Campbell was able to collect it before it ran for a corner but then looked up to find that referee had somehow decided that O'Neill meant to do that and awarded a back pass. As the ball was right on the touchline about eight yards from goal, there was never too much likelihood that Forfar would make anything of it though and it was duly struck into the side netting.
If the "Loons" wanted to keep their destiny in their own hands then they had to win this game so it was no surprise that they continued to press and, in the 77th minute, a looping header from Sellars went just over the top. Before play restarted Neil Cooper threw on super-sub Willie Stewart (who had come on and scored against Queen's Park on Saturday) for Liam Keogh. Two minutes later, Queens had a free kick about twenty yards out which Peter Weatherson lashed wildly wide of goal. From the goal kick, Walklate rose to win the ball cleanly in the air but headed it against the substitute. The break of the ball went the way of Stewart and he found himself clear on goal. He took the ball as far as the penalty area before tucking his shot under Campbell to give his side a well deserved lead. Three minutes later and the match was effectively ended as a contest when Ian Ferguson headed Forfar's third following Andy Cargill's right wing cross. The only remaining point of any note was John O'Neill picking up the game's only booking in the final minute for a wild challenge at his own corner flag.
So, we are now certain to finish either fifth or sixth in the Division and Saturday's remaining fixture is even more meaningless than it was before (at least for us) since we can't even catch neighbours Stranraer now. The three points for Forfar tonight moves them out of the bottom two for the first time in the whole season and leave the early season leaders, Queen's Park, in their place as favourites to join Stirling Albion in relegation. With Forfar at home to Stirling on Saturday, even a victory at Palmerston may well not be enough for the "Spiders" but they will have to go all out for one anyway. Hopefully this will at least make for an entertaining match to end the season. It would also be nice if Peter Weatherson could clinch the title of the Division's top scorer with a goal or two.
Thanks to Ewan Lithgow for tonights report.