Late goals see Formartine United and Fraserbugh share the spoils
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Formartine United 2 Fraserburgh FC 2
This was one of those slow burn games that started with two closely matched sides which saw the pace and excitement ramp up to an explosive goal fest.
The two teams slogged it out with three of the goals scored in the dying minutes as the visitors threw caution to the wind after going two goals down after 80 minutes.
The Broch are known and respected throughout the Highland League as a club with an avowedly locals first policy.
Community based teams such as this wax and wane over the years and currently with relatively few changes to personnel they are working hard to restore the style and panache that saw them lift the league title in 2022.
Having lost to United at Bellslea earlier this season and trailing a place or two in the table before this game there would be little doubt about their motivation for this encounter: revenge pure and simple.
It was a canny opening spell being spent in probing possible routes to goal with Fraserburgh arguably establishing some slight territorial advantage in the process.
It may have been canny but it was no means languid. Both sides had pace and aggression going for them and no player was allowed the luxury of holding onto the ball.
Second balls were contested vigorously but there was no visible goal threat at either end.
In the 14th minute Buchan and Barbour combined in a push through the right centre that yielded initially a corner and then in the second phase thereafter a Barbour shot at goal from 18 yards that was slightly deflected onto the side netting.
Five minutes later a free kick from near the halfway line, taken left footed by Cowie caused some consternation in the home box that produced a few abortive goal attempts that failed to get past a dogged home defence.
However, United were gaining increased traction in midfield and robust challenging by captain Rodger was matched by astute distribution from Lawrence and both Emslie and Norris often playing as inside forwards began to hint that the home side were the more likely to open the scoring.
There was just that wee hint of danger when either of these ran at defenders. A fizzing 20-yard drive from Emslie was saved by the shins of a diving Joe Barbour.
The balance of play had swung United’s way as the clock ran down and the opener reflected this when Rodger, who had bagged one over the top in the 39th minute, broke the deadlock after Emslie swung an inviting cross from the right corner area to the goalmouth just past the front post from where Rodger threw himself at the ball to head it into the net via the underside of the bar.
A single goal interval lead is always encouraging but from what could be seen of the shape and work rate of the visitors there was a fair sense that United would need a bigger cushion than that to be safe.
The second half began with Fraserburgh having a good share of possession but not doing much that looked like damaging United apart from a hopeful cross from Aitken that rebounded from the bar.
Had it gone where intended it would have been in easier reach of the keeper but served as a reminder of how fragile the lead remained.
That issue continued until the 80th minute when a beautifully crafted goal put United two ahead.
Lawrence slipped the ball forward to Emslie who was off at a pace few could match to hit a low fizzing cross straight to Wade emerging from left corner of the six-yard box. The international had it in the net in a flash.
United should have been home and dry but Broch bit back with a blitzkrieg finish that yielded two goals.
When Rhys Thomas limped off injured the effect on the Broch was like adding blood to shark infested waters.
United responded by moving Norris back from an inside forward role to cover at right back with Wilson coming on to make a back five.
Broch pushed bodies forward and suddenly the United box got densely populated and United were on the back foot.
Shots were being fired in and rebounding off defenders. In the 83rd minute a Sargent effort was blocked but rebounded no further than Butcher who volleyed it home from less than 10 yards.
Broch had it all to play for and sustained siege conditions into stoppage time. A couple of good saves by Macdonald both from Sopel, the second of which was at the cost of a corner, which the sub took himself.
The cross was headed out by Rodger but back in by Wood for West to scramble home from five yards out.