FORMARTINE United kept up their title challenge with a comfortable 4-1 victory at Buckie Thistle on Saturday.
The Pitmedden side had failed to secure even a single point from the Jags – home or away- since beginning their SFL career more than three years ago. Without really getting into top gear for long they produced a level of sustained passing and off the ball movement that Buckie could only handle for relatively short periods.
The win keeps them handily in fourth place with enough games in hand to more than close the margin between themselves and each club above them.
With only one game completed this year, United were bound to be a touch rusty but any significant anxiety on that score was eased as early as the third minute when a scorching interchange by Webster and Ewen down the right flank ended with Park, with the goal at his mercy, hooking the ball left of the keeper’s right hand upright.
The visitors took the lead in the 17th minute when Webster whipped the ball straight across the area and big Craig McKeown rose above the Thistle defence to head powerfully home off the underside of the cross bar.
Buckie are made of stern stuff and dug in trying to close Formartine down in the middle of the park. They achieved some measure of success in this although they still failed to match Formartine’s level of possession. It was during this phase of play that the midfield grit of Formartine came to the fore.
Controversy flared in the 24th minute when Scott went down under a thundering tackle from McKeown. The issuing of a yellow rather than a red card annoyed a large section of the home support. The forward eventually recovered to see the match out.
On the half hour mark Buckie managed to sustain a spell of pressure that ultimately yielded a goal. A deep cross from Duncan out on the left was flicked on by Munro to Smith who clipped the ball home past Shearer from about eight yards out.
This was enough to give Buckie a bit of belief and they finished the first half holding the upper hand in terms of territory and pressure.
Whatever Steve Paterson said at half time was enough to produce a transformation in his team. Playing a close passing game, knocking the ball around quickly in a series of triangles they began to completely dominate proceedings. Pinning Buckie back into their own area, they moved the ball slickly about round the box.
After a number of shots that rebounded from knees hips and feet, they found the way to goal in the 53rd minute. After a driven ball by Bagshaw was partially cleared, McVitie lurking just beyond the box, saw a gap and drove the ball through it and into the back of the net.
The pressure continued more or less unabated and Formartine’s third followed in the 63rd minute. Webster had been creating all sorts of mayhem with a series of challenging crosses from wide left and when Main spilled one, Hamish Munro was onto it in a flash and nutmegged the ball between McKinnon’s legs into the net. Embarrassing though that was for the defender, he didn’t hold back and was red carded 10 minutes later for a late, high challenge on Park. To be fair, his tackle did not look any more severe than McKeown’s yellow card in the first half.
The Formartine masterclass continued and Buckie simply could not handle the pace, trickery and delivery of Webster. With about ten minutes to go he placed a cunning dipping free kick just in front of McKeown whose diving header had Main well beaten.
This win at Victoria Park gets a huge monkey off Formartine’s back and shows that although they may still be a little short of being title favourites, they must be regarded as serious contenders.
Teams: Buckie Thistle: Main, Wood, Duncan, Clark, MacKinnon, Wood, Donaldson, Munro, Smith, Shand, Scott. Subs Carrol, Sutherland, Robertson, Gaardiner, Strong.
Formartine United: Sheare, Donald, S.Smith, McKeown, M.Smith, Bagshaw, Munro, McVitie, Park, Ewen, Webster. Subs: Soane, Dingwall, McGinlay,Napier, Robertson