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5 key moments from stunning Arbroath season, including Rugby Park rollercoaster, December turning point and Scott Allan signing that never was

Arbroath's 2022/23 Championship fixture list has been revealed.
Arbroath's 2022/23 Championship fixture list has been revealed.

After Arbroath eventually secured their Championship place by a single point in the 2020/21 season, no one would have envisaged what was to come.

It was so close to being the story of Scottish football, perhaps even the footballing world, as the plucky Lichties pushed heavy-favourites Kilmarnock all the way for the title.

In the end, it wasn’t quite to be. A heart-breaking late defeat at Rugby Park ended their title hopes.

Then a few weeks later, a penalty shootout put a stop to their promotion hopes in the play-offs.

Arbroath's charismatic manager Dick Campbell guided his side on a remarkable season.
Arbroath’s charismatic manager Dick Campbell guided his side on a remarkable season.

But when the dust settles, there will be plenty of memories for Arbroath fans to treasure.

Here, Courier Sport takes a look back at the key moments from an incredible season for the Gayfield side.

Rugby Park, Pt. 1

After losing on opening day to Inverness at Gayfield, Dick Campbell’s men embarked on a seven-game unbeaten run through to the middle of October.

It was too soon in the season to be thinking of any miracles, with the Lichties’ faithful happy enough just to be in the top half of the table.

However, the second quarter of the season would see Arbroath begin to turn heads.

It was their late-winner away to Kilmarnock on November 20 which really stamped their authority on the league.

An Anton Dowds header stunned Rugby Park but it was no more than they deserved on the day – and for their efforts since August.

December 18

With Killie suffering three defeats on the bounce, the Lichties took their chance to go top of the league on a foggy afternoon in December.

A late 2-1 victory over Morton sent Dick Campbell’s men to the summit, where they would remain until March.

The team showed grit and determination to win it after The Ton levelled the scoring minutes earlier.

But December 18 would ultimately prove significant for Killie too, with Tommy Wright controversially relieved of his duties.

In the aftermath, the league was hit with fresh Covid restrictions, limiting attendances to just 500. Arbroath were fortunate that they only had one fixture, against Inverness, affected.

Scott Allan – the one that got away

Dick Campbell had his work cut out at the beginning of 2022. The talismanic Joel Nouble and Anton Dowds, scorer of crucial goals, returned to their parent clubs.

Competing along-side full-time teams with bigger appeal and budgets, the Arbroath gaffer spoke of the difficulty of bringing top players to the club.

Anton Dowds and Joel Nouble look set to leave Arbroath in January.
The Lichties said goodbye to Anton Dowds (19) and Joel Nouble (17) in January.

Familiar faces in Jack Hamilton and Craig Wighton were brought back after previous loan spells.

In addition, forwards Sam Ford and Michael Bakare were brought in from left-field.

And Courier Sport can now reveal that Hibs midfielder Scott Allan was very close to signing for the Lichties in the January window.

Scott Allan was close to joining Arbroath, but turned down the move.
Scott Allan was close to joining Arbroath, but turned down the move.

The sides had agreed terms but, at the final moment, the player decided against the move and stayed at Easter Road. The 30-year-old would play for just 68 minutes across four appearances for the rest of the season.

Had the deal gone, it would have been a massive statement of intent from the Lichties – and potentially one which could have helped them seal the title.

Rugby Park Pt. 2

After a slight dip in form – and after 10 games at the top of the table – Arbroath were finally overtaken by Kilmarnock on the weekend of March 11/12.

A 3-1 win in the Ayrshire derby saw McInnes’ men leapfrog the Lichties, who crashed to a 3-0 defeat at Inverness.

Arbroath took a huge following to their showdown with Kilmarnock.
Arbroath took a huge following to their showdown with Kilmarnock.

From March, it looked destined to come down to the penultimate game of the season between Arbroath and Killie on April 22.

Just like a Hollywood script, that’s exactly how it played out.

An early James Craigen goal had 1500 travelling Lichties dreaming of a final day tilt at the title.

Arbroath's Chris Hamilton is consoled by Chris Burke of Kilmarnock at full-time.
Arbroath’s Chris Hamilton is consoled by Chris Burke of Kilmarnock at full-time.

But late goals from Ash Taylor and Blair Alston meant Kilmarnock were victorious, not just on the night but over the season, sparking wild celebrations.

It wasn’t the blockbuster ending many were hoping for, but there were still the play-offs.

Inverness play-offs

Billy Dodds’ side had provided stubborn opposition in previous meetings. In fact, they were the only team Arbroath had failed to score against at Gayfield.

A stalemate at the Caledonian Stadium was almost inevitable, setting up an all-or-nothing tie in front of a packed crowd on the Angus coast.

Fans, home and away, came in their numbers, with 5,154 in attendance – the highest in 10 years.

A crowd of 5,154 packed into Gayfield for the clash.
A crowd of 5,154 packed into Gayfield for the play-off second leg.

Despite the sides being the two top scorers in the division, neither of them could be separated in 210 minutes of football, including extra time.

It was a game to forget with just two shots on target in the entire 120 minutes.

Even with Caley down to nine men, Arbroath couldn’t find a way through, meaning their Premiership dream came down to penalties.

Bobby Linn saw his penalty saved by Mark Ridgers
Bobby Linn saw his penalty saved by Mark Ridgers

With the cruellest of twists, it was club hero Bobby Linn who missed from the spot leaving Kirk Broadfoot to slot home and send Inverness to the play-off final.

After 286 days of an incredible Championship season, Arbroath came full circle, losing out to Inverness at Gayfield.

But it was a campaign nobody will never forget.

Arbroath boss Dick Campbell crowned Championship Manager of Season

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