After the first half of 2010 gave United so many highs the final six months have been very hard as they adapt to life in the Superleague.
United ended 2010 bottom of the division and without a win in the league. Although relative success has come in cup competitions league safety has always been priority.
They could not have been handed a much harder task for the New Year as they faced high flying Hermes who were looking to go top of the table with a win. United staged a stirring rearguard action to puncture the away sides title hopes and give themselves a shot at staying up as they dug in to win their first game of the league campaign.
Manager Dale Allan was understandably happy, ‘It’s been a long time coming. We have played much better than that and lost this season. We did not play well once they went down to 10 men, in fact for long periods in the second half it looked like we were playing with a man less. But I said before hand that we needed to start winning ugly – and today was a perfect example of that! I’m very happy though, at one nil you could see how nervous we were due to not having won this season and the 8 week layoff we have had so lot of our play was very ragged, but credit the team with a gutsy performance against a good Hermes side.’
United made a number of changes from the team that lost to Stoneywood eight weeks previous as Alan Reid, Graeme McLeman, Fraser Davidson came in and Stuart Noble made his first start since mid August. Davey Ross moved into midfield for the unfortunate chronic ankle injury victim Forbes.
Hermes kicked off with conditions underfoot very soft and playing into a strong breeze. The early stages were nip and tuck with neither side establishing any rhythm. United eased into gear on 6mins when Hay found Lawrence midway inside the Hermes half, his first touch saw him turn Freeland but the Hermes centrehalf hauled the Broch striker back. From the resulting free-kick McLeman floated a delightful cross onto the head on David Innes and he made no mistake from 6yards by glancing his header beyond Samson in the Hermes goal.
The goal galvanised Hermes into action and they pressed the play for the next 10mins, Simpsons shot from 20 yards fizzed well wide before right winger Craib’s dangerous cross found no takers. United’s defence held firm in this period as Hermes pushed forward searching for an equaliser.
As the match progressed the pitch slowly degenerated into a muddy mess making passing football a big ask, but both teams did their best and Bisset almost doubled the lead on 22 minutes when he combined with Reid and Ross on the right but his effort was well held by Samson.
Without warning the game exploded when Innes and Hermes forward Braithwaite became entangled after a solid Innes tackle. As Innes rose up Braithwaite forcefully kicked out from the ground. The incident was in full view of referee Davidson and he had no choice but to send Braithwaite off. Innes received a caution for his role that caused uproar in the away dugout.
United almost rubbed salt into the wound immediately, McLeman’s corner was headed goalward by Innes a great block by Samson saw the ball land at Ross’s feet and his drive was cleared off the line by Kennedy for a corner.
Fraserburgh were dealt a blow when striker Lawrence pulled up with a hamstring problem and had to be replaced by C. Ritchie with R. Noble moving forward.
This change did not halt United and they secured a golden chance to double their goals tally on 44 minutes when a great through ball by Davidson broke the Hermes offside trap and Bisset darted free wide left, his cross was blocked by Harris with what appeared to be his arm. Referee
Davidson was perfectly placed to award a penalty much to Hermes’ chagrin. Harris and Samson were booked for their dissent.
Roy Noble stepped up only for Samson to produce a good save to his right and ensure his team were only one down at the interval.
The second half saw Hermes immediately push forward. United’s one man advantage did not materialise in possession or chances as the away side dominated proceedings from the restart.
On 53 minutes Craib weaved into the box from wide right and his low cross flew between two Hermes players at the backpost where either would have had a tap in. United continued to defend resiliently, with Innes in particular standing firm. He got a crucial touch to Dawson’s corner as Freeland looked sure to score at the backpost. On 56mins S. Noble also crucially blocked at the backpost with Simpson set to pounce whilst Reid and Hay worked diligently to close down the flanks.
United threatened sporadically on the break, Bisset a constant menace. On 75 minutes, he burst clear on the left and his cross found R. Noble free 4yards out but with the goal at his mercy the United hitman fired straight at the grateful Samson.
United were almost made to rue this miss immediately. Morris found space on the left to swing over a great cross where Simpson rose above Hay to loop his header toward the far corner only for Dunbar to stretch every sinew to fingertip the ball past the post for a magnificent save. Broch threw on Darren Ross and Neil Forbes to in an effort to close out the game.
United continued to soak up the pressure and hit on the break and they managed to grab the decisive second on 86mins. Another lightning break saw McLeman feed R. Noble down the inside right channel and his pin-point cross to Bisset was hammered home much to the relief of the United faithful.
United travel to Dyce on Saturday as League business continues.
Fraserburgh Utd: Dunbar, Hay, Reid, S. Noble, Innes, David Ross, R. Noble,
McLeman, Davidson, Lawrence, Bisset. Subs: C. Ritchie, A. Ritchie, Darren Ross, L. Tait, E. Taylor, S. Robertson, N. Forbes