0 - 1
North of Scotland Cup (Mini League)
Steve Sanderson (24)
Johnny Seaton for Steve Sanderson (62)
Tony Low for Martin MacDonald (62)
Scott Nicholl for John Mackay (78)
Mark Caldwell (68)
David Robertson (78)
County got their North Cup campaign off to a winning start at Fort William's Claggan Park although the performance of Les Fridge's side was less than convincing but the team did just enough to take the three points setting up a group decider with Inverness CT in a fortnight.
The gaffer made wholesale changes to the side that were defeated at Inverurie on Saturday. Missing out were the suspended due of Steven Edwards and Scott Kellacher while Tony Low, Scott Nicholl dropped down to the bench with Brian Macleod unavailable through work commitments. In came John Campbell and John Mackay for debuts, while Steven Sanderson made his first start of the season partnering Martin MacDonald in attack with Duncan Jones also coming into the defence.
It was the home side who had the first chance of the night as Mark Caldwell's cross from the left picked out Mark Dougall who had an alarming amount of space in the box but he could only fire his close range effort over the crossbar in the 10th minute.
County went close in the 21st minute as Steven Sanderson latched onto a great Martin MacDonald throughball but the ex-Fort William striker's first time chip from the right edge of the box drifted across goal and past the far post.
But that only delayed the opening goal by three minutes as Nairn got their noses in front after 24 minutes. Iain Brooks surged down the left and upon hitting the by-line, cut the ball back for the unmarked Sanderson to tap in at the back post.
It was nearly two for the wee striker three minutes later as a quick Duncan Jones free-kick sent Willie Barron racing down the right and his cross was met by a glancing volley at the front post by Sanderson that went across goal and wide.
David MacRae was the creator of County's next chance as he beat Fort's left-back and delivered a cross for MacDonald, who had nipped in front of his marker, to connect with but the former Brora man's shot went past the near post.
Two minutes later, MacDonald again split the home defence and sent Sanderson racing in on goal but Fort keeper McRitchie got to the through ball just before County's goal scorer.
On the stroke of half time, MacRae whipped in a free-kick from the right that Sanderson powerfully connected with at the front post but McRitchie made the save.
Sanderson really should have doubled County's lead seven minutes after the restart. He controlled a Barron cross from the right and with time and space in front of goal; he hammered his shot over the crossbar.
Fort William's first foray into towards the Nairn goal of the half occurred in the 64th minute as ex-Nairn St Ninian man Stuart Pearce struck a 25-yard effort well wide of the target.
The hosts again went close as Dougall cut in from the left and unleashed a powerful right footed effort from 20-yards that was held by Campbell 20 minutes from time.
Three minutes later, a Jones corner from the right found its way through to Martin Sanderson at the back post but the Nairn defender was denied his first goal for the club by the Fort man on the back post as his shot was hacked away for a corner.
Barron was next to go close for Nairn as he connected with a Nicholl cross from the left after 81 minutes but McRitchie tipped his header away before the ex-Forres keeper held a long range effort from sub Johnny Seaton at the death.
Not a vintage performance from Nairn by any stretch of the imagination but a welcome three points after the recent run of three defeats in a row. The side now have to take this win into Saturday's home league match with Lossiemouth before the must win showdown with Inverness CT for a place in the semi-finals of the North Cup.
|John Campbell (GK)||25||1||-||1||-|
|Scott Nicholl (sub)||22||4||-||20||-|
|Tony Low (sub)||22||7||-||7||-|
|Johnny Seaton (sub)||-||7||-||71||4|
No league table has been added for this season.