This was the first part of a double header between these two and this league encounter which stopped United's recent run of substantial clean sheet victories dead in its tracks, revealed a frailty – the inability to fight fire with fire - that has shown intermittently throughout the season. Their recent successes have been founded on a high-pace, high-intensity pressing game that has seen them dominate teams. When faced with a team prepared to do exactly that back to them, they struggled for early traction and eventually crumbled under the pressure generated by a hard working, no frills, take no prisoners side that managed by and large to bully them into submission.
What, if any, shadow this game will cast over next Saturday's semi final of the Highland League Cup at North Lodge is anyone's guess but if they hope to prevail, United will need to win a much higher proportion of “second balls” than they did in this game.
The opening exchanges were brisk but evenly enough matched: United straight away pushed through the inside left channel but Rodger was stopped in his tracks by a vigorous, rearward tackle of arguable legality by Gregg Main. Rothes hit back quickly down the left and Cormack swung a cross into the goalmouth just ahead of Anderson. As the ball swirled in the gusty wind, Main's punch at it connected with both Anderson and the ball before Kelly cleared it from a yard shy of the goal line. Anderson resumed after treatment.
Gradually Rothes gained superior possession and play distributed about 55/45 in the visitor's and home halves. The wind was largely behind Rothes but gusty and fickle enough to deceive players of each side. Rothes probably made a better fist of these conditions than United simply by playing more short and low balls.
In the 16th minute United pressure after a corner on the right which only narrowly eluded Crawford put Rothes under some pressure when a Greig cross was headed very narrowly over the top by Gethins. In the 27th minute Gregg Main got one on one with Kevin Main but screwed his shot wide of the right upright. In the 34th minute Rodger managed to get past Main to deliver a superb cross to Gethins who rose well for it and his powerful header smacked off the bar before being hoofed away by Milne.
There wasn't too much in it at this stage but Rothes were shading possession and territorial stats. A long wind-assisted ball from the back was held up between the right corner of the box and the corner and while Rothes occupied 4 United players with 3 of their own, Anderson managed to get the ball across to the box to meet the darting run of BROWN who nipped in to clip the ball past Main from about 6 yards out.
Formartine made a determined start to the second half and with some wind advantage looking like they could reverse their fortunes. They pressed down each flank but Rothes were tigerish in the tackle and gave them very little space in which to operate. The pattern of play soon reverted to what it had been prior to the interval and Rothes looked the sharper as they again won more than their share of second balls. United were struggling with wind “advantage” - over hitting balls up to their forwards and were increasingly on the back foot. Wood replaced Greig in the 64th minute but before the big forward could do anything of note Rothes had a corner on the right that Main swung over to the back post area. The United defence were slow to react and Anderson had the sort of time and space that Dr Who gets to put the ball beyond keeper Main to effectively seal the points.
The game got towsier thereafter and the odd scuffle broke out in various parts of the pitch the sole common denominator in which was the presence of Greig Main. He was booked for his role in one and eventually substituted presumably to pre-empt a red card. The game calmed down thereafter with United trying vainly to pull the fat from the fire.
Rothes: Dixon-Hodge, McRitchie, Stark, Milne, McHardy, Main, Mackenzie, Bruce, Anderson, Sutherland, Cormack. Subs: Wilson, MacLeod, Pollock, Robertson, Johnstone, Kerr, Christie.
Formartine United: Main, Crawford, Lawrence, Norris, McKeown, Kelly, Rodger, Lisle, Gethins, Park, Greig. Subs: Smith, Wood, Leydon, S.Anderson, C.Anderson, Strachan, Sim.