Formartine start well, but stutter

Keith 2 - Formartine United 1

It used to be said of some Italian cars that they were beautifully designed, expensive, capable of stunning performance but ultimately insufficiently reliable for everyday use. Formartine, after their 4th successive defeat, are increasingly looking like that. They start well enough, but after they have been running for a while, begin to stutter before breaking down into defeat. This was again the case at Kynoch Park on Saturday when they established a lead early on, held onto it well until half time, [even looking as if they might extend it] before a catastrophic defensive error let the opposition in to equalise and then go on to defeat them.

The first five minutes went marginally Keith’s way with them holding some territorial advantage but posing no significant threat to the visiting rearguard which had Simpson and Hannah at its heart and Cumming and Graham at either side. Fraser Tait, deputising for the injured Bagshaw, made his first top team start and settled quickly into a midfield berth.

After ten minutes the width of Formartine’s attacking options was beginning to pose some threat to Keith. Stephen is the master of the unpredictable and the unorthodox and was beginning to find ways to get in behind the home back four, particularly down the left and with Mackay, full of running, more in the more central areas, the pressure was beginning to mount. A drive by Smith was high and wide and Stephen cutting in from the flank, unleashed a hard, waist height dipping drive that brought a good diving save from Shearer.

Keith for their part, were pushed into playing more on the break than they would probably have wished but with Cammy Keith and Mackay linking well, still offered serious threat.

In the fifteenth minute, Stephen played in Mackay whose effort was cleared at the cost of a corner. Stephen took it and his first effort yielded a second as the ball was bundled back over the bye line.

The second, struck deeper, was cleared only as far as Mackay who produced a fierce accurate drive that was parried only a few feet by the keeper. MacNamee tried to clear it but was blocked by debutant TAIT who forced his way forward and bundled the ball over the line in the 16th minute. This was as good a start as Formartine could have hoped for and it looked as if they were getting and beginning to retain the upper hand. An attack down the inside right channel orchestrated by Urquhart and Davidson set up Smith with a bit of an opening but, at full stretch to reach the ball, he hit it over the top again.

The twin spearhead of Mackay and Keith managed to harass the visiting defence into a rather risky looking series of short passes in the box between Simpson, Graham and Hannah but despite living dangerously for a few moments, the defence stood firm and the ball was eventually pumped up the park by Simpson.

Rusty Smith was getting through a pile of work and on the half hour, latched onto a neat through ball by Urquhart to get in one on one with keeper Shearer.

The keeper stood his ground well, advanced to narrow the angle enough to get a hand to a fierce shot, and turn it round his left upright to safety. Both he, Mackay and Stephen had half chances again before the interval and although denied by a combination of last ditch defending on Keith’s part or inaccuracy on their own, still contrived to suggest that the Formartine lead was a deserved one and was more likely to be increased than reduced.

The second half was an entirely different affair. Keith started with a real sense of urgency and this was matched by some rather loose, sluggish stuff by the visitors. Keith had raised their work rate and tempo and all of a sudden Formartine were looking vulnerable.

Slick inter-passing between Donaldson, Wayne Mackay and Cammy Keith ended with the first named blasting the ball over the top. Minutes later Mackay got in on goal in pursuit of a goal kick that had been flicked forward. His effort was woefully high but it was beginning to look that if Keith were to be denied it would be the result of poor finishing more than fortress like defending by the visitors. The next few minutes went almost entirely Keith’s way before calamity struck the visitors.

In the 50th minute, the pace of Sean Keith was enough to see off the defenders and leave him bearing down on the goal.

There was only keeper Gray to beat. Legging it out to meet the midfielder at the front centre edge of the box the keeper was still in the area when he simply clattered into Keith and brought him down.

This was double jeopardy time: Gray was summarily dismissed and the penalty awarded. Formartine were clearly unprepared for this eventuality as first Simpson, then Smith donned the gloves and yellow jersey. Cammy KEITH was unphased by the wait, stepped up to the mark and banged the spot kick classically low and to the left of the diving Smith to level the match.

Eager to test the makeshift keeper, Donaldson struck a twenty yard volley right at him. Smith got his body behind it and held it as if he’d been a keeper all his days.

He certainly got the better of that wee test out and went on to produce a steady performance between the sticks. The problem was not what he did in goal but what his absence in midfield created.

Mackay had then to plough a rather lone furrow up front and for all his ability to hold up the ball and for all the trickery that Stephen offered on the flanks, Formartine were pushed back for long periods while Keith, with numerical advantage, could mount successive waves of attack. This they did.

It took them 12 minutes of doing so to get their noses in front when, after some woeful finishing by Wayne Mackay and Donaldson with open goal chances that were well off target, Phillips powered through the inside right channel before squaring to the unmarked Cammy KEITH who had made an unmatched run through the middle. The prolific goal scorer finished clinically. Bringing the ball comfortably under control, his measured drive was despatched well beyond the reach of Smith and Keith were ahead.

It is to Formartine’s credit that they did not capitulate and fought tooth and nail to get something from the game. Keith continued to make chances but with Cammy Keith picking up a wrist injury, they lacked the fire power to increase their lead. If Keith were short on fire power Formartine remained short on man power. They came near to levelling when trickery by Mackay who had been set up by Hannah, made him enough space to put the ball onto Urquhart’s head. His flicked header was on target but somehow or other, Shearer was able to tip it away to safety.

Formartine played out the last fifteen minutes with the upper hand in terms of pressure and territory but Keith were able to cram the final third and simply deny them the space in which to operate. The home side held out and remain firmly in the title frame but this result leaves Formartine well off the pace, rooted in mid table with 8 teams above them and a lot of work to do to reach last season’s finishing position of 5th place.

With Smith saving Keith Walker’s spot kick and Glass firing his over the bar the scoreline stood at 3-3 after the first four set of penalties and when Calum Annand’s kick cannoned back off the bar, Stewart kept his cool to slot home and send Stonehaven through to a 2nd round tie at home to Hermes.

Ellon United: Buchanan, Annand, Gunn, Irvine, Allsop, Paterson (Chapman), Corser, K Reid (McKeitch), Chalmers (McIntosh), Walker. Subs: Clark, Moffat.

Stonehaven: M Smith, Low, Mathieson, Cameron, Gray, Ellis, Nicol, Cruickshank, Stewart, Shand, Glass. Subs: Brooks, Paterson, Will, MacGregor, J Smith, Robertson.

Although they cannot deny that Stonehaven deserved a draw on the day, United must be kicking themselves at the way they allowed the result to slip from their grasp at the bitter end.

United return to the important search for league points next Saturday and face a tricky challenge when Hall Russell United visit the Meadows, KO 2.30pm. The visitors will be in buoyant mood following their win over league leaders Hermes last weekend.

The winning numbers of United’s weekly Lucky Six Draw were 5, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 13 and with no one picking the full set the jackpot for next week’s draw will be £1350 with the selection 6 from 13. The winners of the £10 consolation prizes were N Barry, D Duncan and M Kinghorn.