At around 4.50pm tomorrow we will know whether Formartine Utd or Cove Rangers replace Forres Mechanics as champions and become the 2012/2013 Press and Journal Scottish Highland Football League winners.
The tension has been building up ever since last Saturday when Formartine lost at home to Nairn County while Cove were effectively collecting the three points at Rothes. With a huge crowd expected at North Lodge Park we will hope the high winds experienced in Aberdeenshire yesterday abate and allow us a spectacle to be proud of
Formartine skipper Mark Smith, better known as Rusty, has been trying to approach the game in a sensible fashion but reckons nerves will kick in come kick off time:
“People say both squads are very experienced but the truth is both ourselves and Cove have a number of players who haven’t the experience of winning the Highland League. And while a lot of pundits are saying we have the point advantage and only need to do what we need to do, I don’t believe in that
Both teams will go all out to win the game and although we know a draw is a fine cushion if we don’t win, we must go out to try to win. We don’t know how Cove will approach it, they might go hell for leather to get the early goal or they might be happy to stay level into the second half and then go for it
I don’t think anyone will be expecting a cautious game though, you can see from our goal record and theirs that attacking is both our strengths”
So how has the preparation been going and has it been difficult to shake off the disappointment of Saturday’s home defeat?
“It’s been strange and really different. This has been the first week in ages we’ve not had a midweek game so in some ways it has seemed like a week off although it’s given us the opportunity to get two good training sessions i
Frustration at not getting the job done was my emotion. I felt we played well in the first half but switched off and allowed them to score their second. We never looked like doing the business after that. We really wanted to get the job done rather than play Cove in a final day decider”
Rusty is well aware his old team have an excellent record against his current side but feels that is not an issue to be concerned about:
“It’s a League decider, a great chance to break that hoodoo. We know how difficult a task it is. Cove have quality players, that’s why they’re in this position. I expect Martin Johnston to be playing up front, MJ has proved he is the League’s best target man since Milke McKenzie was at his best for the Vale. There are other players who cause teams damage too, Jordan Leyden and Connor Scully have been taking a lot of plaudits”
Where he plays is of no concern to the flame haired player, but he has been trying to remain level headed about the game all week:
“You have to take the game as it comes, all week I’ve not been trying to get too worked up about it and think too early. Every player handles the occasion in their own way. As for team selection, we know Pele will go for what he sees best. I’ve enjoyed playing in my old midfield role but that has been mainly due to injuries, we have to see where everyone fits in”
Finally to the subject spoken about earlier, namely being a League medal winner. Ironically Rusty’s success was would you believe it, for Deveronvale in May 2006, a 1-1 draw at Cove’s Allan Park enough to clinch the title. Just to show us how much players shift between teams in this League, Jamie Watt opened the scoring for Vale early in the second half and went on to play for the Aberdeen side. Scott Fraser equalised for the then John Sheran team with four minutes left and he is of course now Vale skipper
One thing Rusty forgot to tell us, he was cautioned in the game as was current Cove boss Kevin Tindal who played at centre back. And to complete the tale, current Formartine boss Steve Paterson was manager of the side now about to give up their title, Forres Mechanics
Could that scoreline be an omen? A 1-1 draw would be enough for Formartine Utd to be celebrating on Saturday night