Formartine United player-manager Paul Lawson hailed goalie Kevin Main as his best signing after the keeper’s penalty saves helped secure an Aberdeenshire Shield semi-final place.
The Pitmedden outfit beat Buckie Thistle at Victoria Park 4-2 in a shoot-out after a 0-0 draw.
Main, who joined Formartine from Turriff United in February 2018, saved the Jags’ first two spot-kicks from Sam Urquhart and Sam Robertson, which paved the way for United to set up a last-four meeting with Fraserburgh next Wednesday at Bellslea.
Lawson said: “Kevin’s different class and I said the same after the draw at Fraserburgh on Saturday.
“It’s no disrespect to the other players, but he has been my best signing.
“Going into the penalty shoot-out you’re confident he’ll save at least one, so then you’re looking for our boys to do the business.
“He also had a couple of great saves in the game and he’s one of the best keepers in the league.
“We weren’t short of boys putting their hands up to take in the shoot-out, which is always a positive, and four of them stuck the penalties away.”
Formartine, the shield holders, didn’t have it easy with Buckie on top in the first half and Garry Wood having a penalty saved by Daniel Bell early in the second half.
Lawson added: “Buckie shaded the first half, they hit a post and Kevin made a great save.
“But I thought we merited going through on our second-half performance. Garry misses a penalty and we had a few chances we could have done better with.
“We’re through, so we can smile about it – but if we’d gone out it would have been disappointing.
“But people grab the ball and step up and we reacted well to that miss and finished the game strongly.
“We’re pleased to be through as holders but it’s another tough game ahead against Fraserburgh.”
Buckie started brightly and should have scored on 10 minutes when Urquhart slammed Kevin Fraser’s cutback wide from eight yards.
Five minutes later, Fraser’s drive from 15 yards was smothered by former Thistle goalie Main and on the half-hour Andy MacAskill rattled the left post from the edge of the box.
Five minutes into the second period, referee Liam Duncan awarded Formartine a penalty when Aaron Norris’s volley hit Fraser’s hand at close range, but Bell got down to his left and made a good save to thwart Wood.
After both sides passed up further chances, penalties were required.
Main denied Urquhart and Robertson with Jonny Crawford, Graeme Rodger and Stuart Anderson scoring for Formartine.
Hamish Munro and Steven Ross netted for the Jags, with Scott Lisle missing for United, but Conor Gethins converted the visitors’ fifth penalty to settle the issue.
Buckie boss Graeme Stewart said: “We should win the game after dominating the first half, they had a spell in the second half and it was tougher for us.
“I’m not worried about the penalties because they’re a lottery, but if you don’t take your chances in the game you get beat and we should have done better in the second half.”