Inverurie Locos boss Neil Cooper was happy his players found redemption at Harlaw Park.
The Railwaymen beat Formartine United 3-1 in front of a big derby crowd.
Locos lost the reverse fixture 5-0 at North Lodge Park on the first day of the season and Cooper was pleased his side showed their true colours.
He said: “I’m delighted for the players.
“Obviously before the game, we said we’d let ourselves down a bit in the first game of the season.
“Formartine were very
good on the day, we were a bit poor.
“We’ve came on a lot since that, I think our appetite performance and work rate was fantastic.”
Cooper’s team have certainly found a rich vein of form, losing just once in 15 Highland League matches and are now level on points with second-placed Fraserburgh in the Highland League table.
All of this has been achieved with star striker Neil Gauld unable to start games through injury.
However, Gauld was back in the starting line-up for the visit of Paul Lawson’s Formartine, who last week lifted the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup.
The game got off to a remarkable start.
United keeper Ewen Macdonald was taken off after being knocked unconscious in a coming-together with Locos midfielder Joe McCabe after two minutes.
On four minutes, referee Liam Duncan awarded Formartine a penalty, with Locos keeper Andy Reid adjudged to have pushed Scott Barbour.
Archie Macphee couldn’t score, with Reid diving low to his left to smother the tame effort.
Barbour looked dangerous on the left wing and got plenty of the ball and United still looked likely to score first.
However, on 24 minutes, Scott Ferries was booked for diving in the Locos’ box after what looked like a push in the back from Connor Rennie.
Four minutes later, Inverurie midfielder Stuart Duff barged Formartine skipper Stuart Anderson to the ground, with play allowed to go on and
the ball rolling to Neil McLean.
The Locos captain drove forward and fired a dipping shot past stand-in Greg Sim and into the bottom right corner of United’s goal.
After the break, winger Jordan Leyden had a couple of good chances to double Inverurie’s lead before Andy Hunter slid in Gauld on 62 minutes.
The winger’s curling left-footed shot brushed Sim’s fingertips on its way into the far top corner.
Five minutes later, it was Hunter himself with the ball out on the right. He chose to power round left-back Stuart Smith, who hobbled off injured minutes later, and smash a low shot across goal into the far bottom corner.
Locos were cruising.
However, things got less comfortable as Reid made a mess of a header from Formartine defender Scott Henry at a free-kick on 74 minutes, leaving the score at 3-1.
United were then awarded their second penalty of the day for a foul on Graeme Rodger.
The comeback could have been on, but again it was saved by Reid, this time from Garry Wood.
The final sting in the tail for Lawson’s men was seeing defender Craig McKeown, so influential since his return for two years on the sidelines, pull up with what looked like a hamstring injury.
Cooper said: “I thought it was very soft penalty kick (Formartine were awarded early on) against Andy and none of the Formartine players were appealing for it. But it was at a great save at a vital time for us and Neil McLean’s strode forward and unleashed a great strike to give us a 1-0 lead.
“The second goal was fantastic from Neil Gauld.
“For Andy’s goal, I thought he ran a bit wide,
I thought the chance
had gone, but it was great finish.
“The (second) penalty that was given – we were really annoyed at that.
“It looked a complete dive.
“But it was a great save from Andy (Reid) again, he’s been fantastic since he came back to the club.
“We thoroughly deserved to win the game.”
Formartine player-manager Lawson was gutted after the final whistle and his team have dropped to seventh in the table.
He said: “We haven’t had great luck with goalkeepers here in recent seasons.
“But if we score the penalty it’s a different game.
“We kept going, but them scoring the first goal hit the boys a wee bit and we never really recovered.
“We came out for the second half and we’ve lost two goals on the break.
“We get another penalty and full credit to Andy Reid, he was excellent for them today.”
On the injuries to three of his players, he said: “That’s the bigger disappointment, more than the result.
“To lose somebody like Stuarty (Smith) and Craig (McKeown). I think it’s his hamstring.
“I thought Craiger was fantastic again, so it’s very disappointing.
“We’ll have to see how it settles down over the next couple of days and see how it goes.”
Formartine’s next outing is in the Scottish Cup against Forfar Athletic, with a scout from the League One outfit at Harlaw Park on Saturday.