From United's perspective, the prospect of this game had a large element of “hiding to nothing” about it. They were clearly expected to beat Fort by a comfortable margin despite missing Smith, Anderson and McKeown from defence and Daniel Park from the forward line, while Fort had the potential boost of both a new manager and the presence of John Robertson, manager of Inverness CT to run a proprietorial eye over his youth players who comprised the bulk of the starting eleven. These last two factors could well have been enough to bring about a boost to their performance and United were only one game beyond as poor a run of form as they had endured for long enough. It was not without risk.
This game originally scheduled for Claggan Park was re-arranged for North Lodge because of waterlogging at the Lochaber ground, started ten minutes late after the Fort William team bus was delayed by an accident on the A96. The delay mattered not a whit to the West Highland youngsters who rocked United right back on their heels with a stunning early goal. A break through the inside left channel by Kennedy and Morrison split a dithery looking central defensive pairing of Clark and Kelly leaving the former isolated in no man's land about 12 yards beyond his right corner of the box and KENNEDY with clear sight of goal at the edge of it. Without any second invitation he hammered the ball left footed off the underside of the bar and into the net.
That 4th minute bombshell set the cat among the pigeons dispelling any thoughts that the youngsters would be easy pickings. United had to respond and needed to do so quickly. They immediately began a pattern of running hard and direct at defenders and pushing them onto the back foot. In the 7th minute, Strachan slipped the ball through the inside left channel to Wood. As Nicholson moved to tackle the big striker, he was nutmegged leaving Wood in space on the left side of the box. RODGER blazing his way down the inside right path, collected Wood's cross near the back post and cracked it home low to the keeper's right.
United settled quickly and with superior physique in most parts of the park began to really impose. The visitors nonetheless showed that they could break with pace, skill and shape. Chalmers and Kennedy were impressively quick but just a tad short of the guile needed to get the better of the older heads in the home team. In the 24th minute United deservedly got their noses in front after some sustained pressure. They had worked the ball left to right and back again in front of the box. Both Norris and Greig had managed to get crosses in but these had been more or less dealt with until NORRIS whipped a low one right to left towards Lisle and quickly followed in behind it. Before it was fully cleared, he was alongside Lisle to clip the ball into the net from about 10 yards.
Formartine were in control by now but still needed to be wary of quick breakaways by Fort William. In the 41st minute Morrison cracked in a vicious dipping 25 yard effort from beyond the right corner of the box that Main was relieved to see fly narrowly over the top. Wood on the back of a Lisle feed hammered one that had keeper Kilboikai at full stretch to finger-tip away from the base of his left upright.
United had all but secured their points four minutes after the interval when an attack initiated by Greig on the left set up an assault near the right corner of the box with Wood, Lisle and Norris all threatening. NORRIS was nearest to Greig's cross and from 20 yards skelped it viciously past the keeper into the far top corner.
United’s domination continued and Graham RODGER doubled his tally 7 minutes later capping off a strong run from midfield past a couple of defenders before slotting the ball accurately past the keeper.
He was in man of the match form and scenting a hat trick completed it in style in the 79th minute with a blistering run through the inside right channel, that almost transfixed those who tried to dispossess him. After leaving three or four defenders for dead he capped his display by ripping a 30 yard drive that the keeper had no hope of touching let alone stopping on its way into the top left corner of the net.
A minute later a speedy break through the middle by GUNN caught United over- committed to attack and gave the speedy forward the time and space to get on one with Main to make the scoreline a touch more respectable.
Formartine United: Main, Crawford, Lawrence, Strachan, Clark, Kelly, Rodger, Lisle, Wood (Leyden 60), Norris (Gethins 65), Greig (McGowan 72). Subs: Smith, Lawson, Leyden, Mackintosh, McGowan, Gethins, Watson.
Fort William: Kilboikai, Hastings, Fyffe, Nicholson, Morrison, Brown, Chalmers, Gunn (Munro 85), Kennedy, J. Morrison (Knowles 65), Mendyk (MacDonald 85). Subs: Munro, MacDonald, Wilson, Ludorsz, Knowles, Taylor, Mackay