THREE points, three goals and a clean sheet away from home would seem to indicate Formartine were on easy street against Strathspey Thistle on Saturday. The reality is that a stubborn home side made them fight every inch of the way and the margin of victory was a touch flattering on United. However, the win keeps them third in the table with two games in hand on Wick and leaders Cove Rangers.
Despite enforced changes Formartine started at a brisk pace putting the home defence under continual pressure. Webster was causing mayhem on the left and a good understanding between Donald and Munro on the right meant successive waves of attacks on an initially rather beleaguered defence.
A shot from twenty yards by Webster flew over the top as did one from around the same range by Robertson. Strathspey were struggling to make any impact on Formartine territory and the opening goal, in the ninth minute, was consistent with the run of play. The move started down the right flank with a good run by Donald who whipped a dangerous dipping ball into the penalty area. This was partially cleared by Hendry but was picked up by Park on the right side of the area and fired back into the goal mouth where the first to react was Munro who turned the ball past keeper Dungeon.
This early success seemed initially to settle Formartine and both Park and strike partner Ewen went close over the next ten minutes. However, the quality of supply that they were getting from behind them was variable and Thistle began to look increasingly comfortable in riding out the storm. With half an hour played Thistle were giving more or less as good as they got although they did not really seem to have the penetrative powers to seriously trouble their visiting back four.
They almost grabbed an equaliser just before half time when after two corners in immediate succession Smith powered in a header that had Shearer saved at full stretch.
This seemed to have energised Thistle who started the second period with enough confidence in their ability to get the ball to, if not generally beyond, the Formartine defence. Swinton and Rothney both had reasonable attempts from just outside the box and they showed some capacity to pin the visitors back in their own territory.
The second goal was similar to the first in that it started with a break down the right. This time it was Munro who was the provider and Ewen who slotted the ball home from around 10 yards out in the 68th minute.
Strathspey had to throw caution to the wind and within a minute looked to be back in the game when they were awarded a penalty. Substitute Bobrowski was brought down but his effort from the spot rebounded from the post and was eventually cleared.
Formartine brought on McGinlay for Park, Wilson for Robertson and Davidson for McKibben and continued to press forward. McGinlay put the result beyond all doubt with a clinical finish in the 83rd minute. Latching onto a ball in from the left by Webster, he carefully and accurately squeezed it just beyond the reach of the keeper.
This was a game in which from Formartine’s perspective the result was rather better than the performance. In the circumstances it does show that they have the capacity still to win away from home when key players are injured.
With a free Saturday ahead it looks like the injury problems will be nearly over in the run up to a range of festive derbies against Locos and Huntly. If they can collect all the points on offer there then they can look forward to a number of home games including those against other title contenders.
Teams: Strathspey Thistle: Dungeon,Tulloch, MacDonald, Hendry, Sutherland, Chisholm, Hardy, Swinton, Rothney, McKenzie Smith. Subs: Ridgers, Ireland, MacDonald,MacKenzie, Bobrowski.
Formartine United: Shearer, Donald, S Smith, McKeown, M.Smith, McKibben, Munro, Robertson,Park, Ewen, Webster. Subs, Davidson, Wilson McGinlay, Jeffrey