Formartine beat Brora 2-1 in a hard fought victory
Formartine United………..2 Brora Rangers……….……...1
When the league leaders visit their third place rivals the inevitable billing is “Match of the Day” and this one certainly merited the soubriquet. The encounter between the clubs representing the two smallest centres of population in the Highland League was conducted with fierce intensity and ended with the league leaders surrendering their 100% record to slip to third place immediately below United in a match where the home side battled back from the loss of an early goal to take all three points.
The depth and strength of the newly restructured United squad was well tested by the unavailability of key players: inspirational midfield battler and club captain Graham Rodger, right back Jonny Crawford. and forward Dan Park The loss of the experience brought by these players who have around 600 first team starts between them would have brought more comfort to Brora than United but with some rejigging to the back four and midfield where the captain’s armband was worn with distinction by the combative Kieran Lawrence United were still clearly fit for purpose.
Brora initially impressed with a slick, well practiced passing game where they built from the back and played through the channels making United chase and harry hard for any possession and territory which was initially gie hard to gain. The opening exchanges went largely Brora’s way and they mounted a fair degree of pressure on the home rearguard.
In addition it looked like they had identified both Ward and Mykyta as potential threats and subjected them to some rather vicious early doors treatment. Captain Gillespie led the way with a late rearward hack at the legs of the former while Willamson left the latter needing some physio assistance before resuming. Both fouls drew only free kicks.
In the 7th minute Meekings, almost on the penalty spot went down under the challenge of a central defender and drew a penalty. Macdonald saved it at the base of his left upright but Andrew Macrae beat everyone to the rebound to clip the ball into the opposite corner of the net.
United’s character had been tested and their response was past as they battled back contesting every ball and slowly getting a good grip on midfield possession. Gallacher, Lawrence and Mykyta each showed maturity beyond their years as United increased their share of territory and possession to the pount where they gave at least as good as they got. The game assumed a more end to end character. Norris got up from the back and slung a cross right to left across the box that Lawrence drove hard and lowish
inches wide of Nicol’s right upright. In the 21st. Over the next few minutes Formartine exerted a fair pressure on the Brora goalmouth. Gallacher had a go from 20 yards left of centre and United managed four [albeit unrewarded ]corners in 3 minute spell around the half hour mark. At the other end Macdonald denied Meekings.
Two minutes shy of the interval Norris, Lawrence and Mykyta combined on the right in a move that ended with Gallagher bursting into the box to leap above defenders to crash a vicious header well beyond Nicol.The immediate response by Brora brought a fine save by MacDonald tipping over Jordan Macrae’s header from Gregor Macdonald’s cross..
The second half began with United on the offensive and pinning Brora back down at the village end Jonny Smith caused some difficulty for the visiting defence and twice Ward got a sight of goal from tightish angles but was closed down before he could pull the trigger.
United pressure continued and although the home defence held ourt until just before the hour mark, Formartine looked the more likely to break the deadlock which they did with another header.
Again Wade got posession on the left edge of the box near the bye line and cutely drew the ball back enough to improve the angle for an inch perfect cross straight to the head of Lisle who had outpaced his markers to arrive from the right and head across the line of the advancing keeper to the back of the net.
Brora then threw everything they had at United over the remaining half hour during which the United defence was subjected to a very sustained onslaught.
Despite never having played in that composition before, they held out magnificently: a twenty odd yard howitzer from Gillespie that crashed off the cross bar, two or three drives tipped over the top by Macdonald and innumerable other attempts blocked by different parts of various home players’ anatomies all added to the excitement of a frenetic finale but Brora couldn’t breech that defence.
Occasionally United managed a bit of a breakaway as both Wade and Lisle managed to offer brief respite to their defensive colleagues by getting the ball within shooting range at the other end but it never really looked liking getting to be a 3- 1 outcome.
Formartine United: Macdonald, Norris, Spink, S.Smith, Maclean, Gallacher, Wade,, Lawrence, (Addison 86), J.Smith, Mykyta, Lisle. Subs: MacIver, Lynch, C.Anderson, Addison, Watson
Brora Rangers: Nicol, Williamson, Niccolson, Gillespie, Maclean, J.Macrae, A Macrae,Kelly, G.Macdonald (Gunn 60), Dingwall, Meekings (Ewan 69),Subs: Macdonald, Gunn, Sutherland, Gamble, Ewan