Formartine United 3 - 3 Brora Rangers 

League - HFL
Saturday, March 26th, 2016, 3:00 PM at North Lodge Park, Pitmedden
Attendance: 500
Referee: Graham Fraser
Formartine United v Brora Rangers, Mar 26th 2016, North Lodge Park, Pitmedden
Formartine United  Brora Rangers

Scott Barbour (19)
Graeme Rodger (29)
Garry Wood (73)
Grant Munro (49)
Zander Sutherland (59)
Martin Maclean (83)

Team Managers
Kris Hunter Richard Brittain

Starting Eleven
Ewen MacDonald
Johnny Crawford
Stuart Smith
Calum Dingwall
Stuart Anderson
Hamish Munro
Callum Bagshaw
Graeme Rodger
Jamie Masson
Scott Barbour
Garry Wood
Steven Martin
Colin Williamson
Ally MacDonald
Grant Munro
Scott Houston
Dale Gillespie
Martin Maclean
Gavin Morrison
Zander Sutherland
Paul Brindle
Andrew Greig

Jamie Michie
Max Berton
Neil McVitie
Neil Gauld
Cammy Keith
Erik Thomson
John Pickles
Alistair Sutherland
Lewis Grant
Richard Brittain
Scott Graham
Steven Mackay

Neil Gauld for Jamie Masson (69)
Cammy Keith for Callum Bagshaw (69)
Steven MacKay for Dale Gillespie

Callum Bagshaw (38)

Red Cards
None. None.
Appearances & Goals To Date
Ewen MacDonald (GK) 2 apps -
Johnny Crawford 34 apps2 goals
Stuart Smith 105 apps10 goals
Calum Dingwall 67 apps4 goals
Stuart Anderson 87 apps20 goals
Hamish Munro 66 apps3 goals
Callum Bagshaw 75 apps10 goals
Graeme Rodger 38 apps12 goals
Jamie Masson 26 apps2 goals
Scott Barbour 36 apps16 goals
Garry Wood 37 apps28 goals
Neil Gauld (sub) 34 apps14 goals
Cammy Keith (sub) 100 apps70 goals

Starting Lineup
Youngest Player:Ewen MacDonald (20 years 28 days)
Oldest Player:Jamie Masson (32 years 364 days)
Average Player Age:26 years 134 days
Domestic Players:10 (90.91 % of starting eleven)

Matchday Squad
Youngest Player:Ewen MacDonald (20 years 28 days)
Oldest Player:Jamie Masson (32 years 364 days)
Average Player Age:26 years 92 days
Domestic Players:16 (94.12 % of matchday squad)

First Team Debuts

Cammy Keith played his 100th major competitive game for the Club.

The games that are best for the “neutrals” are often a source of serious frustration for both sets of supporters and this was definitely one of them. The stakes were high but possibly a shade higher for Brora who although not having lost any further ground to United, are now in a position where they cannot retain the League title solely by their own efforts whereas for all the hullabuloo of a 6 goal draw Formartine find themselves in pretty much the position they were in before a ball was kicked. Clear and simple: if they win all their remaining games, they will be champions - exactly the same at quarter to five as it was at three o’-clock.

United dominated the first half and although not encamped for long periods in the final third of opposition territory, moved the ball about crisply, accurately and tellingly enough to establish a worthy two goal lead. Had it been against a side of lesser calibre than the reigning champions, the temptation would be to conclude that they were on easy street but the second half saw a wounded Brora returning to mount a snarling riposte to United’s earlier dominance and get back on level terms by the hour mark and looking at that point as if they had the momentum to go on to claim all three points. Formartine dug deep and produced a third but were unable to sustain their lead for long before Brora again equalised to set up a rip-snorting final fifteen minutes of end to end action that just failed to break the stale mate. Highland football at its absolute best.

