While the scoreline provides a reasonably valid reflection of the difference between the two teams on the night, it fails to show just how hard United were made to work for their victory against a spirited young side out to mark their return to their “real” home at Grant Street Park after a period of forced exile following the Christmas Eve fire that destroyed their dressing rooms. What Clach lacked in shape and orchestrated moves they compensated for with pace, enthusiasm and a “never say die” approach to the game that frustrated the visitors, kept them at bay for most the first half and continued to stay in the game only a goal down until the last fifteen minutes.
Formartine had the better of possession and territory more or less throughout but, possibly a tad ring rusty after the postponement of last week's game against Brora, they found the enthusiastic, albeit sometimes rather unpatterned approach of their hosts quite difficult to overcome. United started well and began the process of pushing Clach on to the back foot and into defensive mode. Within 5 minutes Park, Greig, and Lisle had all managed runs down the flanks and to deliver crosses none of which their colleagues was able to exploit.
Greig was a thorn in their flesh and had the pace and trickery to draw a series of fouls from defenders while the wily Gethins took up some quite deep positions yet still had the knack of popping up in the box. Combining with Lisle he carved out an opening for Rodger in the 19th minute that finished with the high scoring midfielder's thumping drive being deflected just inches wide of the right post. A couple of minutes later, a viciously in-swinging Greig corner had MacLennan at full stretch to tip the ball over for a corner. Pressure was sustained and three minutes later a diving header by Gethins hit the side netting. By the half hour, save the odd unproductive breakaway by Clach, United, were firmly encamped in Lillywhite territory and a United goal seemed inevitable. When it did come, in the 38th minute, it was worth the wait. Crawford had pushed on down the right wing before slipping the ball forward for Norris who streaked past Finnis before whipping over a fizzing cross that GETHINS reached with a spectacular diving header that bulleted the ball left to right into the net via the inside of the far post. United piled on the pressure and shots from Greig, Lisle, Rodger and McKeown all went close, were deflected or saved by the impressive MacLennan.
The second half began with the expectation that Formartine would quickly press home the advantage, but Clach had the energy and spirit to dispel that notion. They chased, harried and won a good enough share of second balls to suggest that United's lead could be precarious. They never got as far as sustaining any real pressure on United but still did enough to prevent the visitors doing that to them and for the first twenty minutes of the half, the game became more of a box to box battle. An angled snapshot by Logan, saved by Main reminded United of their vulnerability. However the introduction of striker Garry WOOD returning from injury did the trick. Against a tiring defence and on a heavy pitch, his height and brawn was more than they could handle. He came on in the 69th minute and 4 minutes later, back to goal, swivelled on a Greig feed from the left and muscled his forward to hammer the ball home from about 15 yards out. In the 78th minute he doubled his haul with a charge into the box from the right, scattering defenders on the way before leathering the ball beyond the outstretched right hand of MacLennan to put the game well beyond Clach's reach.
MacLennan, Mackintosh, Finnis, Webb, MacAskill (Davison 84), Lawrie (Cameron 70), Graham, Beeston, Logan, Gilles, Miller. Subs: Cameron, Lewis, Bunce, Davison, Munro, Williamson.
Main, Crawford, Lawrence, Norris, McKeown, Kelly, Rodger (Strachan 80), Lisle, Gethins (Wood 69), Park, Greig. Subs: Smith, Wood, Leyden, S.Anderson, C.Anderson, Strachan, Watson.
Photo courtesy of Donald Cameron @noremacpix