With four games of the season remaining, it was a crucial match if Garstang were to cement their second spot against a team with whom they had drawn 1-1 in November.
From the outset Garstang looked out of form with their usual passing game breaking down and their pace stuck in third gear.
They remained competitive, however, given their strength on the ball and just had the majority of possession.
Formby were passing the ball better and started to find high players with excellent through passes.
Having sat back in anticipation of Garstang’s usual high-paced, all-out, high-speed, assault, they gained confidence and started to run aggressively at Garstang, who found it difficult to counter some good runs at oblique angles to the top of the ‘D’.
Garstang had to dig in and defend hard with keeper Sarah Skelton playing an excellent positional game in goal.
Although Lyndsey Norton and captain Donna Richardson formed a barrier at the top of the ‘D’ some balls inevitably got through.
Skelton made a crucial diving save after 16 minutes and Formby piled on the pressure, holding the ball in Garstang’s half.
They won a penalty corner but Garstang defended it well before they finally got into gear with excellent runs from Summer Muirhead up the left wing and Grace McGarvey in the centre.
The latter was happily beating three or four players before Formby started to barge and stick tackle her.
Green cards appeared after 19 and 27 minutes with insult added to injury when McGarvey made an excellent run and was about to shoot when play was brought back for an earlier offence.
Garstang, however, were stick tackling far too heavily themselves and saw one of their players carded after 32 minutes to redress the balance a bit.
Formby won a corner near half-time but wasted their chance with a loose ball at the top of the ‘D’ that was pounced upon by Garstang.
The second half saw Garstang start at pace with Di Metcalf making a great break into the ‘D’ after only 10 seconds.
There followed a period of five minutes in which the umpire gave no fewer than four penalty corners to Formby because of Garstang’s aggressive tackles and a foot at the top of the ‘D’ after a Formby player had kicked it in unseen.
At the third corner, Skelton made a super step across pad save as well as several others from close range.
At the fourth, the ball flew in the air across the goal but Garstang’s defence cleared well with Richardson, Norton and Jemma Hampson keeping their heads.
The game at last changed after 10 minutes when Muirhead and Evie Turner made a break up the pitch and Garstang ramped up their pace to put Formby under pressure.
A break into the ‘D’ saw Lyndsay Hayes find Georgie Brumwell, who made the line and just failed to score across the Keeper.
Minnie Rogers also just failed to tip the ball home and she now became a thorn in Formby’s side.
Libby Baxter was also playing well but Formby were trying to catch Garstang on the break as they pressed forward with Skelton having to make a strong diving save after 20 minutes.
Three minutes later, Turner outpaced her marker and was half-tackled by the Formby keeper at the top of the ‘D’..
The momentum carried her and the ball forward but she just could not get it under control before she reached the back line.
On 25 minutes, Garstang won their first penalty corner but an attempted deflection saw the ball go the wrong side of Muirhead.
Lucy Treaddell then made a break to go one-on-one with the keeper but, like Turner, ran out of space before she could score.
Two minutes after that and a Formby player was shown a yellow card for a bad foul on McGarvey.
Rogers was thwarted by a good stick tackle just outside the area from the Formby keeper before forcing them into a good pad save moments later.
Just after the half-hour, Rogers won a penalty corner with Metcalf hitting a fine shot across the ‘D’ for Hayes to deflect the ball home and open the scoring with her fourth goal in three games.
Garstang then held the ball well for the last two-and-a-half minutes for the win despite it being their worst performance of the season with most players, barring Skelton, off-form to a degree.
Full marks go to a well-coached young Formby side for going after them and placing them under enormous pressure in the first half as well as the first quarter of the second half.
The teams will meet again in two weeks as they contest the North West eliminator for the national England Hockey Cup.
Elsewhere, the fifth-placed Garstang Men drew 2-2 with third-placed Windermere in their North Division meeting.