FORMARTINE moved to the top of the table after a 3-1 win over Fraserburgh at North Lodge Park on Saturday.
United are joint leaders with Cove Rangers, but have games in hand over their rivals, whose match at Rothes was called off at the weekend.
Facing their fourth game in under eight days, on a heavy, energy-sapping pitch, Formartine began competently but without their customary buzz. As early as the fourth minute, the normally reliable Stewart Smith under-struck a fairly routine pass back to keeper Shearer. The heavy pitch probably exaggerated the extent of the misdemeanour but Bruce got to it before the keeper and dragging the ball wide to his right squeezed it home.
The balance of play in the early stages was definitely with Broch but it was also clear that they were struggling in the final third where the home defence was at its best.
In the 22nd minute, Formartine drew level. Following a corner on the left, big centre McKeown was held by his counterpart, West. Referee Pirie immediately blew for a penalty. Formartine’s previous encounter with the Broch would have taught them that penalties can easily be missed but Webster lashed the spot kick high into the right corner of the net.
Fraserburgh continued to enjoy the lion’s share of territory and possession but their goal threat was relatively limited. A header over the top by Barbour and a wild drive by Hay did little to trouble Shearer although he did have to deal with a Barbour shot from about 12 yards out.
The second half saw a much less jaded Formartine and gradually they began to tighten their grip on the game.
Webster broke down the left before cutting in to let fly with a fierce dipping drive that Leask could only parry out to Park. The striker reacted quickly but failed to take the time to compose himself and sent the ball high and wide. Formartine were now beginning to assert themselves.
In the 70th minute, Ewen broke through the inside left channel, outstripped Dickson and slipped the ball across goal into the path of Dingwall, who calmly side-footed the ball past Leask and into the right hand corner of the net to establish the lead.
It took only another five minutes to extend this advantage with a typical Mike Ewen effort. Latching onto a ball threaded through from defence by McKeown, he outpaced and outfoxed his markers to get in one-on-one with Leask. A wee shimmy was enough to wrong foot the keeper before he casually flicked the ball into the net. From that point on, Formartine did enough to keep the pressure on their visitors and by and large called the shots as they competently saw the game out. Given their midweek exertions they did this with surprising vigour.
The three points sees United into joint top place, level on both points and goal difference with Cove, but crucially with three games in hand.
With 17 games now completed they have hit the top at exactly the mid-point of the campaign- a great position to be in but still with a long way to go.
Formartine United: Shearer, Donald, S.Smith, McKeown, M.Smith, Bagshaw, Munro, McVittie, Park, Ewen, Webster. Subs: Dingwall, McGinlay, Napier, Robertson, Jeffrey.
Fraserburgh: Leask, Dickson, Christie, Cooper, West, Barbour,S Main, Bruce, Hay, Cowie, N.Main subs: Johnstone, Noble, Willox,Paterson, Conway.