1 - 3
North of Scotland Cup (Final)
|Justin Rodgers (78)||
David MacRae (pen.) (21)
Martin Sanderson (43)
David MacRae (50)
Steven Mackay for Michael Morrison (46)
Scott Matheson for Andy Matheson (61)
Justin Rodgers for Gary Black (61)
Martin MacDonald for David MacRae (70)
Steve Sanderson for Johnny Seaton (77)
Wayne Mackintosh for Duncan Jones (89)
Stuart Logan (Referee)
A stunning performance from the Nairn County side saw them defeat red hot favourites Forres Mechanics in the North of Scotland Cup final to take home their first piece of silverware for 28 years and write their names into Club folklore in the process.
Manager Les Fridge made two changes to the starting XI that overwhelmed Rothes at Station Park last week for this huge encounter as Duncan Jones and Brian Macleod returned to the team in favour of Scott Nicholl and Martin MacDonald, who was only deemed fit enough to make the bench.
Nairn, roared on by a massive and boisterous support who easily out-numbered their Forres counterparts, took a 21st minute lead as David MacRae slotted home a penalty before Martin Sanderson doubled County's advantage before the break. MacRae added a second early on in the second half to give Nairn some breathing space. Justin Rodgers pulled a goal back for the holders but it wasn't enough as County held on to claim their first North of Scotland Cup since 1966.
The game started at a ferocious pace and it was to continue in that vein throughout. It was Nairn who were first to threaten as a David MacRae snap shot from the edge of the box was saved by Forres goalkeeper Martin Rae.
Forres threatened soon after as former Nairn loanee Lewis MacKinnon sent Michael Sanderson racing down the left wing. His cross was put back across goal by Charlie Brown but County skipper John MacAskill was in the right place to hack the ball to safety.
The Mechanics were back on the attack after 11 minutes when Craig MacMillan tried his luck with a shot from 30-yards but his effort was easily held by County goalkeeper Jim Calder.
Gary Black then played in MacMillan down the right and his cross was met by Forres captain Neil Whyte who saw his shot excellently parried away by Calder.
County grabbed the all-important opening goal in the 21st minute though as the match swung back in their favour. Willie Barron darted down the right and weaved his way into the box cutting in past MacKinnon. The Forres centre-half bundled the Nairn wideman to the deck in the box leaving referee Stuart Logan with no option but to point to the penalty spot. David MacRae calmly stepped up to stroke the ball past Rae sending the County fans wild.
This handed the impetus back to Nairn and they almost doubled their lead four minutes later. Duncan Jones curled a free-kick from the left edge of the box over the Forres wall and into the side netting to the relief of the holders.
Forres probed for an equaliser and next week's Qualifying Cup finalists were left frustrated by the dogged efforts of the Nairn back line. The closest they came to getting back on level terms was in the 27th minute when MacMillan shot well over the bar from 20-yards.
Nairn doubled their advantage though two minutes before the interval. A high free-kick into the box by Scott Kellacher was knocked back across goal by Forres defender Black to County's Martin Sanderson who managed to force the ball over the line prompting mass celebrations among the majority of the crowd yet again.
It looked as if Forres would come out and have a real go at Nairn after the break as they created an opening four minutes into the half. Substitute and former Nairn trialist Steven MacKay whipped in a tempting cross from the left that was met by a header from Whyte but his effort went over the County crossbar.
But the second half was barely five minutes old when Nairn floored the title favourites with a decisive third goal. Tony Low made a great, counter-attacking run down the left before playing David MacRae in on goal. The scorer of Nairn's first goal kept his composure to delightfully clip the ball over Rae to hand County a comfortable margin with 40 minutes of the game still to play.
It took Forres only two minutes to come close to pulling a goal back. MacMillan was the man at the heart of things for the Can Cans yet again as his shot from 12-yards was cleared from the goal-line by the well-positioned Martin Sanderson.
Whyte was next to come close for Forres but he saw his shot from 20-yards out tipped around the post by Calder as the Nairn custodian rolled back the years. From the resulting corner, Michael Sanderson almost got his name on the scoresheet but his effort was cleared from the goal-line.
There was rapturous applause from the County supporters as David MacRae was withdrawn in the 70th minute, replaced by Martin MacDonald. And it was the former Brora Rangers striker who almost added a fourth for County two minutes after his introduction. He was sent haring in on goal by a Duncan Jones throughball but miscued his shot sending a low effort from 15-yards whistling past the post.
Forres gave themselves hope as they snatched a goal back 12 minutes from time. After a scramble in the Nairn goalmouth, the ball broke to unmarked substitute Justin Rodgers who knocked it home prompting a tense finale.
The Can Cans threw everything in their locker at Nairn in the latter stages but were restricted to long range pot-shots at goal by the resilient men in black. Craig Campbell fired a long range effort over the crossbar, MacMillan saw an 18-yard shot saved by Calder before he was denied by the County goalkeeper in the 83rd minute as his header from a Campbell cross from the right was palmed round the post.
It was Nairn who finished the stronger of the two sides though and could have added a fourth. Low made a surging run on the counter attack down the right, jinked past two defenders and cut the ball back to Steven Sanderson who fired his shot over the crossbar in the 84th minute.
Sanderson returned the favour a minute later as he put Low through on goal but the former Inverness CT winger's shot was palmed wide by Rae. From the resulting corner, MacDonald saw his header headed clear from the goal-line by Michael Sanderson as Forres prevented Nairn from increasing their lead.
It wasn't to matter though as the full-time whistle duly arrived prompting scenes of mass joy and celebration in the Nairn camp as their 28-year wait for a piece of silverware came to an end.
John MacAskill was presented with the trophy shortly after the final whistle and the players raced across the pitch to celebrate with the jubilant supporters who had vocally backed them throughout the 90 minutes.
A phenomenal result for County as they finally ended their long wait for silverware. All credit must go to the management team and the players for putting in such a great performance to upset the odds and end the drought.
|Jim Calder (GK)||45||11||-||40||-|
|Martin MacDonald (sub)||23||16||5||16||5|
|Steve Sanderson (sub)||24||13||3||74||27|
|Wayne Mackintosh (sub)||18||4||-||11||-|
No league table has been added for this season.