Formartine celebrated their first ever Scottish Cup tie in splendid style racing to a three goal lead in the first half of the first half before having to battle grimly to avoid a long trundle up to Sutherland the following Saturday as their visitors battled back from their early reverses to the very brink of a draw. To Formartine’s enormous credit, they survived a torrid thirty minute spell of almost incessant pressure from the much fancied and star studded Cattachs to regain control in the latter stages of a fascinating, nerve tingling classic cup tie.
Formartine came out of the traps like electrified ferrets to through everything conceivable at their initially shell shocked visitors. Seizing the initiative from the first whistle they worked the ball forward with pace and purpose. A move involving Wilson, Webster, Munro and Ewen saw Dan Park in at the back post to get in a fierce shot that was turned away for an unrewarded corner. The onslaught continued with some super-slick high tempo football and an opening goal seemed a racing certainty and there was only one side that were in the frame to get it. MUNRO, who was having his best ever game for the North Lodgers was giving Golabeck and the rest of the back four a really torrid time of it. It took him only until the 6th minute to reap the reward of his industry. Forcing his way down the right flank, his persistence gained him a corner which was taken in-swinging by Webster. “Rusty” Smith got his head to it but his powerful downward header was cleared by Macleod, but this went only as far as Ewen who drove the ball powerfully to the bottom left corner of the goal where it was blocked but not held by Ridgers and Squish finished what he had started by blasting the ball high into the net from eight yards out.
Formartine continued at the blistering pace they had set for the game producing wave after wave of attack: Dan Park was fast brave, strong and direct and hammered away relentlessly at the visiting defence, drawing defenders in all directions and causing mayhem at the back. Mike Ewen, slippery as soap in the bath, interchanged with him and this striking pair seem to be developing an understanding that is going to cause headaches for more defences than Brora’s. Little more than 5 minutes later and the Park/ Ewen partnership saw the former force his way through the inside left channel on the end of through ball from the latter. He drove the ball across the goal face and as keeper Ridgers got himself into a right old fankle, flapping at the ball which trundled between his legs, MUNRO simply stepped in and poked the ball into the net at the back post.
Still the Formartine blitzkrieg continued and the play was concentrated almost entirely to the Brora end. McVitie chased and harried everywhere and everything balls to fed orchestral arranger, Wilson who produced a steady supply of quality balls to what almost amounted to a four man forward line of Munro, Park, Ewen and Webster who continued to hammer at the Brora rearguard. The dam was almost breached again when Park set up Ewen with a clear run at goal from about 35 yards out. Ridgers atoned for his previous misdemeanour by getting smartly off his line to meet him as he entered the box. The keeper got just enough of a touch to the ball to deflect it past his right upright for another corner which, after a brief flash of mayhem, was eventually hacked away to safety.
It was a wildly erratic display by the keeper and most thought his afternoon of chaos would have concluded in the twenty first minute. Munro broke down the inside left channel leaving Maclean floundering in his wake. Again the keeper was quick to get off his line to meet him, but this time his method was ludicrously simple: he simply whipped the legs from the gangling winger, bringing him down well within the box to deny a clear goal scoring opportunity. The penalty was awarded for this “last man” challenge but ref Beaton must have had a flash of uncharacteristic generosity and issued only a yellow card for what most assumed was a red card offence.
Dan PARK stepped up for the penalty and drove the ball hard and low to the left of the keeper who dived right. As Formartine continued their high octane offence Munro came very close to completing a first half hat trick with a blistering fifteen yard drive that the hapless Ridgers spilled. Golabeck reacted well to get the ball to safety.
Brora have too many quality players and old heads to allow themselves to be bullied and as the half wore to its conclusion they began to get their shape back and produced a few spells of well patterned play that hinted at the reasons for the high regard in which they are held within Highland football. The introduction of Liam Baxter for Macleod in the 37th minute was influential and suddenly there was a someone to link with Ritchie Hart who almost instantly became much more influential. However Formartine remained firmly in the driving seat until the interval.
The second half began with another Formartine firestorm and within the first five minutes they should have really had Brora utterly dead and buried as Ewen broke down the left on the end of a longish ball from the attack minded full back Start Smith. He tried to draw and slip past Ridgers but went tamely down to the deck under a rather faint challenge from the keeper. Penalty claims lacked both conviction and credibility and were dismissed peremptorily by the perfectly placed ref. Then began the Brora fight back – and what a battle they put up. Just as Formartine had thrown everything at them in the first half they did likewise to them for about half an hour in the second. In the fifty fifth minute they all but pulled one back as Steven Mackay was just off target in converting a cute pass in the area by Gillespie. Formartine were beginning to look jittery and Brora drew confidence from it. In the 64th minute Campbell just outpaced “Rusty” Smith who still managed to jockey him almost to the bye line in the process but still the cross came in. It went straight to Steven Mackay who banged the ball home into the left corner from close range. Confidence flooded through the visitors as the Formartine faithful feared the worst.
Their agony was seriously intensified in the 70th when after continuous pressure Brora bagged a second. Hart played a cutely angled diagonal ball left to right across the box to get it behind defenders and over to Baxter at the far side. In what looked like a training ground move, he played a similar ball back to striker CAMPBELL who drove the ball low and hard beyond the reach of Shearer. With still 20 minutes to go, it was definitely game on. Formartine had to dig deep and deeply they dug, holding grimly on as the Cattachs forced the pace. Jeffrey, McKeown, and both Smiths [Rusty and Stewart utterly refused to capitulate and for all Brora pressed the defence restricted them to very few shots on target.Smith hit an acutely angled shot but although it did hit the bar it did so because Shearer had got a mighty paw onto the ball to put it there on its way to safety. Try as they might, there was no way through to an equaliser for Brora and they were not only contained but eventually put onto the back foot as Formartine regained enough control to keep the ball in wide areas to run down the clock as the game reached its conclusion.
This was a convincing win against quality opposition for a Formartine side that is looking better with every game they play.
Formartine United: Shearer, Jeffrey, S.Smith, McKeown, M.Smith, Wilson, Munro, McVitie, Park, Ewen, Webster.
Subs: Bagshaw, Davidson, Soane, Dingwall, McCaffrey
Brora Rangers: Ridgers, K. Maclean, Golabeck,Hind, MacLeod, Lamb, Gillespie, Hart, Campbell, Mackay, S. Maclean.