Formartine United remained on course for second place with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Cove Rangers at windswept North Lodge Park on Saturday.
It was United’s first league win over the Aberdeen side whose last visit to Pitmedden was the winner-takes-all championship decider. Manager-less Cove’s title defence ended some time ago as they slid steadily down the table.
Formartine got a grip on the game from the start and went in front within a minute. It was number 36 for the season for Cammy Keith when he pounced on a rebound after keeper Barney had saved from Park.
The home side were as likely to lose possession as much from passes being over-hit in the wind as from opposition tackles.
Cove drew level in the eighth minute when Lennox picked up a short pass from Bain on the right and made a beeline for goal. Keeper Shearer tried to narrow the angle but the ball was driven accurately past him.
Formartine, though, continued to enjoy most of the possession but Rangers still posed a threat, particularly through the pace and skill of Lennox.
A Clark drive from 30 yards screamed inches past Barney’s right upright and hopeful efforts from midfielders Anderson and McVitie were struck from too far out to pose any serious threat.
It was also noticeable that for all their possession and pressure, Formartine never achieved a single first half corner.
The home side went in front in 35 minutes with a superb free kick from Park. He curled the ball over the wall and past a helpless Barney.
At the other end Lennox again proved something of a thorn in the home defence as he jinked in to thunder a drive that drew a full-length diving save from Shearer. The ball broke to Stott who sent it high and wide from point blank range.
Cove had the wind at their backs in the second half but their opponents showed more ability to retain possession. Neither keeper had much to do, although Shearer did well to save a Scully drive in the 67th minute.
The visitors stepped up their efforts to grab an equaliser in the closing minutes and danger man Lennox was in with a chance but McKeown made the saving tackle.
Formartine United: Shearer, Smith, Munro, McKeown, Clark, Anderson, Park, McVitie, Keith, Ewen, Bagshaw. Substitutes: Dingwall, Mathers, Davidson, Campbell, Calder.
Cove Rangers: Barney, Walker, Lawrie, Clark, Watson, Rdford, Bain, Scully, Lennox, Stott, Stephen. Substitutes: Harkness,
Selfridge, Porteous, Reid.