This game carried the inevitable tension of a new manager facing his old team for the first time. There was clearly no lack of motivation for either side as Steve Paterson’s Formartine faced the club where he has the status of something approaching a legend. In the end, it was his former understudy from days gone by, Dave McGinlay’s side who claimed the points. Over the piece they could be considered perhaps a touch fortunate to have done so as Formartine enjoyed slightly the better of possession and territorial advantage for most of the game. Huntly did, however, provide what Formartine lacked in terms of penetration in the final third of the pitch.
Formartine fielded an experimental [if that’s not a euphemism for makeshift] starting line out. Captain Mackay was pulled back from his normal striking role to bolster a midfield of five with newcomer Jason Coyle debuting up-front alongside former midfielder “ Rusty” Smith. With the 3-5-2 line up, Marc Young had the fetch and carry wing-back role on the right. The back three had Mark Simpson at it’s core, with Darren McGuinness and young Lewis Knight on either side of him.
The first few minutes went Huntly’s way when Naismith managed to sneak a ball between McGuinness and Simpson to offer McGinlay a sniff at goal. His shot was however screwed wide of the keeper’s left upright. Formartine now settled into a period of gaining the upper hand in midfield, without getting the ball to feet or heads in the Huntly box. Smith was the target man, but his touch was poor and young Coyle whose midweek hat trick for the under 21’s had gained him a starting berth, lacked the guile and physical presence to get anything out of the impressive Campbell. It is however unfair to castigate forwards when the quality of supply on offer to them is, although quite plentiful, of poor quality. There were no shots on target at either end for over half an hour until in the 34th minute, good work by Mackay and Singer looked to have prised open the Huntly defensive lock and Robetson was forced into handling a ball that was heading for Smith, onside and in the box. Smith took the penalty himself. It was well enough struck, but in electing to go central with it, his guess that the keeper would dive one way or the other was ill- founded. Hastie stood his ground and beat the ball away for what was more of a save by him than a miss by Smith.
It looked at this stage as if Formartine were gaining the upper hand. Again they played the ball about well enough and were hinting that they could get behind the visiting back four. However, Marc Young suffered what seemed to be a recurrence of the injury that had side lined him over the last three or four weeks and had to be replaced before the interval by young Greg Simpson. Although this enforced substitution did not do Formartine’s ambitions any good, they still sustained enough pressure to have a bit of a shout for another penalty denied when Singer was brought down from behind by full back Robertson. Ref Sim was close by and waved play on, presumably believing that the Formartine midfielder had slipped, a point of view that some vainly disputed.
The second period brought with it a Huntly substitution and re-deployment of personnel. Taylor was replaced by Soane, and Gauld was pushed forward to run at a Formartine defence that has never been noted for its earth- shattering pace. Thrice in the first 10 minutes of the period, Gauld’s pace almost caught out McGuinness and/or Simpson, but each time the home-side had mustered enough bodies in the box to effect some sort of clearance. After this initial ten minute period, Formartine again settled into some reasonable midfield possession, and yet again they struggled for penetration further forward. It was also clear by this stage that Huntly could get the ball very quickly from back to front, and in McGinlay had a forward who looked fit, fast and hungry. Gauld was getting through a power of work, but McGuinness was reading his runs better as time went on and gradually got the shackles a bit tighter on him. The game was needing a goal, and when it did come it was a cracker. Naismith, from not far outwith the centre circle clipped a perfectly weighted through ball beyond the Formartine defence into the path of McGinlay who, spotting Gray a few yards off his line hit a venomous dipping volley that screamed into the top left corner of the net from all of 30 yards.
This was the signal for a Formartine substitution: Coyle came off and McTavish came on and the home side started to chase the game. It was a fairly forlorn effort as the fitness levels were short of those displayed by the visitors. Nevertheless Formartine plugged away more in hope than expectation. A header by Smith from a Singer corner wasn’t too far off target, but with the goal at his mercy, he could have been expected to do more and as time went on Huntly, despite the narrow margin, looked increasingly comfortable absorbing almost all that Formartine had to offer before they reached the danger area. In the last ten minutes it looked more like Huntly could increase their lead than Formartine could neutralise it: a drive from the edge of the box by McGinlay was hacked clear by Simpson but fell for their un-named trialist, who let fly from about fifteen yards, only to see his effort rebound to safety off the bar.
This in the circumstances was a decent enough effort from a Formartine side entering a new developmental phase. It is unlikely that all those on display on Saturday will constitute a new look side next season, but work rate and discipline look to be improving.
Teams: Formartine United: Gray, Young, Knighty,McGuinness, Simpson, Urtquhart, Davidson, Singer, Mackay, Smith, Coyle. Subs: Galley Simpson McTavish, Graham, Milne.
Huntly: Hastie, Gray, Robertson, Campbell, Gauld, Young, Naismith, Trialist, Guild, McGinlay Taylor. Subs: Dorral, Soane, Trialist, Lonie, Crisp.