FORMARTINE United top the Highland League for the first time following a hard-earned 3-1 win over Lossiemouth at North Lodge Park on Saturday.
United have the same points as Cove Rangers but have scored more goals and have two games in hand on their title rivals.
The home side tried to boss the Coasters from the start, but the visitors were having none of it and initially matched them closely. They did experience a jittery opening few minutes particularly when Callum Dingwall was allowed to break through the middle and reach the edge of the box almost unchallenged only to skew his shot high and wide.
Formartine were able to sustain pressure in their visitors’ territory for just a bit longer than the opposition could muster in return, although neither looked lethal in the finishing department.
Webster was beginning to raise the temperature displaying his full repertoire of balls into the box. Each in its way asked a difficult question but by and large, the Lossie back four of Ross, Main, Davidson and Mitchell coped well.
Keeper Errol Watson was in inspired form and as early the eighth minute pulled off an excellent save from a header by Dingwall followed by a low dive to deny the prolific Ewen. Formartine had the better of possession and showed some territorial advantage but Lossie were hard to penetrate.
However, it was centre back “Rusty” Smith who broke the deadlock in the 28th minute. Almost inevitably it was Webster who was the instigator.
He picked up the ball wide right of the box and sent over a superbly flighted, out-swinging cross to Smith who produced a might leap for a fierce downward header that rebounded from the ground on the goal line into the roof of the net.
The Pitmedden men ramped up the pressure but Lossie, thanks to sterling work from Watson in goal, held out until the interval.
United, acutely aware of their need to rack up a good goal tally against the possibility of goal difference determining the destination of the championship, pressed from the start of the second half.
Lossie were “bonnie fechters” though and battled tooth and nail for every ball.
Before the half was five minutes old, the visitors’ pluck was rewarded by an against-the-run-of-play equaliser. A long ball out of defence was chased down by Main who crossed immediately to Davidson who simply drew Shearer and sent the ball past him from the edge of the area for a simple, effective and rather embarrassing counter.
Formartine’s response was immediate and direct. From the restart the ball was worked out to Webster on the left and he clipped over a dipping diagonal ball that Park teed up for Ewen who netted home from close range.
Lossie’s period of parity had been ended after less than a minute. From that point on, the home side were dominant and Lossie were either forced or had elected to go for damage limitation as United laid siege to their rearguard for sustained periods. To the Moray side’s credit, they did a decent job of holding on grimly.
It took Formartine until the 78th minute to complete the scoring. With Watson occupied by the threat of Ewen to his left, the wily striker deceived the keeper by not shooting but instead, flipping the ball over to the far post where Dingwall dropped his shoulder and volleyed it home viciously with his left foot.
Formartine pressure continued but despite good chances falling to McKeown and Ewen, Watson continued his superb form to keep the score at 3-1.
Formartine United: Shearer, Jeffrey, S.Smith, McKeown, M.Smith, Campbell, Dingwall, Bagshaw, Park, Ewen, Webster. Subs: Soane, Robertson, Donald, Wilson Munro.
Lossiemouth: Watson, Ross, Main, Davidson. Mitchell, Smith, Miller, Grant, Stables, Davidson, McIntosh. Subs: Horsburgh, Dunn, Fimister, Gordon, Wilson.