The darkest hour, they say, is the one just before dawn. If the comprehensive thrashing by Cove, on Saturday, was their darkest hour (well, this season so far), this sparkling victory that propels United straight to the final of the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup certainly had many of the bright features of a new dawn. United utterly dominated this match with a scintillating display of pass and move football allied to some utterly clinical finishing which in the course of a first half that set the template for the victory by establishing a three goal lead, managed to provide a conversion rate of three beautifully crafted goals from four shots on target. With Cove to face in the final it should not be too difficult to determine whether or not it will prove to be a false dawn.
The only shot on target not to yield a goal came within a whisker of doing so and was struck by Barbour as early as the first minute. Latching onto a threaded ball from S Anderson, he checked quickly inside cutting in between Davidson and Christie before delivering a low scorcher of a drive that forced Tait into a full stretch dive to tip the ball away for an unrequited corner. That set something of a pattern for United – they were clearly up for it and set out their stall to play with pace and flair. The remarkable thing about it was that they sustained it for the full 90 minutes. Perhaps even more remarkably they did it against the team who are in second place in the League and yapping at the heels of Cove.
Fraserburgh are not where they are without good reason and they impressed as a compact, well organised unit who worked hard for each other. There was, almost inevitably, an end to end character to this game over the opening twenty minutes or so. The territorial side of the game was fairly even during this period but the finishing aspects were utterly dominated by United who scored twice with incisively worked and clinically concluded goals from Graham RODGER. The first, in the tenth minute, started with a move on the right where Dingwall and Burnett progressed down the flank before the former found Barbour with a perfectly timed pass through the inside channel. “Fig” then swept over a consummately accurate curving pass right into the path of RODGER who was powering his way from midfield on a line to the back post. Without breaking stride he completed his foray by driving the ball low and very hard indeed past the right hand of the diving Tait from fifteen yards out.
The Broch tried to battle back but although they moved the ball about well enough when in possession they did little that troubled the home rearguard before Rodger doubled his tally ten minutes later. United had begun to break the end to end pattern and had established a measure of sustained pressure around the 18-20 minute mark, forcing a couple of corners in the process. The second of these, on the right looked initially to have been cleared but Lawson lurking in the hole near the edge of the box quickly knocked the ball back into the mix in a bit of a maelstrom around the left hand post area. S. Anderson had the nous and the tanner ba' skills to get the ball under control and with a half turn made a short pass right, teeing the ball up for RODGER to blast home from no more than ten yards out.
The Broch however were far from beaten yet and tried tooth and nail to battle their way back into the game with Cowie seeing his priority to stop Rodger by fair means (mostly) or foul (increasingly). However apart from a Beagrie cross cum shot from a fair way out on the right, that Sim had to stretch to touch out for an unrewarded corner, they seldom got on the danger side of Dingwall, Smith or J. Anderson. United dictated to the extent that their visitors were denied enough access to the final third to cause any real anxiety
However when United broke from midfield particularly through Rodger and Ferries they provided quality ammunition for MacPhee and Barbour ahead of them. A minute before half time this route proved fruitful when Rodger, Ferries and Anderson worked a neat triangle to get the ball to MacPhee who dragged the ball about just enough to take Cowie out of defensive consideration before moving the ball onto BARBOUR who did the rest. Splitting Hay and Christie just inside the box, he got himself one on one with Tait from pretty near the penalty spot before skelping the ball well beyond the reach of the keeper.
The second half was slightly less Formartine dominated albeit they remained in comfortable enough control thoughout. The Broch pushed hard from the start but still had serious trouble stretching a home back four marshalled cannily by Stuart Anderson. With Dingwall and Smith tigerish on the flanks and young Jevan Anderson winning virtually anything remotely near him in the air they were still largely contained to an area twenty or more yards out from the home goal. United despite spirited opposition still got the better of midfield exchanges and produced more danger in the visiting goal area than vice versa. Tait made a couple of excellent saves from Barbour and MacPhee and Rodger went close to his hat trick with a fizzing twenty yarder that Tait did well to get his body behind.
The fourth and final goal came in the 68th minute and was the product of excellent forward play by the front pair. Barbour skinned Christie near the front left edge of the box but still had Davidson with whom to contend. Jinking past him he slipped the ball right to MacPHEE who was only a couple of yards in from the goal line and a few more left of the near post. From this tight neuk he squeezed the ball adroitly beyond the advancing keeper and into the net from the inside of the far post for a finish of real quality.
United had the game well won by now and still maintaining their tempo concentrated on ball retention, gave their subs a run out, continued to boss proceedings but took a rather more risk averse approach to proceedings and ran out remarkably comfortable winners of a game that they began as second favourites.
Formartine United: Sim, Dingwall, Smith, J. Anderson, Burnett (Berton 75), Lawson, Rodger (Lawrence 81), S. Anderson (Michie 81), Ferries, MacPhee, Barbour. Subs: Michie, Robertson, Lawrence, Berton, Crawford, Henry, MacDonald.
Fraserburgh: Tait, Davidson, Hay (C.Buchan 75), R.Cowie (D.Buchan 68), Christie, D. Cowie, Beagrie, West (Taylor 75), Campbell, Young, Rae. Subs: Sargent, C.Buchan, Johnston, Taylor, G.Buchan, Flinn