Huntly 0 Formartine United 1

November 4, 2023

Scottish Highland Football League.  Saturday 4th November 2023, Christie Park.

Huntly 0 Formartine United 1

Scorer: Julian Wade (37).

Match Report by Colin Keenan

The importance of this game to both participants was major: Formartine entered it as league leaders but were Huntly to prevail by any margin at all they would leapfrog United to top position on goal difference. Huntly were undefeated at Christie Park this season while Formartine were looking for a 7th successive away win. There could be little doubt that this would constitute the Highland League’s match of the day.

It lived up to the billing as these two titans went at it hammer and tongs before the greater defensive qualities of United allowed them to successfully defend the single goal lead established shortly before the interval with levels of competence and confidence that grew steadily throughout the second period of play.

Huntly started on the front foot and quickly took the game to the visitors rear guard, initially it was the pace and trickery of Fraser and Dangana that looked like it could upset the United rear guard and with their back line pressing up to half way and beyond. Huntly had some success in compressing play as much as possible into Formartine territory. This was probably at its peak between the first 10 to 12 minutes and came close to yielding an opener for the home side when Dangana fired a rebound hard and low through a ruck of players, to rebound from the base of Macdonald’s right upright in the 5th minute.

That said Macdonald was positioned to reach the ball had it been on target. Dangana went down quite spectacularly but rather easily to a seemingly legitimate Norris tackle in the 11th minute and half hearted penalty claims were waved away by ref Macfarlane .

Even during this period when Huntly had the lion’s share United still had incursions into Huntly territory and a shot by Rodger had Hobday down quickly to take it in the 12th minute. The balance of play evened itself out over the next ten minutes or thereby and once or twice the visitors got the ball up to their talismanic goal getter Wade who was closely marked by Clark and Still the latter of whom adopted a very hands on approach to restricting the Dominican. United were by now giving as good as they got.

Huntly pressure lessened and attacks became less frequent and intense as the United defence that worked superbly as a unit became increasingly influential. Centre half MacLean is a big, naturally left sided player with the capacity to deliver throw ins of prodigious length and power and began to make incursions down the left side into Huntly territory. Linking well with Emslie he provided a base from which forwards could pressurise the left side of Huntly’s final third.

In the 36th an exchange of passes with these two created a half chance for striker Campbell whose effort was hacked away for temporary relief. However a further exchange between Maclean and Emslie kept pressure on until the persistent Emslie forced a corner out of Booth. Lobban lobbed this into a maelstrom of players at the near post and Campbell got his head to it, heading the ball down and right from where WADE pounced lashing the ball home from about 5 yards out.

There was sill 8 minutes until the interval and a burst of attack at each end saw Emslie draw a decent diving save from Hobday at one end and Foster taking an initially threatening but ultimately unrewarded corner from the right corner at the other end.

The second half was not a case of Formartine setting out to park the bus to defend their slender lead but more a situation where the two sides neutralised each other as attacking forces while a well drilled Formartine defence showed more and more as time went on that they were able to protect their goalmouth from unwanted attention and in the process creating a situation where their keeper did not really have to make a save of any significance except perhaps having to get down smartish in the 58th to grab a shot from Dangana, That is not to say that Huntly were deficient as an attacking force but rather that Formartine were increasingly adept at preventing opposition players from getting the ball in positions from where they could deliver it to their strike force. Formartine’s man on man marking created the situation where the trio of Foster, Hunter and Dangana who had shown menace in the early stages became significantly less influential later.

Formartine continued to press for another goal and twice went closeish in the dying minutes first when Wade rather close to near post headed into the side netting and again when he took a cross from his left by Lisle and glanced the header just wide of the keeper’s right upright.

Huntly Team: 1. Fraser Hobday, 3. Lyall Booth, 5. Michael Clark ©, 6. Ross Still, 7. Robbie Foster, 8. Ryan Sewell, 9. Andrew Hunter, 14. Joe Gauld (16. Brodie Allen 77 min), 19. Michael Dangana, 21. Ruari Fraser, 22. Lewis Crosbie. Unused Subs: 10. Angus Grant, 11. Callum Murray, 15. Alex Thoirs, 17. George Craig, 18. Austin Sparkes, 20. Isaac Evans, 23. Kyle Morrison (GK), 24. Colin Charlesworth.

Formartine United Team: 1. Ewen MacDonald, 2. Lewis Wilson, 3. Stuart Smith, 4. Dylan Lobban (15. Johnny Crawford 87 min), 5. Matthew McLean, 6. Marc Lawrence, 7. Julian Wade, 8. Graeme Rodger ©, 9. Paul Campbell (16. Scott Lisle 75 min), 10. Aaron Norris, 11. Adam Emslie (12. Ryan Spink 89 min). Unused Subs: 14. Jake Stewart, 17. Stuart Anderson, 18. Brody Alberts, 21. Archie Mackay (GK).