Formartine United player-manager Paul Lawson hailed his players after two late strikes saw them beat Brora Rangers 3-2 at North Lodge Park.
United, who now lie just two points behind third-placed Inverurie Locos in the Highland League table, scored after six minutes in a riveting first period at North Lodge Park, with Brora’s Gavin Morrison handed his marching orders two minutes later for a stamp on Graham Rodger.
However, dogged Brora sucker punched Lawson’s team twice on the break and it took goals from Rodger and a volley from Archie Macphee three minutes from time to win it.
Lawson said: “Looking at the boys we have out injured, it was good to get the three points.
“They went down to 10 men and, towards the end of the game, they want to sit in a wee bit more and cling on to their lead.
“Credit to our boys, we managed to score two goals towards the end.”
Formartine had missed good chances to equalise at 2-1 and Lawson admitted he thought his team might be set to lose.
He said: “At half-time we said to be patient and not get frustrated. It’s important to keep moving the ball, you’ve got the extra man. They worked hard, but you can’t do that for 90 minutes, so we knew they would tire.
“We kept going right to the end, Archie’s had a good finish and Rodge is a good finish as well.”
Despite the thrill of the late win, Lawson said he was slightly frustrated by how Formartine let the game get away from them in the first half.
He said: “You are (frustrated) in a sense. You’re a goal ahead and the other team go down to 10 men.
“But they improved after they went down to 10 men, whether they felt hard done-by or not. They caused us a number of problems the way they shaped up.
“So the first half wasn’t as good as I would have liked.”
Formartine drew first blood in the encounter. Brora keeper Joe Malin initially pulled off a cracking save from Macphee’s penalty spot piledriver after Rodger’s cross. However, Scott Barbour was able to nip in off the right and finish low and left-footed.
The game then erupted a minute later, Gavin Morrison was given a straight red card for seeming to stamp on Rodger.
United were punished in 18 minutes, when Martin Maclean headed in at the near post from an Alexander Sutherland corner.
On 20 minutes, Brora took the lead, Mackay getting the ball on the break, turning out-of-position Jonathan Crawford inside-out in the middle, before taking it round Greg Sim to roll it in.
It was scintillating stuff.
The aggro continued just before half-time, Sutherland was booked for throwing Michie to the floor, which could easily have been Brora’s second red.
In 57 minutes, Barbour was put through again and once more dragged the ball past Malin’s far post when one on one.
By 65 minutes, it was clear the men from the north were intent on killing the game, taking an age with every throw or goal-kick. These tactics of frustration were having the desired effect on the home side. Despite this, Formartine fashioned a gilt-edged chance, with Gethins not even having to jump for a free header, which he somehow steered wide.
Lawson went three at the back and, on 78 minutes, the Pitmedden men finally played there way in.
Burnett’s centre from the right took a few ricochets before falling for Rodger to lash through Malin and in from 15 yards.
On 87 minutes, United got their winner, Barbour finding Archie Macphee, who was able to swivel and leather a left-footed volley straight over Malin’s head from six yards into the net.