INVERURIE Locos one-all draw with Formartine United on Saturday means that the North Lodge Park side stay top of the SHFL but their lead is now only one point over a Brora Rangers side with two games in hand.
The Pitmedden side had to play second fiddle to their fellow title contenders for long spells but despite a late equaliser denying them what would have been a deserved win, Inverurie Locos are certainly well in the mix going into the New Year.
Mark Smith was still missing from the home squad but the starting line up was along familiar lines while Marc Young was included for Locos in place of Ryan Broadhurst at right back
Skipper Neil McLean was the visitors’ driving force very early on, and he was unlucky not to open the scoring in 12 minutes. The former Scottish Semi-Pro captain cut through the Formartine ranks like a knife through butter and his left foot shot was saved by Andy Shearer, Neil Gauld firing into the side net.
A minute later a last gasp Kieran Adams challenge on Michael Ewan earned the Red and Whites one of many first half corners which yielded little. Midway through the half, Martin Bavidge robbed goalkeeper Andy Shearer of the ball outside his box, but the ex-Peterhead man was forced wide. His cross was too high for a slipping John Maitland to deal with.
Shearer brought off a top class save four minutes later when central defender Ross Anderson drove forward to send in a 20-yard thunderbolt after more Locos pressing from the right. The League leaders were strangely lacking in ideas and not using their wind advantage but on the half hour, captain Craig McKeown’s long range free kick only cleared the crossbar by a few inches.
A goalless first half then, but twenty seconds after the restart, Locos grabbed the initiative with a superb goal. Wide midfielder John Maitland’s curled effort from the left side came off the junction of the post and crossbar and running in quickest to score the rebound from close range was the deadly Martin BAVIDGE.
Shearer kept his side in the game on the hour saving from Neil Gauld with his shin after Ross Campbell had hesitated too long and lost the ball to Bavidge who sent his strike partner in on goal.
McKeown came charging forward in 71 minutes but went down injured and when play raced to the other end, Gauld played an overhead kick over the top from Dean Donaldson’s cross
With eleven minutes to go, the home side came very close, Andy Reid unable to hold a Gary Clark shot, the loose ball cleared carefully for a corner. Five minutes from time amidst greater pressure, the equaliser arrived. Michael Ewen laid the ball off to sub Calum Bagshaw who found ex Don Neil MCVITIE with his cross. The No 8 duly stuck the ball into the net to finish off a well worked move against an away side retreating too far.
A minute later Gary Clark’s luck ran out after a few dodgy challenges, he was red carded for a two footed challenge on Locos sub Jordan Leyden.
Formartine Utd: Shearer, Munro, Smith, McKeown, Campbell, Clark, Park (Napier 74), McVitie, Keith (Bagshaw 77), Ewen, Hamill Subs: Jeffrey, Davidson, Doak.
Inverurie Locos: Reid. McLean, Forsyth, Begg, Adams, Anderson, Donaldson (Souter 71), Young, Gauld (Ross 85), Bavidge (Leyden 85), Maitland
Subs Mitchell, Mathieson
Referee: A Milne