There was a lot at stake for each of these sides. Formartine had routed Huntly the week before which, in turn, was the week after the Stratbogie boys had severely dented the Can Cans‘ title aspirations with a well worked victory. The home side simply had to stop the rot of two successive defeats and Formartine, who had shown themselves to have developed the capacity to battle their way to victory needed to sustain that new found approach to salvage what they could from a disappointing season.
The game started at a furious pace and after an initial Forres flurry had been reversed by a Stuart Smith tackle followed by a superbly weighted through ball by Soane to Mackay the visitors had clear sight of the home goal as their captain and striker found himself in the box and one on one with keeper Knight. His shot was well of target but consistent with the sad loss of confidence the once prolific striker is currently enduring. Over the next few minutes it was clear just why the Forres side is in serious title contention. With a superb display of slick pass and move football they set about laying siege to their visitors penalty area. Scott and Barron had the pace and skill to work the ball to the left corner and get it across to the Formartine goal area. The Formartine defence held grimly on with a number of last ditch clearances but the game for the first ten or more minutes was decidedly with Forres.The two Smiths, [Stuart and Rusty] seemed capable of dealing with most of this pressure, persistent though it was down the flank but it did come at the cost of leaving the central area open to exploitation.
Keeper Soutar was brought into action twice within the 9th minute of the game as he was at full stretch to turn a thumping twenty yarder by Grant round his left post and another by Barron past his right after the resultant corner was only partially cleared. It seemed only a matter of time before the home side would get their noses in front. This they did in the 11th minute Soutar was again tested and did superbly well to parry a vicious drive by Ross for the homeside’s 6th corner in almost as many minutes. The ball was swung over by Allan but cleared only as far as DUGUID who lurked on the edge of the box. He hammered the ball low and hard through the defensive ranks and past the almost certainly unsighted Soutar to take the lead that his side’s persistent pressure had earned.
Early opening goals have hitherto signalled capitulation in the Formartine ranks but times are definitely changing and the North Lodgers set about seeking restitution with a gutsy response. The midfield trio of Macaulay, Soane and Andy Bagshaw fought tooth and nail for every ball and bit by bit their side clawed its way back into the game. Soane eluded the challenge of Grant and threaded the ball towards the left side of the box to Andy BAGSHAW who jinked his way past Fraser and near to the by line before striking the ball with immaculate precision from that tight angle into the far corner of the net to equalise in the 20th minute.
Formartine were back in it and the game looked much better balanced as proceedings were conducted increasingly in midfield. Formartine showed a high level of individual skill from Soane and Macaulay but as a unit, the home trio of Whyte, Duguid and Barron looked the slicker.
On the half hour mark, Macaulays threaded pass released Mackay about thirty yards out. Bearing in towards the box he was felled by Sharp twenty yards out. The free kick was in what is often considered to be Bobby Mann territory but to the right rather than his favoured left side. Having inspected the situation he eschewed the opportunity and passed it to the left sided Robertson who had just joined the fray as a replacement for the injured Callum Bagshaw. The kick rebounded from the wall and fell for Macpherson who simply humped the ball down middle to BARRON. The lanky wide man set off at the gallop down the middle and reaching the Formartine box found the few defenders there dithering about whether to track the accompanying runs of Whyte and Scott or commit to tackling him. They chose the former and he was left with a gap through which he simply skelped the ball past the reach of Soutar.
Formartine still refused to cave in and gamely sought to restore the equilibrium but while still trying to adjust to this reverse again fell prey to another bout of dithery defending. Davidson, under mild pressure from the scorer Barron, put the ball out for a corner. Allan’s in-swinging ball went straight to the head of the muckle SHARP who, unmarked, simply nodded the ball home from a standing position about eight yards out.
The second half began with Formartine determined to chase the game. They mounted and sustained a decent level of pressure on the home rearguard and and both Macaulay and Bagshaw went close with shots from the fringe of the box. Just as it was looking like Formartine with a higher defensive line than in the first half were beginning to squeeze their hosts, they fell prey to more chaotic defending. A long ball out of defence by Scott was chased down by BARRON who running at the defence found them retreating and dividing enough to give him a clear sight of goal from fifteen yards range. He cooly slotted the ball past the diving Soutar.
Fortmartine who had worked their socks off to sustain fifty percent of possession were now three goals adrift, simply because of preventable defensive errors. As in the first half recriminations in the defence offered Forres the chance of another goal straight after. This time what looked like a net-bound effort from Fraser was hacked off the line by Robertson. To the visitors’ credit they battled gamely on and still gave as good as they got in most areas of play. Their spirited endeavours were rewarded on the hour mark by a second goal. After some tigerish midfield stuff from Soane and Macaulay, the former worked his way down the right flank before swinging a firey cross intor the area to ROBERTSON who had made a crafty run to the near post. The sub flighted his header well beyond the reach of Knight.
There was some brief hope that Formartine could reduce or overcome the deficit and they continued to press. Forres were far too wiley for that and simply put more bodies behind the ball and strung eight across the 18 yard line. Formartine had no real answer to that, huffed and puffed but saw little in the way of penetration as they were effectively closed down by a big disciplined rearguard who knew how to hold onto the gifts that Formartine had given them.
This, despite the scoreline was by no means a bad performance [other than defensively] by Formartine. Overcoming their defensive frailities looks to be as much a matter of personnel as organisation. Campbell, the natural centre half, remains injured and there is no obvioius replacement for him. Until there is, Formartine will live dangerously.
Forres Mechanics: Knight, Fraser, Allan, Grant, Sharp, MacPherson, Whyte, Duguid,Ross, Scott, Barron. Subs: Davidson, McNab, Bremner,Moore, Main.
Sotar, Davidson, S, Smith, Mann, M.Smith, McVittie, C.Bagshaw, Soane, Mackay, Macaulay,A.Bagshaw. Subs: McGinlay, Stepohen, Robertson,Mathers, McCaffrey.