Formartine United’s title hopes suffered a major setback with a 2-1 defeat at Deveronvale on Saturday.
At 3pm Formartine sat proudly if a little precariously at the top of the league, by 4.51 they were in third place trailing both Brora and Nairn, their championship challenge dealt a possibly fatal blow.
The league table, they say, never lies and having dropped eight points out of the last twelve available to them, the Pitmedden side are paying the price of a dismal run.
This performance confirmed what some have believed since much earlier in the season - although they can turn on a bit of style against lower level teams, when faced with those possessed of a bit of spirit, grit and determination, like for example Locos or Vale, Formartine can crumble.
United started well enough but it was Vale who took the lead in the 21st minute. Cowie rose above the defence to head home an Urquhart corner.
Formartine were level second later. With perfect vision and timing, Hamill played in Keith who got just ahead of Adams as the linesman made some tentative gesture with his flag which suggested to some that he thought the striker might have been offside.
The referee thought otherwise and Keith had the ball in the net in a flash.
Formartine continued to press at times but never looked like getting another while the home-side playing tight, well-patterned stuff just looked to have a bit more of an edge to them when they broke forward.
It was no real surprise when they established a lead before half-time. In the 38th minute Urquhart, a hive of industry in the middle, picked out Simpson with a penetrating through ball.
This left him more or less one-on-one with the advancing keeper Shearer and he picked his spot from 12 yards.
Formartine came close on a couple of occasions in the second half but failed to breach the Vale defence. The home side were content to play on the break and United and lacked the creativity to break down a determined and well organised side who seemed simply to want the victory more and were prepared to invest more in the process of achieving it than United.
Deveronvale: McConnachie, Aitken, Adams, Rennie, Henry, Urquhart, Cowie, Rodger, M Charlesworth, C Charlesworth, Simpson. Substitutes: Da Silva, Hutchinson, Watt, Rae, Fyfe.
Shearer, Munro, Smith, McKeown, Campbell, Anderson, Bagshaw, McVitie, Keith, Ewen, Hamill. Substitutes: Dingwall, Park, Jeffrey, Davidson, Doak.