Match Report - By Steven Mew
With no fewer than six players unavailable, Manager Barry Smith praised the effort and commitment of his side in difficult circumstances following the defeat against Forfar Athletic yesterday afternoon.
With suspension and injuries taking their toll, coupled with the lack of international clearance for Luke Watt and Christopher McLaughlin – despite both having signed over a month ago - left City with just 9 fit outfield players available. The 45 year-old City boss had little option but to register himself as a player and complete the entire 90 minutes – eight years since his last competitive game.
Following a major squad rebuild in the summer, it was very much a new-look City side that took to the pitch yesterday with nine players making their competitive City debut.
In fact, the home side had a far more familiar look to it with 5 ex-City players featuring in the squad in the shape of Sean Burns, Mark Docherty, Andy Jackson, Jordan Kirkpatrick and Scott Robertson.
After some impressive showings in pre-season, Lewis McMinn was given the nod in goal with a back line of Lee Duncanson, Scott Reekie, Sean McIntosh and Ross Brown. Barry Smith positioned himself in just in front of the back four with Jamie Reid, Ryan McCord, Kieran Inglis and Matthew Knox in midfield. The experienced Paul McManus led the line upfront.
Despite several players having to operate in unfamiliar positions, City played some neat passing football in the opening stages but the home side would go on to grab a foothold in the game.
The first real opportunity of the game fell to the Loons on the quarter hour mark when Lewis McMinn got down well to keep out a header from MICHAEL TRAVIS. However the defender was not to be denied five minutes later when he rose highest at a corner to nod the hosts in front.
Although Forfar were bossing the game in terms of possession, City did have their moments going forward and came agonisingly close to an equaliser when the lively Matthew Knox struck the base of the post with a shot from range and two minutes later, Jamie Reid’s effort from inside the box wasn’t enough to trouble McCallum with the Loons keeper gathering the shot comfortably.
Ten minutes from the break, McMinn made a fine save to push away a powerful strike from Kirkpatrick but City’s hopes of getting back into the game were dashed on the stroke of half time as Forfar doubled their advantage. City conceded a free kick 25 yards from goal and with many expecting set-piece specialist Ross Forbes to take it, JORDAN KIRKPATRICK stepped up to curl over the wall and into the corner.
With both outfield players on the bench for City carrying injuries, there were perhaps some concerns that a Forfar team boasting 6 substitutes would take full advantage of a tiring side in the second period.
To the credit of the City squad, they continued to work hard and make things difficult for a Loons side fully expected to be challenging at the top end of League One this campaign.
Andy Jackson’s header was comfortably saved 12 minutes into the second period and shortly after, Ross Forbes curled effort almost sneaked in at the back post.
City fans arrived at Station Park yesterday hoping it wouldn’t happen, and it did. Dale Hilson did superbly well down the left hand side before dinking a cross into the box for ANDY JACKSON to nod home. It was an entirely subdued and respectful celebration from the former City favourite, which came as no surprise to those in attendance given the way ‘Jacko’ conducted himself throughout his 7 years at Glebe Park.
The home side continued to have the lions share of possession and chances in the second period, however City did manage to create a number of openings with Jamie Reid unable to make clean contact with a shot which spun just wide of McCallum’s goal.
The the exception of a stinging drive from Kirkpatrick which McMinn did superbly well to push away ten minutes from time, City limited the hosts to shots outside the box for the remainder of the match.
Barry Smith will be hoping the selection problems ease ahead of a tough home match against Ross County at Glebe Park on Tuesday.
Following the game, Manager Barry Smith spoke proudly of his predominantly young side. He said, “We were put under circumstances outwith our control today. Nobody likes getting beat but I’m proud of the players, they showed a lot of character.
“Unfortunately things that we couldn’t affect – as a management team and staff – let us down today. However we just got on with it and I showed my commitment to the club by playing today. I know I’m not fit but I know the position and I could help the players around me affect the game.
“When it comes down to it we lost two goals from set pieces and we could have done better with the third goal but overall I am proud of the players. It was a massive challenge today against a strong Forfar team who signed some very good players from us.
“I hope the supporters saw the level of commitment and that’s the most important thing – they saw a team that was committed and didn’t lose focus which could have been easy to do given the circumstances. They had the right mentality and we need to continue that every week – and I believe we’ve brought the right type of players in to do exactly that.”