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“ANYBODY that finishes above Arbroath will win the league”.

It is a clear message which highlights the challenge facing Stranraer tomorrow (Saturday) when they travel to Gayfield.

Dick Campbell’s men finished third last season and have strengthened their squad with four additions over the summer.

Stevie Farrell was looking forward to the first trip of the season to Angus and said: “I think anybody that finishes above Arbroath will win the league.

“I think they have got the strongest squad in League One, with proven players and experienced players.

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“They have added Jason Thomson (ex-Hearts and Raith Rovers full back) and Lewis Toshney (also ex-Raith Rovers), who are really experienced players.

“They have added to what they have and not lost any.

“Dick Campbell has one of the strongest squads he has had.”

Stranraer enjoyed two memorable victories at Arbroath last season, with almost two completely different teams.

They will need to produce another impressive performance if they are to stop Campbell’s side, who opened the league season with a 4-0 win over neighbours Montrose.

Farrell said: “I would take two identical results from last season and performances.

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“Maybe not the 2-0 down at half time and impressive comeback but certainly the results.

“Another result like those would do me absolutely fine.”

Stranraer have won three out of their last 13 visits to Gayfield but the manager, who will welcome back Kyle Turner and Isaac Layne, was not interested in records.

Only Grant Anderson and Jamie Hamill featured in the two victories last term.

Farrell added: “It a brand new squad and hopefully they can start their own records.”

Tomorrow’s trip marks the first away game of the league season, with the Blues getting off the mark with a 1-1 draw against Raith Rovers at Stair Park last weekend.

The manager said: “I thought we were very good for the full game.

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“In the first half, we looked totally comfortable.

“For all Raith Rovers had a lot of possession, I did not think they were hurting us.

“Max Currie had nothing to do until the goal.

“It was a disappointing goal from our point of view.”

The goal came after a slip from captain Jamie Hamill on the edge of the box.

However, Anderson made it three goals in three games to pull Stranraer level after the break and the home side could have gone on to win it.

Farrell added: “People look at Jamie and don’t look at the full 90 minutes.

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“For 89 minutes and 30 seconds, he was excellent.

“Show me somebody who has not made an error in a game of football and I will show you a liar.”

Last meeting
Arbroath 2-3 Stranraer
Saturday 24 March 2018

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A STUNNING second half comeback saw Stranraer pick up a morale-boosting three points at Gayfield in March.

The Blues looked well off the pace in the first half and were 2-0 down at the break. Stranraer had just one win in seven coming into the tie and were a goal down within two minutes. Omar Kader was unmarked at the back post and squeezed the ball past Max Currie but worse was to follow.

A quickly taken short corner caught the Blues napping and although Jamie Hamill did well to block Gavin Swankie’s first effort there was nothing he could do about Swankie’s follow-up. The former Dundee frontman also hit the bar and was denied by Currie’s legs before the break.

It was unclear where the comeback would come from but with under 25 minutes to go Stranraer got a lifeline. Substitute Stephen Okoh headed Cameron MacPherson’s header onto the post and then slotted home the rebound.

The two-goal lead evaporated moments later when Scott Robertson’s cross was turned home by Grant Anderson.

And the comeback was complete four minutes from time when Stranraer were awarded a penalty. Substitute David Gray burst into the box and was brought down by fellow substitute David Hutton, with Scott Agnew winning the tie from the spot.

Incredibly, Arbroath almost levelled things but Hamill was in the right place to clear off the line from Thomas O’Brien in stoppage time.

Arbroath: Gomes (Hutton 26), Little, Hamilton, O’Brien, Martin, Whatley, Kader (Linn 73), McKenna, Denholm, Wallace (Skelly 74), Swankie.
Not used: Gold, McCord, Yule and McIntosh.

Stranraer: Currie, Robertson, Neill, McGowan, Lyon (Hawkshaw 70), Hamill, MacPherson, Woods (Gray 79), Agnew, Anderson, Dykes (Okoh 62).
Not used: Barron and McLaren.

