Whether he’d like to admit it or not, Dick Campbell’s Arbroath are well in contention for Premiership promotion as they made it nine games unbeaten with an impressive 2-0 win away to Partick Thistle.
Headers from Anton Dowds and Liam Henderson earned the points – although the Lichties should have won by a bigger score line.
Dowds’ goal ended the Jag’s eight-game clean sheet record. Ian McCall’s side went 766 minutes without conceding and will be disappointed to have thrown it away from a free header from a corner.
It’s over. @PartickThistle’s clean sheet record that is. Anton Dowds heads in a James Craigen corner. 766 minutes without letting in a goal, but it’s as simple as that for @ArbroathFC 😎 and more than deserved. Lichties have been immense once again. pic.twitter.com/z9e3XDueu8
— Scott Lorimer (@scottlorimer89) December 11, 2021
Liam Henderson doubled the lead, and effectively ended the game, on 78 minutes after nodding in from a wicked Michael McKenna free-kick.
Arbroath had several chances after that to compound more misery on Thistle but nevertheless, the travelling fans headed back to the Angus coast in ecstasy.
The Courier was at the game and here are three talking points.
Partick came out of the traps quickly and Arbroath rode some pressure early in the first half. They were happy to let Partick come to them but as soon as the home side gave sight of the ball the Lichties were on it and attacking the Jags’ goal in the blink of an eye.
It’s how Arbroath like to play and opponents don’t know how to deal with it. Thistle looked like rabbits in the headlights at times.
Arbroath are a big team, so a lot of opposition, and particularly their fans, assume that they like to play the ball up in the air.
We are all chuffed for @liam_hendo who scored our second goal with a bullet header!
This team just keeps giving!
C’mon the Lichties pic.twitter.com/dInyRdWAwR
— Arbroath FC (@ArbroathFC) December 11, 2021
They couldn’t be more wrong. Ironically their two goals on the day were scored from headers, but their best football is played on the deck, often at pace.
More often than not, battling midfielder Chris Hamilton was there to nullify the Partick pressure. As soon as the ball was won back, they had Michael McKenna, Scott Stewart, James Craigen, Anton Dowds, Joel Nouble then latterly Dale Hilson, all running at the Partick defence.
It was a joy to watch and they looked a threat every time they won the ball back. The only downside for Dick Campbell would have been putting more of those chances to bed.
The 30-year-old put in another eye-catching display in the middle of the park.
McKenna had recently been playing in front of the back four but against Thistle it looked like he was free to command the middle of the park.
He won the ball back, sprayed passes around, drew in fouls and his free-kick set up the second goal. The only thing missing to make it a complete performance was a goal.
McKenna whipped in a wicked ball from the touchline right on to Liam Henderson’s head. A gust of wind may have played a factor in the flight of the ball but it was an incredibly accurate pass into a crowded penalty area.
The Lichties talisman picked up a yellow card in the first half but showed great professionalism for the remainder of the game. It looked harsh, a 50-50 challenge, but the ref was right on top of it to brandish the card.
Despite the booking, he remained committed but knew when to slide in for balls and when to stay on his feet.
McKenna looks set to sign a new deal with Arbroath. It’s no less than he deserves and securing his services ensures the team has that creative and commanding presence for another season or two to come.
How far can Arbroath go?
‘Survival’ is always said by Dick Campbell and his players as the main goal for the season.
A target of 40 points has been set by the club, which is likely to guarantee that survival this season.
Game in, game out, they continue to not only beat opponents and other title contenders, but they outplay them.
Partick Thistle were well and truly dominated, Raith Rovers held on for a draw, Kilmarnock like the Jags were taught a lesson despite the modest 1-0 score line.
They went up to Inverness and beat the current league leaders not too long ago. They have beaten all of the teams around them.
Maybe they don’t want to give fans false hope by aiming too high, but in current form they are absolutely contenders for the title.