Formartine United 3, Shetland 2
The Shetland senior football team was narrowly defeated on Saturday in a friendly meeting with Formartine United at North Lodge Park, Pitmedden.
Formartine, who finished runners-up in last season’s Highland League and are being hotly tipped to go a step further this time, were without the injured Craig McKeown who had only just returned for a pre-season friendly against Peterhead following a serious cruciate ligament injury.
Former Aberdeen player Derek Young was included as a trialist central midfielder, the 36-year-old having just completed a two-year stint at Forfar Athletic. Shetlander Erik Thomson was on the home bench.
Meanwhile, injuries, unavailability and Parish Cup commitments ruled out key Shetlanders from the trip. The list included captain Leighton Flaws, goalkeeper Erik Peterson, Robert Smith, David Murray, Joel Bradley, Connor Regan and Calvin Leask.
Formartine had two early chances, Graeme Rodger side-footing over from close range and Scott Barbour’s neat cross from the left met by the head of Johnny Crawford, the ball going over the upright.
The visitors then showed their threat when James Aitken broke down the right. He cut back to Greg Tulloch who had two shots blocked by Andy Reid before Sam Maver’s hard-hit ball from the left found no takers.
At the other end a Formartine striker Garry Wood cut in from the right on to his left foot but Shetland keeper Grant Wood made a fine save. Wood had to show his mettle again to foil Barbour who had been fed in by a slide-rule pass from Stuart Anderson.
Shetland were well settled into the game and shortly after Maver scooped an effort on to the roof of the net, they took the lead in the 29th minute.
John Allan saw a low drive beaten away by Reid but the ball fell to Sam Ward who clipped over the helpless goalie.
Within three minutes it was 2-0. This time Tulloch converted a rebound after an Aitken free kick came off the junction of crossbar and post.
Formartine quickly reduced the deficit to one goal with Crawford’s head glancing home a Barbour corner from the right.
The islanders could have gone in at half-time two up, Reid having to bat away a fiery shot from Ward.
Stuart Smith was on for Neil McVitie for the restart but a more significant change saw Neil Gauld at centre forward with Conor Gethins and Barbour either side of him and Garry Wood dropping to central midfield.
Gauld quickly got on the scoresheet – a scrappy goal, but they all count – his shot from the left deceiving Wood and trickling in at his left-hand post.
In the 57th minute Gethins, still settling into his new surroundings, headed a Smith cross narrowly over.
Although the second half was a lot less intense in terms of excitement the best was saved for last. In the 79th minute a ball through from Paul Lawson was taken first time by Gauld. He took one touch to control it and then blasted it firmly into the corner of the net for the winner.