Decent and determined home showing but Cowden have the edge

Last updated : 01 May 2008 By Fargone

Expectations for our third successive play-off semifinal were definitely lower. The small crowd (636) lower than even Montrose (one man+dog = 706) reflected the general disillusionment around our form this season. Our playoff record is poor (one draw, 3 defeats in four games). Apparently superstition was a factor in Arbroath playing in their white away strip.

Sad news at the kick-off of the death of Albert Henderson today , a real gent and our best-ever manager for over 20 years presiding over our best-ever years in the highest division, bating all the top teams (bar Celtic but we drew with them a few times)

The team was much changed from Saturday Hill back in goal, a back five of Rennie, Bishop Rattray, Tully and Black, a midfield of Lunan, Sellars Watson, and a forward line of Brazil and Reilly. McGlashan clearly meant to bring on Scott and Flyer before too long as impact subs

In increasingly adverse conditions - wind and rain - Arbroath showed good determination and discipline to stay in the game. Cowdenbeath probably had more possession overall, which has been the pattern for the opposition all season but we did carve out chances in both halves. This is our fifth playoff game without a win but Flyer's shot from outside the area which cannoned off the post then Scott missed heading in a great corner from the left and we could have been in control of this tie. But Cowden made a go of it and Lunan brought down tricky winger Hill for Scullion to score from the spot.

Not a bad performance from Arbroath but still lacking conviction. It often seems by laying out five defenders we concede the midfield. Our attack was frankly disappointing on the night - Brazil and Reilly now seem to offer neither pace nor strength and their touch was surprisingly poor. Both had golden chances first half but made nothing of them so we came closer from Lunan and Flyer. Our goal was decent improvisation.

Bringing n Scott as sub immediately created new problems for their defence. He won a free kick 25 metres out. The referee didn't see fit to move their wall back more than 5 yards so no surprise when Watson smashed into it. However he quickly and crisply smashed it back in for a great opener. We looked good for a bit after this and likely to score a second, hitting the post

Though Cowden had many injured players out through injury, their young team kept control of the ball better, showed a better and quicker touch than our players, but created only a few chances in front of goal as our defence stifled them. Rennie and Black occasionally gave good support, and the second half saw even Bishop charging upfront regularly to try and get a vital second goal.

This tie is not beyond us. Our away record is as good as our home. But we'll need to maintain the defensive concentration and if we can create chances, take at least a couple. The odds must now be on Cowden to face Stranraer in the final

Finally, what is it with referees? Last night C Murray did reasonably well first half. Then he lost the plot. Whenever Scott was near the ball he was penalised, there was the penalty and, most of the second half, hardly one decision in our favour. Poor refereeing cost is the tie against Alloa 2 seasons ago so we need to avoid relying on these dodgy characters