Formartine exited the Scottish Cup in a 4-2 second round defeat by Clachnacuddin in Inverness on Saturday.
United suffered their third consecutive setback after a promising start to the season, and the loss was against a side which played more than an hour with ten men.
Although the circumstances in which these have taken place -a cup final that went to a penalty shoot out, a very close league battle against high-flying Cove and this Scottish Cup game against a very doughty Clach side in their own back yard - are entirely different from the situation at this stage last season, the dangers of getting out of the habit of winning remain.
The next couple of games will be hugely influential on their season and the ability or otherwise to put this series of often unlucky defeats behind them will be the determining factor.
Formartine started well enough showing no early sign of nerves at a busy Grant Park. The first period was breathless more than tentative as each side sought to impose themselves rather than adopt the more composed, diagnostic approach of patiently probing for weaknesses in their opponents. But the first sign of serious jitters came in the 21st minute when young Stephen Jeffrey turned the ball past keeper Shearer and into his own net to gift Clach the boost of an opening goal.
This was clearly a body blow but it seemed to energise Formartine as much as their hosts as they began the process of battling back into the tie. The game began to look like it would swing back the visitors’ way after a straight red card for Mark Kennedy in the 27th minute, the first of several bizarre refereeing decisions as the player, trying to avoid a clash with big Craig McKeown tried to hurdle him but the referee saw it as violent conduct.
Dan Park was a fast aggressive presence up front . His style is forceful and direct and he was beginning to get some cuttance by running hard at defenders with the ball at his feet, an approach that bore fruit in the form of an equalizer within only ten minutes of going behind. A slick build up involving Wilson, Ewen and Munro brought a series of quick passes that ended with Munro feeding Park who lobbed the ball home from the edge of the box.
The goal should have provided a platform from which Formartine could stabilise before kicking on from there.
They will rue the fact that they failed to do so. Instead it was the home side who responded to it in that way to take an interval lead through Scott Graham only seven minutes later.
An uncharacteristically slack ball out of defence by “Rusty” Smith was picked up by Graham who was then fouled by the big defender as he tried to get the ball past him. Taking the free kick himself he slotted the ball low and left past the diving Shearer.
The second half began predictably enough with a flurry of Formartine activity as they started to chase the game.
They had also to replace the influential Wilson with Callum Bagshaw after the midfielder had failed to run off a knock incurred earlier.
Clach extended their lead in the 57th minute with a bizarre goal.
They were awarded a free kick 25 or so yards out. As the referee was shepherding the Formartine defenders back the requisite distance and the relevant assistant was facing the opposite direction, Allan Pollock cheekily clipped the ball over the official and the wall past keeper Shearer. Both referee and linesman contrived to save their blushes by awarding a goal that no one present saw as anything other than a farce.
Formartine, however, were right back in it only two minutes later when Callum Dingwall pulled it back to 3-2. Almost replicating Dan Park’s goal he lobbed the keeper from twenty five yards after Soane had picked up the ball in midfield and slipped it through to him. Alan Pollock was, however, the man of the match and the influential midfielder put the tie beyond United’s reach in the 58th minute with a tremendous 30-yard drive.
Formartine kept up the pressure right to the final whistle but were denied by two outstanding saves from Campbell.