THERE are many things that Formartine can take away from this 1-1 draw with reigning league champions Buckie and for the Pitmedden faithful, the good news is that the overwhelming majority of them are positive.
Selection options for the home side were severely constrained with first team regulars, Bremner, Campbell, Robertson, McVittie, McGinlay, Mackay and Stephen, for a range of reasons - but mostly to do with injury, suspension or unavailable.
On the evidence of this spirited performance where a display of patient determination in the face of the loss of an early opening goal to a team from whom they had never previously taken a solitary point, there are clear signs of better things to come at North Lodge.
The discipline of a fairly young side captained very capably by new skipper Tich Davidson was the foundation of what, in the circumstances prevailing at the time, amounted to an impressive performance.
Initially it looked as if Buckie would simply blow their hosts away. Starting with a slick, high tempo passing game, Buckie quickly had Formartine pretty well hemmed into their own territory at the village end of the park.
Playing a 3-5-2 formation, they approached this in an attacking frame of mind and flooded forward trying to force an early opener, producing attractive, flowing football in the process. The well -developed partnership of Macrae, Sutherland and Charlesworth was an obvious threat, but the home defence of Davidson, Mann and the two unrelated Smiths,( Stuart and “Rusty”) were giving little away and did very well indeed to confine the Buckie goal threat to predominantly long range efforts.
Efforts from the edge of the box and further out by (in order) Donnie Munro, Macrae and Sutherland were all too high and the indefatigable Rusty was already showing the form that earned him match sponsors Central Coaches , man of the match award by keeping them outwith the danger zone.
Formartine were at this stage, clearly on the back foot and their attempts at attack were confined to sporadic breakaways. When these did come, they were quick enough but initially lacked penetration as they struggled to get numbers forward in support of Andy Bagshaw and Park.
In the 18th minute, from a corner on the right, Buckie’s fourth of the game, Donnie Munro darted over to the near post to get in a good firm header, but it flew only an inch or two over the bar.
Buckie pressure continued almost unabated and in the 21st minute they got the reward their efforts deserved. A Formartine breakaway ended as Bagshaw was crowded out by Buckie defenders midway between centre circle and penalty area. With an open sweeping movement Buckie again piled forward.
Sutherland picked out Davidson wide right and the midfielder pressed on down the flank before playing in a perfectly timed and weighted diagonal ball to the feet of CHARLESWORTH, who had sprinted to the near post where he clipped just beyond the reach of the diving McCaffrey. There was an ominous feeling that now that Buckie had found the way to goal, they would go on to score a few more and as they persisted with their free flowing attacking game that feeling intensified over the next couple of minutes.
The spirited North Lodgers had a different view and began to get a touch more bite in midfield and with sheer persistence not only held on but began to ask a few questions of their own.
It is said that the harder you try, the luckier you get and in the 30th minute a long ball from the back by Mann caught out Wood who mis-timed a header under pressure from Andy BAGSHAW.
Baggie reacted faster than Wood could recover, brought the ball swiftly under control and headed goalwards right through the middle. Park and brother, Callum Bagshaw peeled off left and right but Baggie took the direct route, was into the box in a flash and hammered the ball past the advancing Strong to equalise.
Over the remaining 15 minutes of the half, the game developed a more evenly balanced look and Formartine confidence levels visibly rose and they began to show more than a little of what they are now capable. Macaulay had a good run to the edge of the area before being denied by the combined efforts of Duncan and MacKinnon who were able to crowd him out before he got his shot away. Park, gradually shedding the rustiness off his prolonged period on the side lines of Cove made some decent runs with and off the ball but overall did not get much change out of his markers.
As the period came to an end Charlesworth almost made his double when he got between Mann and Stuart Smith to get one on one with teenage keeper, McCaffrey but did not really get the ball under control before blasting it well over the top.
The second half began with a more fluid looking Formartine side offering more threat in central areas and working the ball forward more convincingly.
Despite that, it was Buckie who produced the first decent chance and again it was Charlesworth on the end of it. Breaking in from the right on the end of a long searching ball out of defence he got past Rusty Smith to get one on one with young Kieran McCaffrey.
The youngster reacted like a veteran and bravely closed down the forward diving at his feet and poking the ball away to safety. This was the first of several superb stops by the highly impressive young keeper who must have run Rusty close in the man of the match voting.
As the second half progressed it was Formartine who were making the better chances and although they never attained the level of dominance that Buckie showed in the first half hour of the game they were getting as good or slightly better than they got.
Andy Bagshaw worked a good one-two with brother Callum before threading the ball through to Dan Park. His close range shot was a rushed and weakly struck affair but still clearly on target and did enough to force Strong into a one handed diving save to poke the ball round the post for an unrewarded corner
Formartine pressure continued as Andy Bagshaw broke through the inside left channel on the end of a clipped through ball from his wee brother in the 59th minute.
He got one on one with Strong about fifteen yards out and drove the ball hard and low to the far corner. Strong somehow managed to fling himself to his left to get just enough on the ball to deflect it past the post. The resultant corner was headed firmly downwards by Rusty Smith before being hacked off the line by Shewen .
Five minutes later, it was Buckie’s turn to come close but yet again keeper McCaffrey was fit for the challenge. Charlesworth clipped the ball through the inside right channel into the path of Macrae barely eight yards out when he collected the ball.
The keeper stood his ground well spread himself before bringing off a stunning block of the vicious shot from point blank range. A couple of minutes later Macrae again got a clear sight of goal but having failed to beat McCaffrey from close in tried to do so from further out, but his shot ended high and wide.
The ball was worked rapidly up the park by Formartine with young sub Bailey picking out Callum Bagshaw. He worked his way rapidly thirty yards further up the park before releasing the ball to Andy Bagshaw. With the goal at his mercy, he struck the ball low and hard but just inches the wrong side of the near post.
Formartine were now on top, but did not really have the fire power to clinch the points. The industrious Macaulay came very near to doing so in the dying minutes as he wriggled clear of his markers to blast an inch perfect free kick from Callum Bagshaw over the bar.
A draw was the result that reflected the balance of play over the 90 minutes but this new look Formartine side where every player showed a commitment to the cause, certainly made more and better chances in the latter stages and might just have pinched it. The emergence of good quality home-grown talent, a new captain and a reportedly much improved dressing room culture all seem to be playing a part in providing a decent foundation for the future.
Formartine United: McCaffrey, Davidson, S.Smith, Mann, M.Smith, Knight, C.Bagshaw, Soane, Park, A.Bagshaw, Macaulay. Subs. Mathers, Dunbar Bailley.
Buckie Thistle: Strong,Duncan, Shewen, D. Munro, Mackinon, Wood, Davidson, Macrae,Sutherland, Charlesworh, H.Munro. Subs: Napier, Davidson, Clark, Scott, Main.