Convincing win sends Formartine to the top of the table
This impressive victory puts United in the best possible position – top of the SHFL table.
Given that it was only the second of thirty two games it can be said that there is still a very long way to go before anyone can have the scent of champagne in their nostrils. However it serves as a valid indicator of just how competitive this league actually is. After as few as two games there are only 4 teams from 17 that retain a 100% record - all others, including the title holders, have already dropped points.
There will inevitably be tougher opposition than Strathespey were able to offer but the margin and nature of the victory were nonetheless convincing.United went immediately on to the offence and opened their account only 3 minutes in with a goal of power and beauty.
Striker Julian Wade received a ball from Norris almost on the half way line, swept past Taylor and accelerated goalwards with Grant in close contention. He had both the pace and the power to resist the midfielder’s attentions before drawing and rounding theh keeper then driving the ball firmly into the bottom right corner of the net. That opener initiated a period of sustained attack on the opposition goal at the ‘Meldrum end.
Wave upon wave of fast, fluent attacks kept the Speysiders on the back foot. Park, Rodger, Mykyta, who hit the woodwork, Jonny Smith, Crawford and Gallacher all went close, worked the keeper or had efforts rebound ftom defenders.
However, Thistle, a bit like United did midweek against Buckie in the cup gradually began to settle and without gaining any sustained traction showed signs of doing something on the breakaway. Grant and Cullen combined down the right in the 24th minute and Macdonald earned his corn by touching the ball over the top from the former’s shot. They gained their first of only two corners in the game soon after before experiencing a brief moment of joy with a counter attack down the right when Cullen fed by Kerr got the ball past the diving Macdonald to equalise.
The only equality however was numerical and fleeting: United resumed offence as Gallagher got on the end of right to left Norris cross to head powerfully home a minute before the interval.
Formartine were clearly playing the more fluent football and had Strathspey chasing shadows throughout the second period as the visitors were made to suffer for their temerity of daring even to think of making a game of it. Veteran predator Jonny SMITH saw to that with two goals in two minutes (54th and 56th). The first was the product of a bit of trickery that wrong footed McDade and Taylor rght of goal before clipping the ball neatly past MacCallum. The second, a penalty hammered classically low to the keeper’s left.
That really ended the game as a contest and the dis-spitited visitors went fully into damage limitation mode and United subjected them to siege conditions at the village end. This period underlined the distance between the two sides as Mykyta waltzing in to the left edge of the box suckered a pair of defenders into colliding with each other before gracing the North Lodge turf with their backsides as he continued goalward and slipped the ball to Park who netted only to find the “goal” ruled off-side. Wade coming in from inside right channel left the keeper rooted to the spot as he drove home his 5th of the season in the 62nd minute.
Jonny SMITH completed the rout and his hat-trick with another penalty where either to demonstrate his versatility or to gaslight the keeper drilled this into the opposite corner to the previous one.
United were expected to win this one and did so convincingly.