Falkirk 3 Formartine United 0 (Scottish Cup)

November 25, 2023

Scottish Gas Scottish Cup 3rd Round

Saturday 25th November 2023

Falkirk 3 Formartine United 0

Match Report by Colin Keenan

The suggestion of anything other than a home win in this third round tie in the Scottish Cup would elevate expectation into the realms of wishful thinking: full timers Falkirk, who made it to the semi final stage at Hamden last season are the current League 1 form side, unbeaten for their last 17 games and sitting proudly on a three point cushion at the top of their division. Formartine remain in contention for top spot in the part time Highland league 5 points shy of the leaders. In football terms the difference in status between the protagonists is vast.

United were there with serious intent and did well enough to make life difficult for their hosts for most of the match, earning a standing ovation from their supporters at the end. All the goals were scored in a five minute window shortly before the interval. It was never the case that Formartine had set out to “park the bus” and confine themselves to an entirely defensive mode: instead they elected to chase and harry throughout and battle for their share of possession and territory. For part timers to do that makes big demands on fitness and stamina and it was significant that although the home side, who had put four past the previously undefeated Dundee United the week before, were clearly dominant they had few clear cut chances prior to that productive burst.

Formartine started on the offensive when seconds after kick off Lawrence sprinted through the inside right route to catch McCann in possession, pinched the ball and flipped it left for the advancing Wade who was onto it in a flash only to be ruled marginally off side. Thereafter came a concerted push by Falkirk clearly out to start with a bang in the hope that a quick opener would presage a collapse in the confidence of the visitors. It wasn’t to be; although before two more minutes had elapsed, Morrison chipped a cross from near the right corner flag that MacIver headed narrowly past the keeper’s left upright. MacIver was the first irritant United had to manage and in the 6th minute he had a pop from near the penalty spot that Thomas hoofed clear from the goal line. This came at the end of an attack that went through two or three phases prior to that clearance.

Over the next 30 minutes or thereby the game had taken on a pattern of Falkirk pressing high and managing to squeeze United into their own backyard with a home backline operating mostly from the halfway mark. For all that territorial edge Formartine kept a reasonably calm, organised and well shaped defensive posture that restricted the home side’s attempt’s on goal to fairly infrequent longer range efforts. Although Falkirk had better possession United were well in the game.

Thus it remained until a Falkirk change of gear just after the half hour mark and with it an opening goal of real quality. Falkirk had ramped up their pressure from waves of attack until they were sustained as a barrage that yielded them 3 corners in as many minutes. A corner kick into the box had just been headed out to a point on the fringe just left of centre where lurked ROSS who, left footed ,took the ball on the volley dropping his right shoulder to crash a stunning shot to the top right corner of the net.

There were ten minutes of the half remaining and over the next 5 of them Falkirk effectively won the game. In the 37th minute Morrison hit a loopy cross left to right into 6yard area which MILLER rose to head firmly down into the net inside the right post. Formartine were still reeling from this when in the 39th minute the crucial third goal was delivered by MACIVER who seemed to know exactly where to go to collect a Miller cross from the left and drill it neatly into the net from about 5 yards out.

Falkirk pressed again before the break but Formartine held out without further damage to the scoreline.

The second half saw Falkirk using the comfort of their 3 goal cushion to introduce their subs early without materially altering the high level of possession they enjoyed. The bulk of play was in United territory but Formartine continued to press forward into the opposition half when they could but despite winning the odd corner seldom got enough bodies into threatening positions to develop a sustained threat.

The difference between full and part time players was visible: it seemed mostly to be in ball retention where the full timers who practice with each other almost daily seemed to know where to find each other more easily than those in a team that have at best two sessions a week to develop that understanding. Formartine facing the superior possession of the full timers had to chase and harry more, but credit to their fitness levels, never seemed to wilt or fade.

Players and management did everything or more than their supporters could expect of them in the circumstances and were a credit to the club and the Highland League in the process.

Falkirk Team: Lang, McCann (Bisland 62), Henderson, Donaldson, Morrison (Allan 62), Nesbitt, Yeats, MacIver (Agyeman 61), Hogarth, Ross (Mackie 61), Miller. Unused Subs: Long, Lawal, MacNab, McCrone.

Formartine United Team: Macdonald, Thomas (Wilson 50), Smith (Lisle 70), Spink, McLean. Lawrence (Campbell 70), Wade (Stewart 78], Rodger, Emslie (Combe 78), Lobban, Norris. Unused Subs: Crawford, Alberts, Ritchie.