Clachnacuddin 2, Formartine United 0
THE odds against Formartine taking any points away from Grant Street were considerable. With a squad ravaged by injuries and suspensions, manager Paterson was faced with a selection nightmare for the Clachnacuddin game, which he resolved by calling up no fewer than six players from the under 21 and under 19 squads.
Even with this call-up, the dearth of available players restricted the Formartine bench to just three players. The initial deployment of this restricted resource comprised three development players starting, with another three on the bench.
Keeper Kieran McCaffrey made his first team debut after a succession of matches waiting on the bench for hsi chance to perform, while both Lewis Knight and Willie Mathers - both with severely limited top team experience - were given the opportunity to start.
With the peremptory departure of skipper Mackay during the week [watch Locos line up next season] and an apparently terminal parting of the ways between the club and eccentric wide man, Barry Stephen, it was clear that the main focus of interest for the Formartine faithful was on the possibilities offered by the youngsters for next season and beyond.
Whether that represents a writing off of this season, simply an expression of an unprecedented catalogue of injuries and suspension, or a bit of both remains to be seen but expectations of even a point from this particular match were minimal.
In the event, the makeshift side delivered a decent enough performance. Although none of the newcomers produced an impressive enough performance to get the adrenaline properly surging, each produced a credible enough individual performance and contributed to a team performance where, particularly in the second half, they were able to make the Lillywhites work very hard indeed for their victory.
Given the lack of familiarity many of the Formartine players had for the style of each other, fluency was going to be hard to establish and initially the pressure came from the home-side.
Two minutes in and a slick overlap between Tatters and Pollock ended with the former threading a ball into the box from the right that was just nicked off the toes of Dougall by a long legged but perfectly legal challenge by Rusty Smith. Big Bobby Mann doesn’t run that much these days but he certainly knows where to stand, and in the eighth minute did well to dispossess Urquhart at the edge of the area.
Early pressure was mostly with Clach but Formartine looked quite lively on the break. In the 14th minute, a good, fast jinking run by Mathers set up Bagshaw - playing out of his comfort zone as striker - with a decent sight of goal less than twenty yards out. However, the finish came in the form of a hastily struck drive that went high, wide left of target.
Clach pressure yielded a number of corners, the first three of which were competently defended but a fourth in the 18th minute left GRAHAM the opportunity of a cheap, if not exactly free, header which he powered firmly home well beyond the reach of keeper McCaffrey. Expectations that this might prompt a degree of disarray and disillusion in the visitors were largely confounded by a gritty response which, although never really dominating, began to show that Formartine had the application and appetite for the uphill battle that they faced. Some comfort was offered by a certain lack of creativity by the home side, who could regularly work the ball to the visitors’ final third but struggled to penetrate thereafter. The back four of Davidson, doing a good captain’s job leading both by example and exhortation, Stuart and Rusty Smith and Bobby Man were well organised and parsimonious, and instrumental in keeping their hosts out of the danger area.
Rusty Smith was putting in a pile of work from box to box and was nearly rewarded for his industry in the 29th minute when his powerful header from a Park cross went just over the top, The provider of that cross, Dan Park, had a turn of pace and a degree of unpredictability that made him hot to handle, and the 34th minute he produced a clever wee lob that had home keeper Harrison back pedalling furiously to pull down from just under his cross bar. Just on half time, he forced his way through the inside right Channel to feed Soane, who hesitated slightly before getting in a shot that was blocked by Williamson.
Formartine started the second period quite brightly, and although their progress could not really earn the soubriquet of fluent, they were beginning to put together some more sustained moves and hold the pressure they exerted on Clach. Little more than a minute in, Park and Soane carried on where they had left off in the first half.
Again a mazy Park run down the right allowed him to get the ball into the box and again Soane had made the right run to get on the end of the cross. He got the shot away but this time Milne got the block in as the ball birled out for an unrewarded corner.
Two minutes later a well taken free kick by Tich Davidson reached the head of the industrious Rusty Smith, whose strong header brought a decent save from Harrison.
At this stage in the game, Formartine were giving just about as good as they got, and there was a sense that they were not far short of forcing an equalising goal. However, like Clach, the pressure they mounted and at times began to sustain was not matched by sharpness in finishing against a side who were adept in getting large numbers of bodies behind the ball when it mattered. In short Formartine lacked that spark of creativity up front, as well as lacking in a significant physical presence. Up front, the visitors were reliant on mistakes by the Lillywhite rearguard. These were few and far between, and as Formartine did their damndest to claw back their hosts’ lead they were looking vulnerable to a breakaway counter.
Pollock had been highly impressive throughout, and with superb touch and mobility posed a threat whenever he ran at a rather square visiting defence. In the 53rd minute set on his way by a threaded ball by Callum, he got well into shooting range before an immaculate last minute intervention by Rusty Smith was able to divert his fizzing shot to safety.
Despite the deficit, the match was reasonably well balanced, and this was a situation that persisted until the 76th minute.
After a wee spell of Formartine pressure, a corner on the right was cleared by Williamson and the ball fed to Tatters. A quick one-two between the full back and Ross and the former was off at pace down the left. He had the legs on the visiting defenders, but was forced a little wider than he would ideally have wanted. Nonetheless, he still managed to whip in a fierce cross that POLLOCK, coming in from the right, leathered well past McCaffrey.
This prompted a series of Formartine substitutions as Bailey, Dunbar and Quinn were all given a run out.
All looked as if they had something to offer at this level, and even though they were running against tired legs, each made a decent albeit brief contribution.
Dunbar posed some threat around the box but it was by this stage too little, too late for Formartine, with Clach finishing the game winners.
In the reduced circumstances, what really amounted to a makeshift team was able to punch a little above its weight to produce a performance that was better than expected. The Formartine performance was insufficient to earn a point, but that was never a realistic possibility against a settled experienced team playing in their own back yards.
Harrison, Tatters, Milne, Ross, Williamson, McLeod, Callum, Polock, Dougall, Graham, Urquhart. Subs: Morrison, Kennedy, MacDonald, Finnis, Harrison.
McCaffrey, Davidson, S.Smith, Mann, M.Smith, Knight, Park, Soane, A. Bagshaw, Macaulay, Mathers. Subs: Bailley, Dunbar, Quinn