Formartine United 2- Inverurie Locos 3
The taste of defeat is never sweet but when it comes self-inflicted, at home and against your biggest rivals it becomes the bitterest of pills to swallow. The rivalry between Formartine and Locos extends back decades into the days when both were in the Junior ranks and Saturday’s team lines indicated 8 players who had previously played for the team they were opposing. Both managers, like wise have had illustrious careers with the other side. The largest crowd of the season to date turned up for the first match at North Lodge since the opening week of November and was treated to a fascinating encounter, played with pace and passion that yielded five goals before providing a cliff-hanger ending.
The first three goals came in short order and all went Locos’ way, with each of them coming from crass defensive errors by the home side. The first came as early as the fourth minute after a goal kick by Reid was punted high and headed on towards the box by Vigurs. Home pivot, Simpson seemed to have it well covered but facing a low sun, failed to follow the flight of the ball, mistimed the jump and the ball landed a yard behind him. GAULD was onto it like the fastest futtret in Fife, picked his spot and left Soutar with no chance as he drove the ball home from ten yards out.
Formartine tried to steady the ship and the game settled into a fairly tactical affair. They had set out their stall in familiar 4-4-2 formation, with the visitors electing for 4-5-1, leaving Gauld whose ability to hold up the ball was impressive, as the lone striker. With the extra man in midfield, Locos were well able to choke off the threat of the quixotic Stephen by simply denying him the space in which to operate and thereby limiting the supply to Bagshaw and Mackay. Formartine were clearly well up for this one and their work rate, particularly from the front pair was impressive as their running dragged defenders to places they would prefer not to be. A corner on the left was flicked on by Gardiner to Mackay who whipped the ball low across the box and Singer very narrowly failed to connect. Smith forced his way into the left corner of the box but was clumsy with his shot which trundled past the far post. In the 18th minute the equaliser looked on. An astute run from Bagshaw as he cut in from the left to intercept a pass back from Michie saw him dragging the ball past and beyond the committed keeper but at the cost of being too near the bye line to get in a shot. By the time he had dragged the ball back to make the angle, Reid had recovered enough to get in a block.
Locos looked lethal on the break with the pace and trickery of Maclean on the left and Ross and Michie on the right stretching the sluggish home defence time and again. In the 24th minute with Gauld making the dummy run to the left, BAIN in the inside right channel, picked up a Vigurs feed and with the home defenders appealing for offside, had the simple task of rounding the keeper and virtually walking the ball into the net.
This goal was the first of three in as many minutes. 60 seconds later Formartine were left with a mountain to climb as a midfield tussle ended with Ross streaking off down the right to simply swing the ball over and beyond the home rearguard where the energetic GAULD scampered into the box with no one tracking the run or able to match his pace, met the ball first time and skelped it home for number 3.
Formartine immediately set about climbing the mountain: from the kick off the ball was worked back to Urquhart wide and then forward to Bagshaw who jinked his way between Scott and Park to get one on one with the keeper. He kept his cool and drove the ball firmly home to give his side a glimmer of hope. The remainder of the half was keenly contested albeit mostly in midfield with Formartine exerting considerable pressure but unable to counter the extra man advantage held by the visitors.
There was a chance a piece: an accurate finish from the unmarked Ross in 39 minute, headed off the line by the ever-present Urquhart and a hopeful long range effort from Smith at the other end a couple of minutes later.
Half time saw Formartine withdrawing Stephen for Marc Young, presumably in attempt to get a little more bite in the wide areas. This worked to the extent that the first half of this period yielded a grim midfield battle with neither side gaining the upper hand despite Locos having a slight territorial advantage. They did well to frustrate their hosts who chased and harried but had precious little penetration at this point. In the 65th minute the game came back to life. Urquhart had taken a knock and was replaced by Fraser Tait. Formartine had gained a corner on the left and Singer who had been slow to start became more influential. The corner was quickly taken and fell for Tait. The youngster got in some sort of a shot but this was easily blocked. BAGSHAW, back to his best read the situation astutely, reacted first and forced the ball over the line.
Game on! The lift this gave to Formartine was palpable and a sense of belief returned top their game. The ball was moved around at pace and they set about pursuing the equaliser or more. They had had a mountain to climb but there was a teasing glimpse of the summit ahead of them. They mounted wave upon wave of attack as the seeds of doubt began to show in the Locos ranks. Now they had more penetration than the A.I. man. A diving header by Mackay just met a cute dipping diagonal ball in from Singer. The captain couldn’t get quite enough contact on the ball and it slipped inches past. Gardiner and Simpson were coming up for corners and Locos were living dangerously. A series of corners for Formartine round the 80th minute all produced trouble for the visiting defence but none was enough to breach it. One produced a header from Bagshaw that rattled the crossbar but the Locos held grimly on to their slender advantage. A hit and hope from distance by Young was held comfortably by Reid and the visitors held just enough possession to run down the clock and frustrate their hosts who by the end were well on top.
This propels Locos right into title contention and forces Formartine down to eighth position which means that their Tuesday evening encounter with Deveronvale assumes major significance for their season’s ambitions.
Formartine United: Souter Davidson, Gardiner, Urquhart, Simpson, Hannah, Singer, Smith, Mackay, Bagshaw, Stephen. Subs: Irvine, Tait, Young, Graham, Gray.
Inverurie Locos: Reid, Michie, Maclean, Wilson, Park, Scott, Ross, Bain, Gauld, Vigurs, Maitland. Subs: Neish, Strachan, Adams, Watson, Mackinnon.