If Newmachar’s first season in the Junior ranks had yielded no more than a measure of respectability in their league standing that would still be justifiably regarded as a significant success. However to be pressing for the title and collecting the Elginshire Cup is nothing short of outstanding.
Played on the neutral territory of the Islavale ground at Keith, in bright sunshine, before a three figure crowd this gala event started -understandable in the circumstances - nervily. The game as a whole was not so much a display of silky soccer skills as one of commitment and endeavour by two evenly matched sides where defences dominated. Newmachar were first to show as left back Taylor rampaged down the flank, exchanged passes with midfielder Majury only to see his cross headed safely away by central defence. End to end stuff saw Saints breaking through the inside left channel after a mis-timed tackle by Burrows in midfield let Barron loose. His progress was coolly halted as the imperturbable Mugsy Brown, jockeyed him wide biding his time before dispossessing him at the edge of the box and returning the ball to Burrows, turning defence into attack. Shand got onto the end of the ensuing threaded pass before being crowded out before he could pull the trigger.
The first period continued in this vein where an end to end pattern of play conducted at breakneck pace failed to allow for genuine scoring opportunities as neither set of forwards had the pace or guile to penetrate the other’s final third. Defences were well on top although in a midfield where every player was quickly closed down Kevin Symon stood out as a player who had the composure to bring the ball down, control it and pass to feet.
Newmachar plans were thwarted as Scott Fraser one of the left midfield pair limped off to be replaced by Macleod in the 33rd minute. However this did not alter the pattern of play which although exciting enough in its way saw the ball more in the air than on the ground. The interval arrived with honours even.
As the second half progressed the pattern of play slowly began to change: although the pace never really relented, -a testament to the fitness of both sides - Newmachar slowly began to get the upper hand and almost imperceptibly started to turn the screw on the men from Nairn. Moments of penetration were still few and far between but the end to end pattern began very slowly to give way to one where Newmachar could sustain pressure on Saints’ rearguard and pin them back for a few minutes at a time. Johnston and Symon were combining well to this effort and as the periods of pressure continued full backs Graham -who never put a foot wrong all day - and Taylor took turns in forward wide areas to bolster attack. When Nairn did break, and they could do so at pace, their efforts were contained with increasing comfort by Meldrum and Brown in central defence while keeper Lawson looked like he could pull down crosses across the goal all day long.
Pressure was increased further when an astute Newmachar substitution replaced midfielder Burrows with Pugh in a role which effectively gave Newmachar three up front. They began to dominate and Nairn counters became as frequent and fertile as the droppings of a rocking horse. The problem was that they were still on level terms and although Newmachar had laid siege to the Saints goal area, they still could not get the ball into the net past what was becoming effectively a 9 man defence.
The lottery of a penalty shoot-out without the opportunity of extra time – that’s how it is in the Juniors – looked increasingly likely but although spectators may have accepted that the Newmachar lads had different ideas. After a Johnston effort skidded over and one from Symon went marginally wide, McLeod, from the left managed to whip over a fast dipping ball that bobbled in front of defenders on its way to the back post where PUGH, saw the gap and forced the ball home from six yards out in the 87th minute.
This forced Saints out of their defensive shell but they lacked the coherence to put together any move that Newmachar were unable to counter and the one goal margin was capably defended by holding the ball in wide areas until the clock ran out.
Newmachar United: Lawson, Graham, Taylor, Brown, Meldrum, Symon, Burrows, Majury, Shand, Johnston, Fraser. Subs: Stratton, Smith, Lowe, Forbes, Pugh, Jamieson, McLeod