Formartine maintained their 100% record to top the Highland League table with a hard-earned 4-2 victory against rivals Inverurie Locos at Harlaw Park.
The Pitmedden men always had the edge over their rivals and even missed a first-half penalty when Gary Fraser’s spot kick crashed back off the bar.
United winger Andy Greig produced a man-of-the-match performance, teasing and tormenting the Locos defence throughout the 90 minutes.
The 25-year-old said: “We knew this was a massive game, especially as we will be facing Locos in the IRN-BRU Cup on Tuesday as well. I thought we played really well and I was happy to score the opening goal. Later on Archie Macphee scored with a great header.”
Locos manager Neil Cooper kept faith with the same starting 11 who earned a 2-2 draw at Turriff United on Wednesday.
United made four changes to the side which won 4-1 at Deveronvale with two-goal striker Conor Gethins dropping to the bench. The North Lodge Park side were also without first choice goalkeeper Kevin Main, who was unavailable.
Player-manager Paul Lawson was also absent as he was best man at a friend’s wedding so his assistant Russell Anderson, the former Aberdeen captain, was in charge.
United opened the scoring in the 18th minute when Gary Fraser fed Greig, whose low drive from 22 yards flew past Andy Reid.
Locos were back on level terms two minutes later. Garry Wood brought down Colin Charlesworth inside the box and Neil Gauld sent keeper Ewen Macdonald the wrong way from the spot kick.
It was a really open match, played at a furious pace with the action flowing.
Macphee tested Reid from 20 yards but the former Motherwell and Nottingham Forest goalkeeper was in the right position to make the save.
Formartine regained the lead after 28 minutes when Macphee played in Graeme Rodger who fired high past Reid.
Two minutes later Formartine were awarded a penalty when Mark Souter bundled Rodger over in the box. Fraser stepped up but his effort came back off the crossbar.
United goalkeeper Macdonald made two excellent stops just before the break. He tipped a 22-yard Joe McCabe free kick over the crossbar and, from the resultant corner, dived low to his left to hold on to Chris Angus’ downward header.
Formartine doubled their advantage two minutes after the break when Greig’s pin-point cross found Macphee unmarked eight yards out and his downward header beat Reid.
Locos assistant manager Steven Park was sent off for dissent by referee Liam Duncan in the 62nd minute.
His team gave themselves a lifeline in the 70th minute when Angus showed great footwork before giving Macdonald no chance with a ferocious 12-yard strike.
With 10 minutes remaining, Ryan Broadhurst almost levelled with a superb downward header from a corner kick.
In the 86th minute Stuart Smith sealed Formartine’s victory when he smashed a ball bouncing about in the Locos box high into the roof of the net from six yards.
Locos full-back Greg Mitchell felt there wasn’t that much between the two sides.
He said: “From our point of view I felt we gave some silly goals against a very good Formartine side.
“But I don’t think you could fault the boys for their efforts. We gave it all we could and with a bit of luck I think we could have nicked something from the game as there was very little to choose between them and ourselves.”
Inverurie Locos – A. Reid 6, Rennie 6, Mitchell 7, Duff 6, Souter 7, Broadhurst 7, Charlesworth 6 (Crisp 74), McCabe 6, Gauld 6, Angus 6, Leyden 6. Substitutes not used: Herd, T. Reid, Watt, Cooper, Cook.
Formartine United – Macdonald 7, Crawford 6, Smith 6, S. Anderson 7, McKeown 7, Wood 7, Stott 6, Rodger 7, Fraser 6 (Burnett 76), Macphee 7, Greig 8. Substitutes not used: MacPherson, J. Anderson, Whyte, Roddie, Gethins, Sim.
Referee – L. Duncan 7.
Man of match: Andy Greig.