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Brechin City 0, Forfar Athletic 1

BRECHIN City continue to stumble their way around the play-off places and it’s remarkable, given the club’s form in the last few weeks, they are still in the promotion play-off spots.

In effect, Brechin have lost more games in the last month than they had done in the previous eight.

While the loss of the likes of McLaughlan, Moyes and McAllister would dent a hole in any squad, with two games left of the season, City’s players really owe it to themselves to go out and ensure that the season, which has been so memorable for the Scottish Cup quarter-final run, doesn’t end like a damp squib.

There was really no hint of what was to come in this ‘derby’ fixture in the early part of the match.

Brechin again lined up with midfield man Fusco at the heart of their defence. David McKenna joined Mitch Megginson in the forward line after suspension.

Brechin started the game relatively well and had a chance after just four minutes, Paul McLean was fouled and from the resultant free-kick Jamie Redman headed wide of the target from a few yards out.

Forfar’s reply came via Chris Templeman, whose shot was deflected past the target.

The Brechin goal then had a lucky escape in the 15th minute when goalkeeper Craig Nelson couldn’t get the ball out of his feet and lost possession to Dale Hilson.

The on-loan Dundee United winger looked likely to give his side the initiative, but a well-timed tackle from Davie White’s saved his side’s and his goalkeeper’s blushes.

Templeman was forced off with an injury after 19 minutes and replaced by Barry Sellars.

Brechin had the next opportunity following a strong run down the right flank from Paul McLean. He cut the ball back from the goal-line, but Jamie Redman fired wide of the target from the edge of the penalty area.

The game had been relatively tame for the opening 25 minutes and certainly lacking in the sort of passion and crunching tackles you might have expected in local ‘derby’.

Then came the intervention of far side assistant Wes Boulstridge. He had the game stopped and spent a few moments speaking with referee Matt Northcroft.

Northcroft left the conversation to speak to Forfar’s number 10 Ross Campbell, only to be summoned back to then return and show Brechin’s number 10 David McKenna a straight red card.

Other than two ex-Brechin City managers in John Young and John Ritchie, both now Loons’ coaches, I have yet to speak to anyone who saw the incident.

McKenna, however, had committed his first foul in the game, seemingly on Forfar’s Martyn Fotheringham. His opponent, to his credit, didn’t appear to roll around the ground in agony or chase the referee for a decision.

Twenty-four hours later I watched an Old Firm player push over an opponent with both hands in the most volatile fixture seemingly in the country, yet he remained on the park.

So there appears to be a lack of consistency in the application of the rules.

While this gave Forfar an advantage and more of the ball, neither side were looking particularly threatening in the last third of the park.

Redman was fouled, but the usually trusty left foot of Janczyk couldn’t find the target on this occasion.

Jim Weir replaced Kevin Byers to get another striker on the pitch and brought on Danny McKay.

There was little in the way of excitement however, as Brechin clung on to try and reorganise a man down and with another bullet fired into their play-off ambitions.

City again started the second half reasonably well and Janczyk’s corner was headed clear by Bolochoweckyj.

City then produced their best move of the game with Janczyk and Molloy combining to set up McKay.

From a good position inside the box, the striker struck the ball well, but he was denied by an excellent save by Neil Duffy in the Forfar goal.

Dick Campbell must have been away for a fag at this point, as according to him after the game, his goalkeeper didn’t have a save to make.

To be fair to Dick, however, young Duffy didn’t have a lot to do thereafter!

As the game passed the hour mark Forfar increased their possession, especially in the middle of the park.

However, it had the look and feel of a stalemate.

Then, in the 58th minute, a hopeful cross from the right flank was dropped by Craig Nelson. Dale Hilson was two yards from goal and couldn’t miss and probably couldn’t believe his luck.

There were two big calls for referee Northcroft thereafter and perhaps not surprisingly he got both of them wrong.

The first again involved young Hilson who was shown a yellow card for diving after he tried to round Craig Nelson.

Nelson made contact with the Forfar player and the Brechin goalkeeper may have got a touch on the ball. What is clearly evident is that this wasn’t a dive in any shape or form. Forfar could have, on another day had a penalty kick.

Hilson’s caution underlined Northcroft’s lack of understanding of the game. Time and time again, even if his assistants were 30 or 40 yards away from the play, he would look to them to make a decision.

At the other end Bolochoweckyj climbed all over McKay inside the Forfar box and brought the City striker to his knees. “Penalty” claimed the cemetery end. Northcroft again waved play on.

Outside the box this would have been a free-kick. Obviously not inside it.

Despite a raft of substitutions, a change in formation and trying to have a go at the Forfar back four there was no way back for Brechin.

Forfar may be the surprise package of the four play-off teams and it would be a fool that wanted to come out of the hat against them.

Brechin will have to redouble their efforts just to get there - something that just a few weeks ago seemed a forgone conclusion.

City had Mitch Megginson booked while for Forfar Ross Campbell, Dale Hilson and Jamie Bishop were cautioned.

Brechin City - Nelson, McLean, McBain, Fusco, White, Janczyk (Cook), Redman, Molloy, Megginson (Kirkpatrick), McKenna and Byers (McKay).

Forfar Athletic - Duffy, Ross, McCulloch, Bishop, Bolocheweckyj, Martyn Fotheringham (Brady), Hilson, Templeman (Sellars), Gibson, Ross Campbell and Dow (Deasley).

Referee, Matt Northcroft; Attendance, 825.