Formartine 3-2 Shetland (Friendly 16/07)

Shetland travelled down to Aberdeen this weekend to take on Highland League outfit Formartine in a friendly in preparation for their county fixture with Orkney in a fortnights time. Despite going two goals up, the Shetland side were eventually beaten 3-2 on the day but will take plenty of positives from the hard-fought match at Pitmedden.

The squad turned up to North Lodge Park a little light on personnel with several key squad members including Leighton Flaws, Calvin Leask, Joel Bradley and Paul Molloy unavailable for the match. However there was still plenty of quality in the 14-man squad who were playing together for the first time in nearly a year.

Shetland lined up 4-5-1 with Grant Wood in goals; Finn Watt, Richard Arthur, Shane Jamieson and Piotr Drozdowski across the back line; James Farmer, Sam Ward and James Aitken in the middle of midfield; youngsters John Allan and Sam Maver down the flanks; and Greg Tulloch the lone striker up front.

Formartine started the match on the front-foot and looked extremely comfortable in possession in the early stages. The home side were knocking the ball about confidently and their strikers were finding pockets of space between the Shetland midfield and defence.

However the boys in blue stood firm and worked tirelessly to close down their opponents in every area of the pitch. The first 20 minutes passed with neither team able to create any obvious openings, with Formartine resorting to a couple of efforts from 30 yards.

Just before the 30 minute mark, the home side could easily have found themselves a goal ahead but for a great save from Shetland keeper Grant Wood. An indicate 1-2 on the edge of the box sent Conor Gethins 1-on-1 with Wood, but the Spurs goalie raced off his line to block the shot and keep the score 0-0.

And the away side immediately responded with an opening of their own. A long ball was played forward to Greg Tulloch, who fed in Sam Maver and the wide man’s shot stung the hands of the Formartine keeper. However Sam Ward was at hand to poke the ball into the empty net to put Shetland 1-0 up.

Just five minutes later, Shetland amazingly found themselves 2 up. Another counter attack ended with Maver being upended on the edge of the Formartine box in an ideal shooting position. James Aitken stepped up and his effort came crashing back off the junction of the goal but fell to Greg Tulloch who calmly slotted home with his left foot.

However their two goal lead didn’t last long as Formartine defender Johnny Crawford headed home from a corner just a minute later. But the blues went into the break with a 2-1 lead their efforts certainly deserved.

The home side made a couple of changes at half time bringing on the fresh legs of Neil Gauld and moving ex-Ross County striker Garry Wood back into midfield. And the switch immediately paid dividends when Gauld made the 2-2 in the 48th minute.

The vast majority of the second period was played in the Shetland half with the movement of the home side’s midfield and attack causing real problems. However Shetland centre backs Richard Arthur and Shane Jamieson stood firm and were in no mood to let anything through.

Shetland manager Allan Graham decided to freshen things up, bringing on Charlie Unsworth and Callum Johnson to replace Allan and Drozdowski, who will both be happy with their efforts on the day. Formartine also made a change, bringing on Shetlander Erik Thomson to face his own county side.

The home side continued to dominate giving Aitken, Farmer and Ward little opportunity to build any attacks from midfield as Tulloch became more isolated in attack. But Shetland continued to work tirelessly in defence, desperate to hold onto the draw.

Jack Clubb was brought on in attack in Graham’s final throw of the dice and nearly had a chance to grab a goal for the away side, but Aitken’s cross flashed just past. Thomson also had a chance for Formartine but couldn’t quite squeeze the ball over the line after another fine save from Wood.

On the 80 minute mark, Shetlands resistance was finally broken as Formartine found the winner their dominance deserved. A ball was swept into Gauld in the box, who turned expertly and flashed a sweetly struck shot past Wood and into the bottom corner for his second of the game.

The home side could have extended their lead in injury time but the match was brought to an end with Formartine winning 3-2.

Shetland will however come out of the match extremely satisfied with their efforts and gained some invaluable playing time with the county on the horizon. All 14 players played their part in an excellent team performance against a side that will be pushing for Highland League glory next season.