Formartine performances against Forres provide a decent yardstick against which their Highland League aspirations and progress can be measured.
They have only ever taken one point from them since joining the Highland League, and demonstrated in this game that even a top half finish to the current season could be outwith their grasp.
Forres started and finished this game with their season’s undefeated home league record intact and whatever threat to that Formartine posed was dissipated within an hour. Formartine, although they competed reasonably well for periods were unable to match overall a side who will do well enough but seem unlikely to finish in the top three
The visitors got the ultimate dream start to this one. In less time than it takes Usain Bolt to complete 100 metres on the track, they had worked the ball the 50 odd yards from the centre circle to the back of the home net.
From the kick off, Scott tried to knock the ball back to keeper Dunn, but the predatory Mackay saw that it had been under-struck, nipped in and slotted it past the shell-shocked keeper for a ninth second opener. Sadly for Formartine this was about the only defensive error a well drilled defence made all afternoon.
The early pattern was of rather persistent Forres pressure occasionally countered by menacing Formartine breakaways. One such offered them the opportunity to go further ahead when Davidson produced a well-judged short cross to the head of Singer whose accurate but tamely struck header was comfortably held by Dunn. Initially the Formartine back four held out quite well and although absorbing a fair degree of pressure, looked capable of continuing to do so.
They swarmed around Duguid as he broke through on the end of a prodigious punt up the park by Dunn, and eventually stifled the threat although had Duguid knocked it back left to the unmarked Milne the outcome might have been different.
The more their back four held out, the more Formartine clawed their way into the game and in the 35th minute a free kick by Smith from fully 30 yards out was leathered hard enough to force Dunn into a full stretch tip over the top.
This was probably Formartine’s best spell of the game, but it was Forres who got the psychological advantage over the interval with a 40th minute equaliser.
Macphee made progress down the left flank and despite the close attention of Irvine, created just enough space to get in a cross to Fraser, who head flicked the ball back across the line of the advancing keeper and into the opposite corner of the net.
This prompted a further Forres flurry and Formartine, although not quite riding their luck, were well on the back foot. Wing backs Fraser and MacPhee alternated their attacks to good effect and one by the latter yielded a corner which he took himself to deliver the ball straight to Whyte’s head. The header was only fractionally too high and level terms persisted until the interval.
Formartine swapped Stephen for Young within a minute or two of the resumption and despite some other re-organisation to accommodate simply failed to match the appetite, work rate and fitness of the big well-drilled home-side. Forres were more confident and worked to press home the advantage.
Formartine were having little success in getting the ball in behind the home defence and their midfield of Davidson, Singer, Urquhart and Smith seemed to tire. Forres were first to most balls and when Formartine did get space in midfield, they simply lumped the ball forward rather than carrying it with them and taking on defenders.
Another home goal looked more of an inevitability than a possibility and it came in the 64th minute. Sub Green had been on the pitch for less than a minute before he out-muscled Cumming for a 50-50 ball, skipped wide right of Gardiner and crossed it with consummate precision to the head of Fraser who headed home from about eight yards out.
Formartine were fading and although youngsters Tait and McTavish were introduced to give fresh legs, they lacked the guile and muscle power to make a significant impact. They did not play badly at all and showed enthusiasm and commitment but their inclusion was not enough to turn a game that was running away from the visitors. Pushing for some sort of a result they moved Gardiner forward left and began to sustain some territorial pressure.
Formartine plugged away and came near to salvaging a point when Smith got his head to a ding across goal by Mackay. The big midfielder got his head more under the ball than over it, and the header went over the top.
The scale of the task facing the incoming manager is apparent –they lack pace at the back, have no real holding midfielder and little support as a strike partner for Mackay.
The absence through injury of Notman and Bagshaw shows a lack of depth to the current squad and for quite some time it has seemed that their opponents have been fitter than most, but not all of those who represent the Pitmedden club.
FORMARTINE UTD: Gray,Irvine, Gardiner, Cumming,Simpson,
Urquhart, Singer, Smith, Mackay, Stephen, Davidson. Subs. Young, McGuiness, McTavish, Johnston, Tait