Formartine stalemate

FORMARTINE opened their Highland League campaign with a goalless draw at Deveronvale on Saturday. With yet another injury to Michael McGinlay and Mike Ewen’s registration still mired in Australian and FIFA bureaucracy, United visited Banff with what could be described as a forward line more than a strike force.

Their performance was a decent enough one in all respects other than the final crucial one. In terms of possession and territorial advantage, they probably did enough to warrant a win but squandered too many chances.

The game started at a brisk pace with a Formartine starting eleven that retained only three of last season’s normal first picks - Rusty and Stuart Smith along with McVittie. Veteran Tommy Wilson was orchestrating things well in central midfield and after just over ten minutes set up Kevin Webster with a cunningly weighted and deftly struck through ball that the winger belted against the keeper’s right upright.

It was a reasonable chance but the angle was a tight one and the home goal remained intact. “Squish” Munro drifted in and out of the fray and was soon the recipient of another bit of Wilson magic as he was set free down the inside right channel. Powering his way to the edge of the box he let fly with a pile-driver. It was a wild slicing lunge at the ball that finished the move with the ball flying high wide and not at all handsomely into the training ground behind the goal.

Sadly the same player was to waste another, possibly even better goal chance ten minutes or so later when with only the keeper to beat from near the penalty spot he again failed to find the target.

Formartine were pretty well in control of proceedings and although able to keep their hosts on the back foot for protracted periods, moving the ball around with quick tempo short range accurate passing. The direct and fairly physical defensive approach of centre backs Henry and Fraser did much to keep them at bay and penetrations of the final third of the Vale half were fairly few and far between.

As the half progressed Vale seemed to grow in confidence and asked one or two questions of their own - a crossing move between Duncan and Noble ended with an accurate but short of venomous shot from the former that Shearer dealt with comfortably.

The second half began with Formartine raising the tempo to an even higher level but the main result was more squandered opportunities and not an awful lot more goal threat.

Park worked away competently and aggressively and managed the odd shot from around the fringe of the box. All of them went narrowly wide. The pressure on the home rearguard was sustained and Henry in particular was forced into conceding a number of fouls round the fringes of the box. These were in the area that used to be considered Bobby Mann territory but would now seem to be within the province of winger Webster. The former Cove wide man had three such opportunities in a few minutes either side of the hour mark. Each one beat the wall but none found the net. The first was well struck but just found the side netting. The other two were also close but still failed to find the mark.

The nearest Formartine came to getting the goal that the balance of their overall play probably deserved came from former Caley Thistle youngster Callum Dingwall. An astute piece of inter-passing between Smith, Park and Wilson ended with the latter setting the youngster free to run in on goal. Splitting Rennie and Henry he wriggled into the box towards the rapidly advancing McConnachie. The keeper committed himself but the youngster was able to drag the ball round and beyond him. From a very acute angle he faced an open goal. His attempt to squeeze the ball in at the far post was barely a millimetre off line, but off line it was nonetheless and Vale held out.

This was effectively Formartine’s final flourish.

Soane, Davidson and Forbes were introduced to the fray in an attempt to freshen things but none of them did anything to break the pattern of a game that by this stage had goalless written all over it. Vale managed a few final flurries but it would have been a bit of a travesty had they yielded anything. Both fell to substitutes. A Morrison drive was well taken and held by the impressive Shearer before Blackhall went to ground after a timely intervention by Craig McKeown. Despite the theatricality of his fall, referee McNabb was having none of it and waved away penalty claims.

Teams: Deveronvale: McConnachie, Rennie, Barclay, Henry,Fraser, Cowie, Roger, Urquhart,Duncan, Nobl, Watt. Subs: Rae, Adams, Blackhall, Morrison, Meldrum.

Formartine United: Shearer, Jaffray, S. Smith, McKeown, M.Smith, Wilson, Munro, McVittie, Park, Dingwall, Webster.

Subs: Soane, Forbes, Davidson, McKibben, McCaffrey