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Formartine to Host North Final

Report by Andy McLaren

Highland League hopefuls Formartine United are set to host this Sunday’s North of Scotland Amateur Cup final for the first time in the clubs history.

Last weekend’s first home defeat of the season means the Pitmedden outfit face a final day clash with Cove Rangers on Saturday to determine who will be crowned Highland League champions.

This year’s North of Scotland Cup final will see holders Cove Thistle battle it out with Division One’s Johnshaven Athletic for a place in Amateur football history.

Cove will become the fifth team to retain the North of Scotland Cup with a victory against the Division One outfit.

Sunday’s match will be Thistle’s fourth appearance in a North of Scotland Cup final, having won the trophy twice.

And Formartine secretary Martin Johnston believes hosting the North of Scotland Cup final will strengthen the club’s links with Amateur football.

He said: “We were going to host the competition last year but due to timescales, the club decided not to have it here.

“When the club was asked again this year, we had no hesitations to say yes as we knew the Highland League would have finished by then.

“The North of Scotland Cup final will be the last game to be played on the pitch this season.

“There has always been a healthy relationship at Formartine with amateur football.

“Whether it’s Welfare, Juvenile, Amateur or Junior football, we are a club which always likes to help other associations as much as we can.”

Formartine, who are one point clear of Cove Rangers, were founded in 1948 and joined the amateur ranks from the Buchan League in the same year.

Steve Patterson’s side will compete in next season’s Ramsdens Cup following their 3-0 win over Buckie Thistle last week.

Johnston revealed the club, who joined the Highland League in 2009, also plan to host women’s international football at North Lodge Park in the future.

And Johnston hopes North Lodge Park can become the permanent home for North of Scotland final’s for years to come.

“If the facilities are available, we would be more than happy to host amateur football’s biggest trophy again,” he said.

“At Formartine, we have not forgotten our roots and there are still former players who played for us in the amateur divisions coming to watch our games with great memories of the leagues.

“In my opinion, the standard of amateur football has improved.

“There is now a greater awareness of fitness and training amongst amateur clubs.

“The game would be at a loss without Amateur football as it is a huge part of the Scottish football system.

“We are very proud to say we are a team who first started in the Amateur leagues and I believe our links with Amateur clubs will grow in the next few years.”

Johnshaven’s last meeting with Cove was a 3-0 defeat in the 2004 Dickie Trophy Final.

Manager Pete Williams has been with the club since 2010, and won promotion to Division 1 in his first season with the Aberdeenshire side.

Cove’s Allan Park, which has hosted the final since 2007, has recently closed for maintenance work over the pre-season.

The 2006 final was played at Sunnybank’s Heathryfold Park and the 2005 fixture was at Banks O’ Dee’s Spain Park.

And North of Scotland Secretary Joe McGunnigle believes North Lodge Park will be fitting for the occasion.

He said: “I could have arranged the final to be at a junior club’s pitch but I wanted to get a location which would make the final memorable.

“The status of Formartine, who have the chance to become the new champions of the Highland League, is massive and it’s great for the players to have the opportunity to play there.

“Formartine have showed a great willingness to help us out as we were not able to have the final at Cove’s Allan Park this year.

“It’s a fantastic thrill to play on a pitch such as the North Lodge which will be totally different to their usual public parks.”

Joe, who is also well known in the North-east as an ardent member of the Tartan Army, has high hopes of playing the 2015 final at Cove’s proposed new £3m stadium, Calder Park.

“It’s unfortunate Allan Park was not available as Cove Rangers have been very helpful in the past,” said Joe.

“Talks are underway to host the final in a couple of years at Cove’s new ground, Calder Park.

“Having the final at Formartine sets the occasion for the players and I’m looking forward to a fantastic final.

“This will motivate the players to play at pitches like North Lodge Park on a regular basis and give them encouragement to play at the highest possible level.”