THE way goalkeeper John Gibson tells it, if Alloa defeat Forfar and win the Championship play-offs, securing their place in the second tier for the third season running, they will owe a lot of gratitude to their opposing No 1 for helping them reach the final in the first place.
Alloa would likely have suffered an embarrassing defeat, and relegation, on Saturday were it not for the heroics of their goalkeeper. For five years at Dundee, Gibson played as an understudy to Forfar’s veteran stopper Rab Douglas.
He credits the former Scotland and Celtic star with helping make him the ’keeper he is today, one capable of keeping Alloa from letting a 2-0 first-leg lead slip through their grasp.
The home side wasted a couple of early chances to put the tie out of reach. After that, however, it was one-way traffic with Brechin battering Gibson’s goal with chance after chance. The Alloa defence, particularly Ben Gordon, deserve credit for limiting the number of clean strikes inside the penalty area despite the heavy pressure, but the match hinged on three terrific stops by Gibson in the space of 90 second-half seconds.
First he showed his awareness and reactions to tip over a wayward Callum Tapping cross that was about to loop in underneath the crossbar. From the resulting corner, he made a point-blank reflex save from Robert Thomson before getting back to his feet and making a similar stop from defender Gerry McLauchlan. Even though Gibson was eventually beaten by Alan Trouten, it proved to be a pivotal moment in the match with the stopper earning all the plaudits after the game.
“The boys worked really hard on Wednesday,” said Gibson. “It’s always a tough place to go to up at Brechin. It’s a tight pitch, the boys adapted well and it was good to get the right result up there. Coming here the boys knew Brechin were going to make it tough for them. I thought we handled it well. We knew they were going to come at us in the second half. In the first half they’d been bombarding us a wee bit as well. We found it hard to get out. You know the other team have nothing to lose, they’re 2-0 down so they’re going to come at you. We would be the same if we were in their position. We would have nothing to fear and just go for it. But the guys worked hard and we got there in the end.”
The custodian is looking forward to a reunion with his former team-mate and mentor. Douglas was forced out of the door at Dens Park after a falling out with former Dundee manager John Brown at the end of the 2012-13 season. Gibson, who spent the majority of his time at Dens out on loan, was released a year later before signing for Alloa. Even though this will be the first time they have met on the field since, Gibson will put sentiment to the side to do all that he can to keep Douglas and his Forfar team-mates in League 1.
“He’s a great pro. He was unbelievable. Great guy who would do anything for you,” reflected Gibson. “Even away from the pitch he would always help you. You could pick up the phone any time and it would be no bother at all. I learned a lot, big time, in the five years that I was there and he helped me kick on. He’s really professional. He’s a top man when it comes to that. As soon as he’s out there he takes everything serious. He even hates losing a goal in training and stuff like that. He’s a really top professional. That’s why he’s playing in his 40s.
“As long as we win, that’s the most important thing. That’s what I want, for us to stay up and that’s that. Job done.”