FORMARTINE suffered their first league defeat of the season to joint leaders Cove Rangers at Allan Park.
United opened the scoring early on, but a Martin Johnston double secured the points for the home side. The game had a nervy beginning in which it was clear that each side had a large measure of respect for the capabilities of the other. However, it was Formartine who drew first blood.
In the twelfth minute Dan Park - who swapped Cove for Formartine in the middle of last season - burst into scoring action. Co- striker Ewen had blazed his way through to the home penalty area and little more than five or six yards out from goal, squared the ball to his partner who without breaking stride, hammered it well beyond the reach of keeper McKenzie.
Cove were stung and trying all they knew to level the game while Formartine realised that if they could weather the storm of home retaliation for twenty minutes or so, they might be able to impose their own pattern on the game.
Cove were simply too strong and experienced to allow this to happen and their almost incessant pressure reaped its reward within five minutes. It was typical Allan Park stuff that did it. Mike Mackenzie swung the ball from the centre circle to Yule out on the right wing. The wide man slung the ball classically over the penalty spot to the head of Martin Johnston whose fierce header was directed well beyond the reach of keeper Shearer.
Cove were by now in full flow but Formartine were not there simply to make up the numbers. They hung on, sometimes grimly, but their defence was well structured, disciplined and did a good job of restricting Cove efforts to relatively long range.
However, even from beyond the box Cove still carried a certain menace. In the 35th minute an Emslie free kick from a good twenty five yards out almost beat Shearer who uncharacteristically flapped at it a bit.
Veteran predator McKenzie was in on him but the keeper recovered well enough to deny him from close range. The combination of Johnston and McKenzie is a handful for any defence in the league and shortly before half time a slick bit of pass and move between Singer and Yule resulted in the former driving a low cross over the box just ahead of McKenzie who just failed to connect with it with the goal otherwise at his mercy. United did well to keep the score sheet level until the interval and showing in flashes that they could turn defence into offence they made it clear that they remained a force to be reckoned with.
There was no question of trying to hold out for a draw – that simply is not the Formartine way- they just as much as Cove approached the second period of play as an opportunity to get three points on the board.
Again Cove had the better of possession and territory but still found it very difficult to penetrate the Formartine final third. A twenty yard effort from Stott flew over the top and Cove tried to lay siege to Formartine’s rearguard.
They breached it in the 53rd minute after Scully and Scott tried to pass and dribble their way to a shooting position. The former tangled with Craig McKeown amid claims for a penalty. These were denied but in the midst of the mayhem, Johnston, virtually on the penalty spot anyway, drove the ball hard and low into the bottom right hand corner to put Cove ahead.
The match took on a more end-to-end characteristic and Formartine did have opportunities.
In one of them a ball into the area was no more than an inch or two beyond the tip of Rusty Smith’s boot as the visitors frantically sought the goal that would continue their undefeated league run.
Formartine United: Shearer, Jeffrey, S.Smith, McKeown, M.Smith, Soane, Munro, McVitie, Park, Ewen, Webster.
Subs, Davidson, Robertson, Wilson, McKibben, McCaffrey.
Cove Rangers: McKenzie, Yule, Lawrie, Emslie,Redford, Black, Singer, Johnston. M.McKenzie, Stott, Scully.
Subs: Leyden, McCulloch, Smith, Kapstick.