So often can a red card turn the game against a side in a tightly-contested match but Graham Johnston’s dismissal for Fraserburgh seemed to have exactly the opposite effect as the Broch fought back from a goal down after the striker’s sending off to dump Formartine United.
The first chance of the game arrived 11 minutes in when Barrie Stephen did well to beat the offside trap but the ball seemed to bounce off his right foot and it looked like the chance was gone. However, the winger did well to win the ball back at the edge of the box and setup Andrew Bagshaw but defender Neil Main had read the danger as he was able to come in and foil the striker from 12 yards.
After 17 minutes, there were shouts from the home supporters for a penalty kick after Ross Gardiner had shoulder charged Graham Johnston but it would have been harsh on the visitors had referee Morag Pirie pointed to the spot. A minute later, Johnston headed past the left post off a Main corner.
The Broch continued to probe and a slow clearance by Gardiner on 27 minutes allowed debutant Sean Bremner to get away down the right side but his cross into the box lacked the required conviction and Mark Simpson was able to mop up the danger.
Fraserburgh midfielder Courtney Cooper then saw a low effort from long range trickle past a post after a corner kick had been cleared the youngster on 32 minutes before a big skirmish on the edge of the United box 10 minutes later saw Jonathan Garden booked for an over-zealous challenge on debutant goalkeeper Derek Soutar. Broch’s Johnston and Formartine defender David Hannah - another player making his first appearance for the club - were also booked for their part in the afters.
The incident appeared to lead to Fraserburgh taking their eye off the ball as less than a minute later, Paul Urquhart’s long ball into the right channel appeared harmless enough until it was trapped by Stuart McKay and he walloped it past Paul Leask to open the scoring with the first shot on target of the game.
Having bagged the opener just before half time, McKay almost started the second half in a similar fashion as he ghosted in from the left hand side but shot across goal and just wide of Leask’s right hand post.
Fraserburgh’s first real chance saw Allan Hale laying the ball back to Neil Main after the striker had collected a loose pass from the otherwise flawless Barrie Stephen. The full back’s cross found the head of Garden but he could only divert the ball over the crossbar.
There was controversy on 70 minutes when Johnston went down in the box and Soutar held his hands up to say he hadn’t touched the striker. Referee Pirie showed the forward his second yellow card of the afternoon and the hosts were down to 10 men.
However, despite their one-man disadvantage, the Broch surged forward three minutes later and were awarded a penalty kick. No one inside the ground seemed to see what had happened apart from the eagle-eyed farside assistant Brian Dean, who alerted referee Pirie to inform of that Willie West had been impeded off the ball. That allowed Allan Hale to step up and hammer past Soutar from 12 yards to level the game.
Formartine could have gone 2-1 up as Stephen picked out Mark Smith on 80 minutes but the midfielder was just a whisker away from keeping up his record of scoring in every game since joining United as his shot deflected onto the underside of the crossbar before being cleared.
Urquhart then produced an incisive pass to Stephen on 82 minutes and the winger advanced in on goal but his shot trickled past the post. The Broch then introduced Zak Conway to the action and what an inspired substitution it proved to be.
The young forward had been on the park no longer than a minute when he produced a pinpoint cross for Jonathan Garden to head into the corner of the net to leave Soutar with no chance. Despite the visitors pushing a late leveller, Fraserburgh held on for a much-needed win.