(Photo credit - Garry Menzies and Grant Campell)
In recent seasons United fans have generally found more joy in their side’s performances in cup competitions than in the league. This season’s William Hill Scottish Cup has not been without its difficulties for United but they have now survived two games and have the prospect of drawing a lucrative tie and the chance of a bit of giant killing. In this case at home against Annan Athletic a team they saw off in season 2016-17.
Their journey to this point was not the most comfortable one but having seen off local rivals Turriff United on neutral territory at Keith following repeated cancellations at a water-logged North Lodge Park they, spent Boxing Day on the long trail past Edinburgh and down the A1 to face Haddington Athletic.
Although Formartine inhabit a tier above their hosts they were well aware that their hosts, managed ironically by one of the most skilled tanner ball players ever to have played for United, ex Hearts and Leicester City midfielder Joe Hamill, had managed a run of 12 successive games undefeated. With that record and the level of inside knowledge that wily Joe could offer his club, the challenge facing United was significant.
Formartine deserved their victory and although they were made to work hard for it by a well organised and well determined outfit they did all that was asked of them and after a slow burn to get into their stride battled on to overturn a very late equaliser with a superbly executed winner right at the death.
The first half was a rather stuttering affair where both sides offered more effort than composure and goalmouth action was at something of a premium. There were few if any chances that could be called clear cut but arguably the best of these fell for the home side: a flashing header by Finnan from a Lough ball in from the right that flashed just wide of Main’s right upright and a one on one with Auriemma in on Main that the keeper blocked convincingly. At the other end Lawrence fed a ball in from the left to Wood about ten yards out but Harris got a boot to the ball to forestall the shot.
The second half opened well for United. Left back SMITH made a charge down the flank and having got the better of Congleton hoisted a remarkable lofted lob towards the near post. Keeper Cornet looked to have it covered but seemed to panic under pressure from big Gary Wood and in trying to pull the ball down from the junction of bar and post carried it over his goal line. This was in the second minute of the second session and it settled United somewhat although the high energy response of Athletic never allowed them to impose their will on proceedings. Goalmouth action was still limited but in the 84th minute sheer persistence by the home side gave them a lifeline. They had made a few incursions to the United box and the impetus looked to be with them but nothing they did looked like seriously threatening either keeper Main or a well organised rearguard until sub O’Neill got the ball left of goal and with his back to it. Turning in the densely populated box he somehow managed to drill it diagonally through a thicket of limbs low into the far corner of the net.
United were having none of that though and with sub LISLE buzzing like a knackered fridge, he latched on to a superb lofted pass from fellow sub “Aero” Norris. Cutting in from wide right beyond the corner of the box he hit a scorching waist high drive past keeper Cornett off the inside of the far post and into the net.
Haddington Athletic: Cornett, Congleton, Russel, King, Harris, Finnan, Hill, Auriemma, Hutchison, Simpson, Lough. Subs: McNeil, Neilson, Thomson King, Subasic, O’Neill, Stirling
Formartine United: Main, Crawford, Smith, S. Anderson, McKeown, Kelly, Rodger, Lawrence, Wood, Smith, Park, Subs: C.Anderson, Clark, Norris, Greig, Lisle, Gethins, MacDonald