United started with Ewan MacDonald in goal, a very late replacement for Andy Reid who called off 30 mins before kick off with a rib injury sustained at Turriff and aggravated at Wick in midweek. Lawson also injured at Turra, likewise failed to recover in time to start. The game began briskly with end to end exchanges down the flanks setting interesting side shows between Barbour and Williamson at one end and Greig and Munro at the other. Formartine were getting more than their usual share of second balls and 50/50 challenges and showed little signs of weariness after their prolonged foray up to Wick on Wednesday and the early hours of Thursday morning. They were particularly adept at breaking at pace from midfield, out to the flanks and back into the opposition box. In the 20th minute they set up a mini siege at the left corner of Brora box. Anderson rattled a stinging shot and Martin parried it as far as Wood who let fly with an equally stinging drive that was again parried. This time BARBOUR got to the ball and clipped it low and acutely angled past the line of the advancing Martin and into the net a foot inside the back post.

Brora roared straight back and after a Greig/Brindle move on the right that was interrupted by Smith, Brindle got back on the ball, centre left, and crashed a 25 yard drive off the junction of the bar and right upright. However the balance of play still lay with United and thanks to some well organised midfield play by Anderson, Rodger and Bagshaw, they were calling the shots and it was consistent with the run of play that they extended their lead ten minutes later. Wood bustled his way from the centre circle and quickly made ground through the middle. He got the better of Houston before flipping the ball forward right for RODGER who was scorching through the inside right channel at a blistering pace. Taking the ball in his stride, he progressed to the edge of the box before crashing a shot of searing pace and perfect accuracy beyond the reach of Martin.

Brora battled on but for the rest of the first period looked a bit short on ideas and although they were matching Formartine at times and in places, they did not look like doing anything significant in the way of deficit reduction.

The second half was a different kettle of fish and Brora emerged with a greater transformation than the personnel change of Pickles replacing Gillespie would be expected to create. Whatever the reason, they were utterly transformed: they were chasing, harrying closing down and getting far more of the ball than they had and it took only five minutes of this for them to claw back a goal. Worrying from a Formartine perspective, was the fact that it came from a set piece: a Sutherland corner on the right was placed with such accuracy on the advancing head of the portly MUNRO to head the ball home from close range.

It was just what Brora needed and they were ready, waiting and able to counter a Formartine fight back by sustaining their own attacking momentum. A low flashing drive by Morrison rebounded off MacDonald’s left upright as Formartine lived dangerously. At this stage Brora were clearly back in contention and Formartine’s single goal advantage seemed barely fit for purpose in these circumstances and so it proved to be. BRINDLE was denied by a valid but tight off side call a minute before repeating almost the same move through the inside right route in the 61st minute to drill a low measured finish from about 12 yards into the lower left of the net.

Brora having got back on terms had the momentum and it took some real gritty digging in for United to counter this. Initially Brora had United forced right back into their own goalmouth and the shots rained in. With 8 and 9 bodies behind the ball Formartine held on grimly and weathered the storm. Five minutes of this failed to get Brora noses in front and Formartine clawed their way from defence into applying some pressure of their own. In the 75th minute they were beginning to get control of an area just short of the Brora box and again, orchestrated by Anderson mostly, began to play some decent pass and move stuff before the ball was threaded down the channel to Rodger who broke down the right and played a perfectly measured cross to Wood who was being marked by Munro. Without suggesting the defender has any problem in the bedroom department, the fact remains that he simply couldn’t get WOOD, who rose to head the ball strongly into the net from about 3 yards out.

There was a scent of victory for united and the stench of defeat for Rangers who set about a last ditch attempt to retain their fast-fading title hopes. With 6 minutes remaining they pulled the fat out of the fire when a twenty five yard drive by Morrison was heading for a densely populated part of the box but was turned awkwardly away from defenders and keeper who were all aligned to cover the original shot, by MacLEAN. The ball found the opposite corner of the net to complete the final scoreline. The last few minutes of frantic end to end stuff – more like a cup tie than a league game failed to break the deadlock.

After the match Assistant manager Mike Cormack was generous to Brora describing the game as a “perfect advert for the Highland League” and commenting that you “could see that Brora aren’t champions for nothing” by the “way they came out in the second half to put us under that pressure” He was generally pleased with the result as it meant that winning the league “is still down to ourselves” and paid credit to the fact that “there are a lot of tired bodies there tonight after that midweek trip up to Wick”

Match report by Colin Keenan

Photography by Ian Rennie