This was a classic “must win” encounter for both sides: for the Broch, after capitulating twice in succession, there was an urgent need to halt a rare sequence of defeats They are a proud club unused to experiencing three reverses in a row . Formartine, on the back of a dozen undefeated League outings, simply needed all the points on offer to keep alive a league challenge that after being seriously wounded by indifferent results back in September, left them still struggling in the wake of reigning champions Cove and to a lesser extent, Brora Rangers. After this defeat they are much more likely to seek the consolation of the two cups for which they remain in contention than to rely on an uncharacteristic points spillage by either or both of these two contenders.
After a couple of Saturdays of weather enforced inaction there was a danger of United being a bit rusty as they started this one, but they began, firmly on the front foot taking the game, slightly assisted by a nasty gusting gale of wind as well as the Bellslea brae, straight to the home side. Captain Stuart Anderson was a last minute casualty after experiencing a recurrence of a thigh injury during the warm up, but with that exception, this was pretty well the normal first pick starting eleven.
In the opening minute a thirty yard free by MacPhee had Flinn well stretched to save low to his left and a minute or two later United again showed their teeth with a foray down the right when the pacy Norris had Buchan and Cowie struggling to stop his sneaky low cross finding Wood who had made a run to the back post area. Minutes later MacPhee waltzed into the box before firing off a crisp low drive that forced a diving save from Flinn. Another free kick by MacPhee from wide right dipped and curled enough to force an even better save from Flinn. No sign of rust there then. The opening 10 – 15 minutes were definitely dominated by United who had more and better possession and generally sustained territorial advantage. MacPhee was pulling a lot of strings in and around the Fraserburgh box while Norris had enough pace to rattle any or all of the home defenders. The rewards came largely in form of free kicks which although well enough executed, were all capably contained by the home defence.
The wind was playing a part in proceeding and although blowing diagonally down the pitch it was more at Formartine's backs and in Broch faces than anything else. It meant that some passes by United were over-struck and some from the home side fell short of their intended targets. After ten or fifteen minutes the game evened out with Broch's midfield presence particularly in the form of Beagrie and Rae beginning to open up paths forward for Barbour and Campbell. In the fifteenth minute, United came close when a low driven ball from Norris flew right to left over the goalmouth and after seeming to elude the keeper was scrambled clear from a couple of yards beyond the back stick.
However the balance of play was beginning to move from the visitors to the hosts and Barbour's tactic of running with the ball directly at defenders began to expose some declining agility in McKeown who was once or twice forced into hasty and ill directed pass backs. One of them in the 27th minute was picked up by Campbell, who under pressure from Smith, shot wide left. It was becoming more of a midfield battle by this stage and there was little to choose between the sides at this stage. Formartine had enjoyed the better of the opening stages but with half an hour played the Broch had as much of the ball as their visitors and were doing at least as much with it too.
The game needed a goal and ten minutes before the interval, it got two of them in the space of little more than a minute. The first fell for the Broch who did what they had threatened a couple of times before then when former Formartine forward Scott Barbour on the end of a ball from the back by Rae made directly towards goal. Challenged by McKeown,he resisted the big veteran's attempts to thwart him just enough to force the defender to leak the ball – possibly intended for Crawford or the keeper ínto unprotected space about 8 yards out of goal. Keeper Main was alert to the danger but was left with little option but to foul the forward to protect his goal. The inevitable penalty was cooly slotted home by CAMPBELL.
It seemed that the game had swung Fraserburgh's way but with an attack mounted almost straight from the kick off, United showed their character by levelling the game within a minute. A brief onslaught on the home goal yielded a corner on the left. Taken by Norris, the ball was delivered with absolute precision to the head of Archie MACPHEE right at the near post. No jump nor any footwork was needed: he simply stood where he was and headed the ball past the reach of Flinn to level the game.
The remaining nine minutes of the half saw a United resurgence and right until the interval they again had the home side on the back foot. Successive waves of attack were delivered but the defence held out. United looked like they might get their noses in front but decent efforts from Rodger, Greig and Wood all went close but that was as good as it got for United.
The second half was a different affair entirely: it started with the Broch calling the shots and United struggling to keep them out of the final third but continued in that vein almost without exception until the final whistle. Formartine looked like a beaten side long before Fraserburgh scored their second and winning goal. The impression was that the homeside were definitely the hungrier of the two. They won more than their share of second balls and dominated territory and possession right up to the point when in the 57th minute. Barbour delivered the killer blow with a superbly worked and stunningly finished solo goal. During a phase of quite intense pressure he picked up the ball a bit short of the box and to the right of it. At pace he made his way almost parallel to the goal avoiding any attempt to thwart his progress. Twenty yards out but by now level with the left post he swivelled quickly and hammered a ferocious left foot drive that swerved and dipped its way past Main to put his side into the lead that they never looked like renouncing over the rest of the game.
The expected United fight back never really materialised: they huffed and puffed but never really got into top gear. United did do enough to prevent Broch getting further ahead but they never really managed to put them under sustained pressure. Fraserburgh ran down the clock over the last ten minutes or so but United didn't really do much to stop them.
A selection of match action photos can be viewed by clicking here
Fraserburgh: Flinn, Davidson, G.Buchan (Butcher 80), Cowie, Simpson, Rae, Beagrie, Young, Campbell, Combe (Sargent 71), Barbour. Subs: Sargent, Stewart, Butcher, C.Buchan, Johnston
Formartine United: Main, Crawford, Smith (Stott 77), Lawrence (Burnett 66), McKeown, J,Anderson, MacPhee, Rodger, Wood, Norris (Mackintosh 81), Greig. Subs: MacPherson, Lawson, Burnett, Mackintosh, Stott, Gethins.