There were three games played in Scotland today, and having made such good progress, it is now the case that there are certain days where my choice of game is limited to one. Today was one of those days, mainly because although I haven’t been to Dunfermline, no trains were running on Boxing Day. That made it hard to travel to Forfar, but harder still to travel to Dunfermline.
Station Park is the second furthest ground from a train station in the SPFL, I believe. That means even at times of year when travel is easier, it can still be a challenge to get to Forfar. Usually a train to Arbroath or Dundee followed by a bus would be best. Today it was a bus from Aberdeen to Arbroath (which takes the coastal route, adding a fair amount of time to the journey), then a bus on to Forfar. After the game it was a bus from Forfar to Dundee, then a Megabus back up the road.
With a gift copy of the second issue of Nutmeg magazine in my bag the journey passed quickly. That was despite the inevitable twists and turns which had to be endured on the single track country roads. There was snow falling and howling winds, which had me doubting whether the game would go ahead. Even an artificial pitch like Forfar’s can’t do much to resist a powerful wind.
However the closer we got the more obvious it was that the game was unlikely to be in doubt. The only concern I had about the weather was that it was freezing. That cold had made it harder than it should have been to enjoy the Alloa game on Saturday and I was hoping the viewing experience wasn’t going to be similarly affected today.
With Christmas presents at home to mess around with, as well as chocolates and the like to be enjoyed, it took a fair amount of effort to drag myself away from home, and the cold certainly didn’t appeal. The thought of a long journey didn’t help either, with over three hours of travel heading down and only slightly less back up.
Sadly, the fixtures wait for nobody and I’m well aware that missing a game could have thrown future fixtures off. There would be nothing worse than finishing up a few grounds short for the sake of a new PlayStation game and some chocolate.
Today’s game was between Forfar Athletic and Clyde. The Loons have been top of the league for much of the season, and while Clyde did look like potential challengers for the title, they have fallen away over time.
Managed by Gary Bollan, The Loons have bounced back from the disappointment of last seasons relegation in some style. There have been countless examples of teams being relegated and struggling at a lower level, but Forfar have done anything but struggle. At the start of play today they were four points ahead of Angus rivals Arbroath with a game in hand.
The Loons last two games were a 5-1 thumping of Annan and a 4-3 win over Cowdenbeath in an epic match last week. Naturally I was hoping for a high scoring game, but these things rarely happen when you want them to. More on that later…
I got off the bus at the bus garage in Forfar and walked to the ground. It’s only a 15 minute walk from the town centre to the ground, almost entirely in a straight line. It is very easy to find, and after visiting once you would never struggle to find it.
The ground is mostly made up of terracing, with three sides of the ground for standing only. The long standing area which runs up the side of the pitch is covered both by a roof above and walls at the side, which keeps the wind at bay. Behind both goals the terracing is uncovered and exposed to the elements. The terracing behind the goal at the far end of the pitch, relative to the entrance, is quite substantial and could hold a lot of fans for a big game. The main stand is elevated, and today it was busy.
Before kick off I walked over to the food stall to buy a bridie. It’s something that you are obligated to do when you visit Forfar. In fact, the club take marketing it so seriously that their mascot is a giant bridie. That’s not necessarily to say it’s the best bridie available in the SPFL, but it’s the home of the bridie and therefore worth trying.
I said before that I was hoping for a high scoring game, but I wasn’t expecting what we got. This might be a bold statement to make without looking back over the games I have seen so far, but today just might have been the best yet.
The match started off in style, when Gavin Swankie opened the scoring. The Loons forward player cut in from the left and curled a right footed shot in to the net from outside the box. It was a great start to the game, and a moment of brilliant skill.
Clyde’s equaliser was similarly unexpected. In fact, it was so unexpected that I didn’t see exactly what happened, and nor did many people around me. The ball was cleared from the box, and then it flew in to the net. It all happened so quickly that it was almost a case of missing it due to a mistimed blink. The score was level at 1-1.
Then the Bully Wee took the lead. David Gormley bravely got on the end of an in-swinging cross from a teammate. He managed to head the ball towards goal, but he was on the receiving end of a punch from the goalkeeper as he did so. It was 2-1 to the visitors, and Gormley appeared to be okay after some prompt treatment from a physio.
As the second half began, it was the home side that scored first to level the match. Martin Fotheringham delighted the crowd with his equaliser, however the delight didn’t last long.
The Bully Wee were awarded a penalty with around 20 minutes to go, and Peter MacDonald stepped up, making no mistake as he fired the ball home. The Clyde fans dressed as santa behind the goal celebrated wildly, it looked like they would win. The worst case scenario was a draw and a well deserved point, surely.
However Forfar had other ideas. Two goals in the last ten minutes from Jim Lister and David Cox completely turned the game. From 3-2 down the Loons were now 4-3 up. It was hard not to become invested in the game as the atmosphere kept building, until the euphoria of the winning goal.
It was a brilliant game, with the lead being held by both sides at various points in the match. There were hard tackles, near misses, moments of brilliant skill and a late winner.
Leaving the ground, the Forfar fans were delighted. They were genuinely excited by what they had seen, and even the Clyde fans I overheard, while devastated, were still talking about how brilliant the game had been.
The win meant that Forfar extended their lead at the top to seven points. There is still a long way to go, but the Loons look like a strong side that have the ability and attitude to go the distance.
Forfar Athletic 4 Clyde 3