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Highland League Cup (Semi Final)
|Russell McBride (59)||
Iain Brooks (56)
Michael Stephen for Dean Elrick (59)
Kevin Norris for Steven Main (81)
Mark Cowie for William West (116)
Scott Nicholl for Steven Edwards (46)
Duncan Jones for Wayne Mackintosh (68)
Steve Sanderson for Johnny Seaton (96)
Steven Main (75)
Billy Gordon (102)
Brian Macleod (63)
Martin Sanderson (99)
Nairn County bowed out of the Highland League Cup in the most painful of fashions at Bellslea Park and ended their season on the sourest of notes in the process. Being one spot-kick away from achieving their second cup final appearance in a single season, the side went onto to miss out in sudden death penalties.
County gaffer Les Fridge was forced into a single change to the starting line-up that progressed to this stage of the competition in dramatic fashion last week with a penalty shootout win over Buckie at Station Park. Willie Barron was unavailable for selection due to work commitments and his place in the team was taken by Brian Macleod.
It looked as if Nairn would have an uphill struggle on their hands as they played with the howling wind in the first half and failed to take advantage as the two sides went in level at the break. But Iain Brooks dispelled any fears as he broke the deadlock in dramatic fashion 11 minutes after the restart. County's lead was short lived though as Russell McBride equalised for the hosts seven minutes later. Neither side could break the other's resisted in the remaining minutes of play and extra time so for the second week running both teams had a penalty shootout to contend with. It was advantage Nairn as Gavin Wemyss missed for the Broch but Scott Nicholl saw his low effort saved. Neil Main saw Fraserburgh's last spotkick saved meaning that if Martin Sanderson converted Nairn would be in the final. Broch keeper Billy Gordon made the save though and then Martin MacDonald missed County's second sudden death kick to put Fraserburgh through and see Nairn eliminated in the worst possible manner.
The visitors were first to threaten as Brian Macleod broke free down the left wing beating the Fraserburgh offside trap. He fired in a low cross that David MacRae stabbed over the crossbar from eight yards out at the front post.
County were back on the attack again after 21 minutes with Macleod again being at the heart of the move. His cross from the left wing was helped on by Martin MacDonald into the path of semi-pro internationalist Tony Low but his powerful strike from the right edge of the penalty area was held by Broch goalkeeper Billy Gordon.
Three minutes later, the home side had Gordon to thank again for keeping the score level. Industrious midfielder Wayne Mackintosh played in Iain Brooks but his strike from the left of the box, some 20-yards from goal was parried around the post by the home side's keeper.
The home side took 39 minutes to launch their first threat on the Nairn goal playing into the gale force conditions. A long ball forward from Marc Dickson was controlled by Graham Johnston. He stepped inside County centre back Steven Edwards before seeing his powerful drive from the edge of the box parried by Nairn shotstopper John Campbell before the ex-Hibee gathered the loose ball.
The hosts came out into the second half determined to take advantage of playing with the strong wind. They went close to opening the scoring five minutes into the half when Johnston's thunderous drive from almost 30-yards required Campbell to tip the ball over the crossbar.
But it was County who sensationally broke the deadlock to stun the home side in the 56th minute. Tony Low raced free down the right wing before playing a great throughball into the stride of Iain Brooks. The County hitman then took one touch before arrowing a drive from 15-yards past helpless goalkeeper Gordon.
The visitors' joy was short lived though when the home side levelled things in the 59th minute. A Michael Stephen corner from the right was met by a towering header from Russell McBride and he sent the ball into the net at the back post via the underside of the crossbar.
Fraserburgh were inches away from going in front for the first time in the game. Stephen stepped up to curl a tremendous free-kick from 25-yards over the County wall and off the top of the crossbar.
But Nairn levelled the woodwork count 14 minutes from the end as they went close to going in front again. Johnny Seaton did well to control a high ball forward before setting up Brooks who's overhead kick from 18-yards beat Gordon but struck the inside of the far post before being gathered by the relieved Broch goalkeeper.
Neither side could muster a second goal in the minutes that remained or in the tense 30 minutes of extra time so it was down to penalties to find a winner for the second week running for both sides.
Substitute Michael Stephen stepped up to score as the Broch went first before David MacRae converted his spot-kick for the second week running. Gavin Wemyss put his effort wide and then Tony Low netted to give Nairn the advantage. Graham Johnston scored for the host before Brooks smashed home his kick for County. Mark Cowie scored for the Broch but County's Scott Nicholl saw his effort blocked by the legs of Gordon to make it 3-3 after four penalties.
County goalkeeper John Campbell pulled off a great save from Neil Main meaning that if Martin Sanderson converted then Nairn would be through. But the centre-back, a standout for County all season, saw Gordon save his spotkick sending the shootout into sudden death. Ryan Christie and Nairn's Brian Macleod both converted and then Derek Milne scored for the home side. Martin MacDonald stepped up for Nairn needing to score to keep his side in it but his effort was blocked by Gordon to the agony of the visitors. (Penalties: 5-4).
|John Campbell (GK)||26||15||-||15||-|
|Scott Nicholl (sub)||22||15||1||31||1|
|Steve Sanderson (sub)||24||26||5||87||29|
|Duncan Jones (sub)||21||27||5||27||5|
No league table has been added for this season.