Formartine off to a flying start

editorial image

Had Formartine failed to win this opening game of the season, it would have been an embarrassment more than a calamity.

But with only two of the starting eleven that finished last season, the radically rebuilt squad of new manager Kris Hunter faced the daunting prospect of opening their league campaign against a side they had only beaten twice in 13 attempts

In the end Formartine reversed the losing trend and put together a spirited performance against a side that are notoriously difficult to score against.

There were one or two errors too, but crucially these were never repeated.

The combative McGovern linked with the fast and tricky Baxter, but the latter’s first foray into United territory, was ended by a no nonsense intervention by McKeown.

At the other end, Stuart Smith made ground down the left flank before feeding the ball through to Barbour who took it through the inside left channel before unloading a crisp low shot that Pennet managed to smother beside his right up.

There was little between the two sides for the first 20 minutes or thereby: attacks at either end tended to break down around the fringes of the penalty area where little quarter was asked or given.

A collision between Soane and McKeown on the fringe of the home box saw the Forres midfielder requiring attention before resuming.

In the 14th minute Baxter used his searing pace to split McKeown and Crawford to get one-on-one with the advancing Reid who did enough to close down the angle of attack so that the shot which had to clear the keeper to find its target, also cleared the cross bar.

Baxter never again got between the home centre backs and although he still had the pace to challenge them was nevertheless effectively contained for the rest of the game.

Formartine’s back four of Michie, Smith, McKeown and Crawford played a significant role in the side’s eventual victory by resolutely dismantling all that Kutsishvilli, Baxter and Soane created.

Playing quite deep initially, they managed to gradually advance their defensive line as time went on and increasingly release Michie and Smith on the flanks.

In addition, the accuracy and vision of Lawson’s distribution meant that Formartine’s capacity to change defence into attack was beginning to turn the game in their favour.

Half an hour in, whatever marginal advantage in possession and territory Mechanics may have held began to fade and Formartine gradually gained the upper hand.

They managed several phases of attack where they managed to pin the visitors down in their own back yard and shots from Anderson, Rodger, Wood and Barbour either went close or were beaten away by Pennet.

In the 39th minute, an overlapping move down the left by Smith and Barbour allowed the former to get into position to swing over a superbly weighted ball directly into the path of Wood.

The big striker muscled his way between defenders before delivering a venomous diving header that fairly skelped the ball past the left hand of Pennet.

It was an excellently worked and clinically delivered goal and it had to be because Forres don’t give many chances.

This visibly settled Formartine who seemed to move up a gear as they sought to extend their their lead.

The ball was contained in the visitors’ half for most of the remaining minutes of the first half and although there was a fair bombardment of a densely populated penalty area, the Mechanics rearguard held firm.

A superbly timed late run to the near post by Rodger to latch onto a corner kick ended with his fierce header flying only inches over the top.

An Anderson drive rebounded from the woodwork and Mechanics rode their luck. Barbour, who ended as man of the match, also went close with a header during this period.

After the interval, Formartine resumed their pressure and largely dictated their terms to the visitors but found Forres to be very well practiced in and comfortable with a counter punching approach.

Their early attempts at imposing themselves on Formartine had been successfully overcome and they reverted to pretty much the style that won them the title a few seasons back.

They are very good indeed at shutting up shop and looking to steal a goal on the fly and for all Formartine had them pinned back, the single goal margin seemed scarily slender at times.

There were opportunities to extend the lead – one fell to Wood but he put his 53rd minute shot over the top.

McKeown did well to get in behind the defenders near the back stick to collect a corner kick from the left.

His angled twelve yard drive was well and accurately struck but Pennet was well placed to make the save at his left upright.

A 25 yard free kick by Lawson went very close.

The ball was flying towards the postage stamp corner and dipped viciously but only enough to land on the roof of the net

Minutes later the fates conspired to deny Formartine the comfort of a second goal.

In a closely packed penalty area, Rodger managed to get the ball over to Gauld only a few yards out.

The wee striker was onto it in a trice but it rebounded from the underside of the bar straight into the arms of a very relieved Pennet who seemed to know little about what had happened.

Formartine looked to be going through a flatter phase around the 70th minute.

Their pressure was not getting them the goal they wanted and Mechanics seemed comfortable enough playing off the back foot.

Sharpness suffered for a while and although Forres exploited this to some extent and seeking to extract something from the game asked Formartine a few questions.

Kutsishvilli was fed by Jones but hesitated just enough to be closed down by Crawford before being dispossessed.

Formartine replaced Gauld with Bagshaw to tighten the midfield and having resisted what Forres had to throw at them, competently played out the remaining time to emerge as comfortable winners as a single goal advantage allows.