2019 was neither kind to nor auspicious for Formartine United who saw the year out on the back of the worst run of form they had endured for many a long year.
It was inevitable that all concerned- management, players and supporters - faced this tricky home encounter against Buckie at least as much in hope as expectation.
The opening phases were largely unremarkable as two teams that had previously managed but a single goal between them over 180 minutes of play slugged it out in a rather prosaic midfield battle.
The fact that it was a game where physique was likely to trump technique was apparent from the third minute where Rodger, driving forward through central midfield, slipped away from a couple of lusty challenges before being unceremoniously clogged by Murray.
The resultant free kick was swung centre to left by Anderson but scrambled away from the back stick area by the combined efforts of keeper Herbert and former United player Munro.
Play continued to be largely confined to central midfield until the 14th minute when Park dispossessed Cowie and fed the ball forward left to Greig who, evading Munro, clipped it neatly towards Lisle who was attacking the near post area. Murray managed to hoof the ball clear.
Marking was close and the pace high, but neither side had enough of an edge over the other to make significant headway.
If any was to come, then the speed and direct running of United’s Lisle might provide it.
Several times he got near to reaching long through balls from the back but generally they were asking too much of even his outstanding pace.
Buckie made few significant first half chances: a couple of breaks by Macaskill produced some initial threat before he was halted outwith the box first by McKeown and shortly after by Lawrence.
As half-time approached United began to gain some territorial advantage and most of the play was located in Buckie territory.
A 38th minute longish range effort from Park out left was only inches wide of its intended target of the top far corner but by half-time the deadlock looked like lasting.
United quickly changed that: in the 47th minute a tricky run down the left by Lisle was illegally halted by McCabe. The ensuing free kick was swung into the heart of a densely packed box where McKeown got his head to the ball and knocked it down for Lisle, who skelped the ball past Herbert from about six yards out.
That certainly livened things up and the game took on an end-to-end character.
Challenges were fierce but mostly just about legal, decent and timely.
Seeking to press home their narrow advantage, United swapped Norris and Greig for the older heads of Gethins and McGowan and although this arguably produced the pressure needed to baulk Buckie to the point that it looked like United were going to collect the points it didn’t change the score until a rather soft penalty was given to Buckie.
With only seven minutes to go Park swung a boot to clear a ball coming his way only to find McCabe getting in between boot and ball and being brought down in the process. Macaskill sunk the spot kick low to Main’s right.
United weren’t done and piled pressure back on.
With both sides chasing a late winner it became real end-to-end to end fare.
The winning goal came four minutes into stoppage time and was a thing of beauty of the sort that few other than Gethins can create. A long clearance from the keeper found the striker in the inside-left channel fully 40 yards from goal.
He had the ball under instant control, sized up his options and as a panic-stricken keeper rushed to close him down, with consummate timing and outstanding spacial awareness he lobbed the ball in a lazy arc over the keeper’s head neatly onto the goal line to bounce into the empty net pursued vainly by Munro who could do nothing but join the ball in the back of the net.