Last five meetings

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- Arbroath 2 Stranraer 3 (Kader and Swankie; Okoh, Anderson and Agnew (Pen)) at Gayfield Park on March 24, 2018
- Stranraer 1 Arbroath 4 (MacPherson; Wallace (Pen x2), McKenna and Denholm) at Stair Park on February 20, 2018
- Arbroath 1 Stranraer 2 (McCord; Turner and Beith) at Gayfield Park on December 2, 2017
- Stranraer 2 Arbroath 6 (Thomson and Agnew; O’Brien, Denholm x2 and McCord x3 (Pen x1)) at Stair Park on September 23, 2017
- Arbroath 4 Stranraer 2 (McManus, Cook x2 and Sheerin; Winter and Forde) at Gayfield Park on April 12, 2014

Stranraer's last five games

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DRAW v Raith Rovers (H): 1-1 (Anderson)
LOSS v Edinburgh City (A): 4-2 (Cummins and Anderson)
LOSS v Clyde (H): 1-3 (Anderson)
WIN v Motherwell (H): 1-1 (Stranraer win 3-2 on penalties) (Layne)
LOSS v Queen of the South (A): 5-3 (McGowan, Donnelly and Turner)

Arbroath's last five games

WIN v Montrose (A): 0-4 (Wallace, Linn x2 (Pen x1) and Hester)
WIN v Ross County (H): 4-1 (McKenna x2 (Pen x1), Hamilton and Hester)
WIN v Elgin City (H): 2-0 (Hamilton and O’Brien)
LOSS v Alloa Athletic (A): 4-2 (Wallace and Hester)
WIN v Dundee United (A): 1-1 (Arbroath win 5-3 on penalties) (Linn (Pen))

Last time out

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Stranraer lineup v Raith Rovers: Currie, Hamill, Cummins, McDonald, D Smith, McGowan, McManus, I Smith (Lidington 89), Lamont (Turner 70), Donnelly, Anderson (Ashmore 80).
Not used: Brownlie and Avci.

Arbroath lineup v Montrose: Jamieson, Hamilton, Little, O’Brien, Gold (Graham 63), Whatley, Kader (Denholm 71), McKenna (Hester 70), Wallace, Swankie, Linn.
Not used: McCord and Hill.

Referee

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JUST once last season was Craig Napier in the middle of a match involving Stranraer.

That came less than a week before Christmas when the Blues hosted Albion Rovers. That midweek clash saw three penalties awarded in a 2-2 draw, with Ryan Wallace netting two from the spot. Alan Trouten was also successful from 12 yards and scored from open play as well.

The man in the middle has refereed three other games involving Stranraer, with each of them coming at Stair Park.

Mr Napier was in charge of two Arbroath games last season, with the most recent coming on St Patrick’s Day and again it involved Albion Rovers. Trouten, again, opened the scoring at Cliftonhill but Omar Kader levelled things and Wallace, again, won the game from the penalty spot.

The last time Mr Napier was in charge of a game at Gayfield Park was in October 2016 in League Two. On that occasion, a David Cox own goal and a strike Martin Scott proved decisive, with the home side emerging victorious.

Stair Park is the venue on Tuesday night as Stranraer welcome Partick Thistle in the first round of the IRN-BRU Cup.
 
Reduced admission prices apply - £12 for adults and £6 for concessions.

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SPFL 3L1 6474

POS
TEAM PLD
PTS
1 Arbroath 17 45
2 Raith Rovers 17 32
3 East Fife 17 26
4 Forfar Athletic 17 24
5 Montrose 17 21
6 Airdrieonians 17 20
7 Stranraer 16 20
8 Dumbarton 17
18
9 Brechin City 16 16
10 Stenhousemuir 17 15


Fixtures

2018/19 Squad

1 - Max Currie (GK)
2 - Daniel Higgins (DEF)

3 - Chris McGowan (DEF)
4 - Andy McDonald (DEF)
5 - David Brownlie (DEF)
6 - Connor McManus (MID)
7 - Mark Lamont (MID)
8 - Kyle Turner (MID)
10 - Luke Donnelly (STR)
11 - Grant Anderson (M/S)
12 - Ian Smith (MID)

13 - Lyle Avci (GK)
14 - Cameron Elliott (MID)
16 - Max Ashmore (MID)
17 - David Smith (D/M)
18 - Innes Cameron (STR)
19 - Ciaran Diver (STR)
20 - PJ Crossan (STR)

22 - Jamie Hamill (DEF)
23 - Adam Cummins (DEF)