Arbroath Vics 1
AFTER a long wait, the new season finally got underway on Saturday (August 11) with all East Region clubs being involved in League Cup group games.
Blairgowrie, in Group B of the DJ Laing League Cup, were at home to Arbroath Vics, a team who have enjoyed a favourable run of form against the Davie Park outfit.
Blairgowrie have not recorded a win in this fixture since September 2007. During last season, Blair were on the losing end against the Vics three times, and Saturday’s opening fixture was time to change this poor record. Yet, the last time Blairgowrie and Arbroath Vics met on the opening day of the season was 14 years ago in the old Tayside Second Division and that ended in a Blair defeat. For Blairgowrie, the omens were not good.
Back to the present day, the starting 11 included six new signings. Stewart Sheed, Paul Maloney, and Graeme French all made their debuts, whilst Stewart Nicoll, Steven Findlay, and Mark McColl were all doing it for the second time around, as this is their second spell at the club. Danny Millar had to start the season on the bench due to an aggravating back injury.
Blairgowrie looked hungry and went for the jugular as soon as the referee blew his whistle to start the match. Paul Maloney had the first chance of the match but his effort was deflected and went wide. Defensively, Blairgowrie looked assured, Robbie Hood in particular looking comfortable when dealing with the Arbroath attackers.
What became apparent early on was that Blairgowrie were willing to shoot at will and Graeme French went close with a 20-yard strike that went just over the bar. This was the first of many efforts from long range but while some were close, none really did enough to threaten the Vics’ keeper.
The recovery from the Blairgowrie defenders was solid. Mark McColl stood strong as did his defensive partners in Robbie Hood, Gordon Pirie, and Stewart Nicoll. It is worth noting that throughout the entire first half, Arbroath Vics had not one effort on the goal.
Paul Maloney found himself in a good position and sent a super weighted pass through to Gary Axworthy who was bearing down on goal, but his final effort was saved easily by the keeper.
Gary Axworthy went close again, this time from a tight angle but his powerful effort was blocked and subsequently cleared. Steven Findlay also went close but his effort was again just over the bar. Stewart Nicoll set himself up well for a direct free kick and while the strike was goalbound, the Vics’ tall keeper gathered the ball in both arms.
The final effort of the half fell to Vics who were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box but the final strike rebounded off the Blairgowrie wall and this ended a hugely entertaining half of football.
All it needed for Blairgowrie was to find a breakthrough and continue along the same lines as before, and five minutes after the restart they got their chance. Steven Findlay was the provider, neatly setting up Paul Maloney who controlled himself deep inside the box before smashiing a forceful effort into the keeper’s bottom left corner. It was a great first goal for the club and nothing more than Blairgowrie deserved for their endeavours.
However, the lead didn’t last long. A blip in defensive play allowed a cross into the box and the striker did not spurn his opportunity, shooting past Gordon O’Brien who had no chance of saving.
Blairgowrie responded with further efforts but none came to fruition and they almost went behind when Gordon Pirie cleared the ball off the line and to safety.
It was end to end stuff from this point. Blairgowrie went close when Gary Axworthy, who had cut into the box, crossed a perfect ball across the goal face. A Vics’ defender went to clear but the ball hit the underside of the bar. By the smallest of margins, Blairgowrie had been denied retaking the lead.
The final effort of the match fell to Graeme French who hit another long range shot only to watch it go over the bar.
The game finished all square.
Both teams will feel that they could have won the match but in terms of chances on goal and attacking possession, Blairgowrie will feel the more disappointed not to have the three points.
All in all it was a good start to the season.
Advantage in Group B lies with Montrose Roslea who beat Forfar Albion 7-0 in the group’s other match.
Blairgowrie are away to Forfar Albion in the DJ Laing League Cup this Saturday, kick-off 2.30pm.
The players were sporting the club’s new home strip for the season for the first time on Saturday, sponsored by A and R Robertson and Black, The Property Shop. Billy Mackay was presented with the strips by John Gray on Friday afternoon.