Defences All At Sea by Easton Thain

I thought I had seen everything in football until I witnessed some shocking defending at Pitmedden. Neither defence was on top and both were bad on the night but there is no doubting at all whose was worse for in the game the Jags netted four good goals which any opposing defence can say they could not have done much about them. At the other end however, all the goals Thistle conceded were from about 12 yards in and closer and that just about says it all! You would think the keeper had a bad game in conceding so many goals but Andy Burr had no chance with any of the goals and, indeed, but for him it could have been worse. Poor Andrzej Kleczkowski must have been wondering what the blazes was going on, he did his job and how with a hat-trick as well as being a great link-up man and yet he ends up on the losing side whilst his countryman Maek Madle does similar for Formartine yet walks off smiling. It will be of scant solace to Andrzej that he was part of history as no two foreigners have scored a hat-trick in the same game in a Highland League match or at least not two on opposing sides. As for Paul Lamberton watching on the sidelines? He was a legendary defender for the Jags and you could see his disbelief at what was going on far less the managers!

And yet, despite all of the defensive errors there were plenty of positives for Thistle as well. I thought in the first 25 minutes they were superb, they were all over United like a rash and threatened to score all the time. In midfield Drew Copeland and Shaun Carrol were immense with the former all but unplayable and the latter spraying brilliant passes about. Liam Baxter meantime played out wide and looked a real threat whilst up front Andrzej Kleczkowski and Andy Low once again worked so well off each other and they caused United no end of problems. Gaining a 3-0 lead was in no way flattering for the Jags and the team that won two titles would have sauntered home in this match but right now a defence that looks creaky in games looks like conceding in every match and nine conceded in two games speaks volumes. Shaun Wood, Chris Angus and Lewis MacKinnon have all been missed, with them in there the back line looks more solid and has some pace. Anyway, this fragility allowed Formartine to pull two goals back and even when Thistle went 4-2 up you felt goals were still likely to be conceded and United got another before half-time. When the Jags went nap in the second half you thought this time they will shut up shop but Formatine were soon back in it and then they piled forward knowing the Thistle defence was suspect and they got their reward with three unanswered goals to win a quite astonishing match.

The game started so well for the Jags as they carried the play towards the home goal and in the 9th minute this paid off. Initially Jay Cheyne played a long ball through to Andrzej Kleczkowski who fed Andy Low but his dipping shot was tipped over by Andy Shearer. However, Shaun Carrol delivered in a superb corner which Andrzej Kleczkowski headed home. Two minutes on there was a wee hint of things to come though as a cross into the Thistle box was only cleared out to Callum Bagshaw, his drive was blocked by Andy Burr and his follow up by a defender. A relieved Jags then doubled their lead in the 20th minute with a fantastic goal. A superb break led to a mesmerising run by Drew Copeland who found Liam Baxter who in turn played the ball into Andy Low who banged it home. A minute on it was 3-0 with another brilliant effort, more great play led to Drew Copeland sending a fine delivery into Andrzej Kleczkowski who controlled the ball before driving it home. Thistle were flying but then it went a bit pear-shaped and in the 27th minute the ball was slid through to the one striker you don’t want to let free Cammy Keith and he shook off a defender before drilling it past Andy Burr. Just 60 seconds on Callum Bagshaw was completely free again and he fired in a shot only to see Andy Burr save well with his feet. On the half-hour United pulled to within a goal as the ball was slid through the defence once more this time to Marek Madle who cut across and fired it past Andy Burr. In the 32nd minute Paul Napier fed Marek Madle who set up Callum Bagshaw but his drive was blocked. The Jags rode this storm and opened up a two goal gap six minutes before the break when Shaun Carrol sent a brilliant pass through to Liam Baxter who drove the ball home with the aid of a small deflection meaning he has no scored in his last four games. There was still concern at the other end and in the 42nd minute the ball was again played through to Cammy Keith who turned and fired in a drive but Andy Burr pulled off a fine stop for a corner. A minute before the break though the Jags defence was absent when a corner came in allowing Marek Madle to head home albeit with a couple of lucky ricochets.

Half-time Formartine United 3 Buckie Thistle 4

Formartine came racing out of the blocks in the second half and less than a minute in Marek Madle broke before finding Callum Bagshaw but his effort was blocked. Six minutes in Callum Bagshaw fed Hamish Munro who freed Cammy Keith but he slid his shot across and wide. The Jags tried to fight back and on the hour Andy Low set Andrzej Kleczkowski free with a nice pass, the Pole cut inside but then shot wide. However, five minutes on he got his reward for charging down when the ball was fed back to Andy Shearer who only contrived to crash it against the inrushing Pole and it flew into the net. This was now the time to defend like Trojans but after Paul Napier saw an effort blocked United got another goal back in the 70th minute and, once again, it could have been avoided. A cross in was met by Graham Hay whose header crashed off the bar, the ball should have been booted clear but wasn’t and fell into the path of the big centre-half who banged it past the defenceless Andy Burr. Four minutes later Stuart McKay fed Stuart Smith who shot, Andy Burr just got to it and then Chris Hegarty cleared from almost off the line. In the 76th minute Andy Burr punched a ball clear but only to Paul Napier but his effort was held by the Jags keeper. Then an amazing escape three minutes later when the Thistle defence was caught out by a ball into the box and it fell to Cammy Keith about four yards out, you’d bet your house on him scoring but somehow he contrived to hit the bar. The inevitable happened though with nine minutes left as the incessant pressure paid off when the ball was fed across to Stuart McKay and this proven HFL scorer drilled it past Andy Burr. A minutes on ‘Kaiser’ McKay had another decent chance but he contrived to slide it wide. Through their great first half efforts the Jags deserved a point but even this was taken away from them in the final minute when Darren Wood got the ball at the back but instead of a ‘Row Z’ clearance he tried to bound his way up the park, promptly lost it whereupon it was slid through to where he would have been allowing Marek Madle to slide it past the onrushing Andy Burr and into the far corner of the net. In injury-time Woody could have redeemed himself when a corner was swung over deep and he got free of his marker but headed wide and that was that.

Full-time Formartine United 6 Buckie Thistle 5

Match Photo’s courtesy of Allan Robertson

Formartine United – Shearer, Bagshaw (McKay), Smith, McKeown, Hay, Clark (Munro), Napier (Duguid), McVitie, Keith, Anderson and Madle

Buckie Thistle – Burr, Cheyne, D Wood, Stewart, MacRae (Angus), Hegarty, Copeland (K Gauld), Carrol, Kleczkowski, Low and Baxter (S Gauld)

Referee – C Spence

It is still hard to take this all in but one thing is for certain if Thistle don’t start to defend properly games will continue to be lost. Get it right at the back then all the good signs in midfield and up front tell me they will win games. With Turriff United at Victoria Park next then Cove Rangers away and then Inverurie Locos at home the defence will have to tighten up dramatically and as a whole the team needs to defend better from the front. If they do then they have a chance in all of those games, defend like they did in the cup final and at Pitmedden then….no, it is not worth thinking about!!

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