Formartine United blew their chance to clinch the Highland League title on Saturday when they lost 3-1 at home to Nairn County.
United now face a winner-take-all decider against Cove Rangers at North Lodge Park this Saturday, with a point enough for the Pitmedden men.
Formartine began this game as if they would win it and maintained that impression for the best part of an hour. The pattern of the first half was that of constant Formartine pressure and dogged but seldom dirty defending from County.
Formartine optimism was shattered in the 20th minute when Gethins took a free kick in what initially looked like a relatively innocuous position out on the right about 40 yards from goal.
The prolific goal scorer struck the ball dipping and curling out towards the opposite corner of the box to meet the run of MacDonald whose prodigious leap set him up for a thundering header that flashed past Shearer into the net.
Although against the run of play, it was a serious blow to the home side who now had to face an invigorated County who had suddenly gained a bit of belief.
Home pressure was incessant but it took until the 40th minute to reap its reward. Dan Park was twisting and turning trying to dribble his way into the Nairn box to get into shooting position when he was up-ended by Morrison. The foul took place just outside and Nairn set a six man wall with Munro imposed himself on the end of it.
As McKeown hammered the ball, Munro vacated his place and the ball flew hard and low through the gap and into the net. A very well worked goal at the psychologically crucial time just before the interval.
The expectation was that Formartine would kick on from there in the second half and as Ewen had yet to get his name on the score sheet, there would at least be a goal from him. Nairn had fundamentally different ideas and began the second period in a more offensive mode.crucially it paid off for them three minutes in.
Gethins was first to latch onto a loose ball that had come out of the Formartine box following a period of Nairn pressure.. He headed directly towards Shearer and forced him to commit. He was quick enough then to take the ball round the keeper and side foot it into the net
United were now well onto the back foot. They responded determinedly enough but there seemed to be enough desperation about the response to limit creativity and composure.
On the hour mark Gethins sealed County’s victory with a piece of sheer brilliance.
He picked up a throw-in from Webb. Noticing Shearer off his line he launched a perfectly flighted lob that dropped over the head of the back- pedalling keeper, hit the goal line less than a foot in from the par post and bounced into the net.
Formartine still plugged away for the next half hour. Substitutes Napier, Webster and Soane made some impression but not enough to deflate a now super confident Nairn.
Formartine United: Shearer, Donald, .Smith, McKeown, M.Smith, Campbell, Munro, Wilson, Park Ewen, Bagshaw,Subs: Dingwall, Soane, Webster, Napier, Robertson.
Nairn County: McCallum, Web, Mcleod, Morrison, MacDonald, Glen Main, Naismith, Greg Main, Duncanson, Gethins, Neill. Subs: Ellis,Anderson, McKinnon, MacKay, MacLean.