The injury-hit Dons may have played well within themselves against their committed but outgunned hosts, but still managed to complete their mission with the minimum of fuss, dominating from the off and putting the result beyond doubt with two well-taken first-half goals, when playing with the wind, and a brace after the interval.
“We got the breaks and, although we only played in patches, we did a thoroughly professional job,” said Aberdeen manager Craig Brown. It was a verdict that home manager Dick Campbell couldn’t disagree with. “We didn’t make them work hard enough for their goals and gave away four goals that a pub team could have taken,” he said.
“That said, I’m generally pretty happy with the way we went about our business because Aberdeen were way way in front of us.”
It was a pity the game was not more competitive because there had been an enormous buzz about this quiet market town for hours before kick-off, with the usual crowd of 400-odd swelling to ten times that number for the arrival of the illustrious visitors. The game even attracted a smattering of the great and the good, with Open Championship winner Paul Lawrie joining with the red and white-clad away fans. It may have been a far cry from the glory days when the golfer travelled with Fergie’s Dons to Gothenburg, but there’s every chance it was chillier and windier in Angus yesterday than it was in Sweden. In fact, the conditions at Station Park weren’t so much Scandinavian as completely Baltic.
For a while in the early exchanges, it looked as if the swirling, biting wind may just skew the playing field and bring Aberdeen’s ball-players within range of Forfar’s more agricultural approach. Brown admitted that his players initially found it difficult to get to grips with a determined home side in conditions which mitigated against quality football, and the first effort on goal even went to Forfar’s Martyn Fotheringham in the first minute, the midfielder shooting well wide. But, once battle commenced in earnest, it was Aberdeen who dominated, with Fraser Fyvie, Ryan Jack and Kari Arnason all to the fore.
The likely outcome became very clear from early on, with Jack’s long-range shot saved by Forfar keeper Greg Paterson as Aberdeen gently turned the screw. Scott Vernon should have done better than shoot tamely at Paterson from inside the area, and Rory McArdle had a goal disallowed for offside after heading in from close range. But, despite two decent Forfar chances on the half-hour when first Greg Ross lifted the ball just wide of the left-hand post before free-scoring centre-forward Chris Templeton blasted wide of the post from inside the area, Aberdeen soon turned domination of territory and possession into the first goal when an Arnason throw-in from the left sailed into the area and, with McArdle throwing his weight around, was diverted past Paterson by the lurking Scott Vernon.
A second followed soon after, Mohamed Chalali taking advantage of Marc McCulloch’s indecision on halfway to rob him and hold off Stephen Tulloch’s challenge before placing the ball wide of Paterson. The Dons could have made it three before the interval with Jack heading just wide after a lofted through-ball of genius from Arnason, but it was clear that the two-goal cushion would be sufficient. Despite this, with the wind at their backs Forfar rallied after the break, producing a far more even half. There were efforts from Fotheringham, Ross Campbell, Templeman and substitute Kevin Byers but it was Aberdeen who had a cutting edge. Fallon and Chalali should have extended their lead when clean through, although Fallon made amends with just over an hour gone when he met Vernon’s cross at the back post to head the third. Forfar continued to play with pluck and application but it was no surprise when substitute Mitch Megginson rounded Paterson with ten minutes left to net the fourth.