AS Ryan McGeever disappeared down the tunnel after only 13 minutes of this game, it was hard not to see Dumbarton’s chances of beating Forfar Athletic going with him.
And yet there was so much hope as Ally Love converted a penalty with 14 minutes to play, cutting Sons’ deficit to the Loons in half.
In truth, though, the retrieval of even a point by Dumbarton would have been of questionable justice. The home side were deserving winners and remain the only team unbeaten by Sons in cinch League Two this season.
Striker Ben Armour continued his personal spree against the club he was on loan to from Morton in season 2018/19 by scoring his fourth and fifth goals against them since then. They have all been in victories.
His first was 11 minutes after half time, his second was a penalty nine minutes later. But McGeever’s sending off, for a professional foul on the same player, had already given Sons a mountain to climb.
It is no reason to be that downbeat about the bigger picture of the season. When Dumbarton next play in the league, at home to Bonnyrigg Rose on Saturday, January 28, they will start the day top of the table.
But after this frustrating exercise, there is work to be done to remain there.
Forfar served early notice when Stefan McCluskey’s shot clipped the bar from close range before the defensive resilience was handed another early setback.
Already without Gregor Buchanan due to suspension, Sons were two centre halves down when McGeever’s nudge on Armour, on a counter attack, denied the forward a goalscoring opportunity.
The defender was walking, but the resulting free kick came to nothing.
Midway through the first half, McCluskey’s lobbed effort dropped mercifully the wrong side of the post. By way of response, Dumbarton had previously offered an Aron Lynas header from a corner which was saved.
However, they headed in at half time goalless and looking forward to enjoying the wind advantage in the second half. If only it was that simple.
Twelve minutes after the restart, an error in the depleted Sons defence was punished as Armour ran in to finish at a narrow angle.
With the deadlock broken, Forfar knew the opportunity they had, and an Andy Munro shot rebounded all over the box, but not into the net.
But then Lynas’ challenge on Seb Ross was deemed a foul, and to be inside the area, giving Armour the chance to grab his second goal which he readily took.
Frustratingly, despite the wind advantage, the visitors were struggling to make much impression, but when they forced a corner, that changed.
A foul on Ryan Wallace was spotted as the corner was delivered into the box, and up stepped Love to score for the second game in a row.
However, an equaliser never looked likely, and indeed it was only a fine save by Brett Long to deny Matthew Aitken that stopped a heavier defeat.
It is no need to panic, and Buchanan and Ryan Blair will return for next week’s Scottish Cup tie at Kilmarnock. But it showed the work to be done.
Forfar Athletic: McCallum; Nditi, Docherty, Hutton, Thomson, McCluskey (Moore 90), Ross (Flanagan 69), Robson, Armour (Aitken 82), Munro, Hutchinson. Subs: Kennedy, Jack, Keatings. Booked: Docherty, McCluskey.
Dumbarton: Long; McGeever, Wylde, Carswell, Orsi (McLean 68), D Wilson (Love 72), Lynas, McKee, Gray, McNiff, Wallace. Subs: Broun; Lynch, Byrne, Vata. Booked: Carswell, Lynas, McKee, Love. Sent off: McGeever.
Referee: Ross Hardie.
Pictures below by Andy Scott.