0 - 1
North of Scotland Cup (Semi Final)
Darren Shallicker (28)
Ian Black for Pusledski (45)
Scott-Woodhouse for Iain Vigurs (76)
Wayne Mackintosh for Duncan Jones (77)
Scott Nicholl for Darren Shallicker (81)
Steven Edwards (67)
Wayne Mackintosh (84)
Iain Brooks (90)
It was joy and relief in equal amounts from the Nairn County camp that greeted the final whistle in this match as Les Fridge's side clung on to secure a North of Scotland Cup final place for the second consecutive season at the expense of their fierce Inverness rivals.
Darren Shallicker was the goal hero for the Station Park side as he netted his fourth of the season with a clinical first half strike. After the break, Nairn fought and scrapped for every loose ball as they stood firm against the mounting pressure from the SPL outfit.
Nairn gaffer Fridge didn't have his problems to seek going into this massive clash as key defender Martin Sanderson was ruled out because of a family bereavement and Neil MacDonald was sitting in the stand because of suspension. If that wasn't problem enough, influential players Tony Low and Scott Kellacher - full time community and youth coaches respectively at Caley Park - were sent to Glasgow by the Inverness side to watch a reserve match from the stand and were therefore unavailable for this game in what appears to have been a shameful attempt by the hosts to disrupt County's preparations.
But Fridge called on the talents of Martin MacDonald, who was outstanding at the back throughout, Willie Barron, who's flair on the wing caused Caley no end of problems all night and David MacRae, who was played in a more defensive role and succeeded in marking Ian Black out of the game when the former Balckburn midfielder came on at half time.
The home side had no fewer than seven first team players on the pitch throughout the second half but based on this performance the majority would struggle to cope with the rigours of Highland League football, never mind compete in the Premier League. Nairn on the other hand, looked like a team capable of giving many a team at a higher level a run for their money, with their combination of solidarity at the back, grit in the middle of the park, flair on the wings and clinicalness up front.
In only the opening minute the visitors went close to opening the scoring when Duncan Jones fired in a 20-yard effort that was held by home shotstopper Jonathon Smith and then the former Don saw a shot from the edge of the box defelected just over the crossbar for a corner by Grant Munro four minutes later.
The hosts created their first chance of the night after 11 minutes when young David Watson showed good technique to fire a low volley from 30-yards towards goal but John Campbell in the Nairn goal held the Caley man's shot to keep the scores even.
Campbell then showed his class in the 20th minute when midfielder Richie Hart broke down Nairn's stubborn defensive resistence but found an in-moveable object in County's last line of defence. The former Brora midfielder made a piercing run from midfield and skipped past two Nairn defenders but saw his low drive superbly deflected over the bar by the legs of the ex-Hibs goalkeeper.
The breakthrough arrived and it was the Nairn fans who were jumping for joy as the opening goal hit the net in the 29th minute. Willie Barron outstripped Richard Hastings down the right wing but his low cross was hacked away at the front post. This clearance went only as far as Duncan Jones though and he swept on a sweet cross from 30-yards out on the right straight to the left boot of Darren Shallicker who was on hand at the back post to slide the ball past the despairing Smith. (Half Time: 1-0).
The home brought on Scotland Future internationalist Ian Black at the interval in an attempt to get back into the game. But the first thing he managed to do was clumsily knock the ball out for Nairn throw-in when under no pressure whatsoever.
County had a great chance to double their lead after 53 minutes when a great, defence splitting ball from David MacRae picked out Michael Sanderson on the left and he raced towards goal but the former Forres winger's low shot lacked any real conviction resulting in an easy save for Smith.
Campbell again proved his worth to the Nairn cause three minutes later when he blocked Zander Sutherland's low drive from the right with his legs at his front post after the young Caley winger had been picked out by Black.
Barron was inches away from becoming a hero and really putting the cat among the pigeons one minute after the hour mark when Jones in a teasing, in-swinging cross from the left but the Nairn winger just failed to make the contact which would have undoubtedly led to a certain goal with Smith rooted to the spot.
This was to be Nairn's last chance of the game as the fitness of their full time opponents showed in the final third. But the hosts' luck had deserted them and when Hart's header back across goal from a Sutherland cross from the right cannoned back off the inside of the post before being cleared to safety, the feeling inside the ground was that it was going to be County's night.
The match was being played almost exclusively in the Nairn half by this stage but despite their territorial domination, the home side just couldn't break down the part-timers backline. On one rare occasion when they did, Hart's low shot from 15-yards went woefully across goal and wide of the post for a goal-kick to relieve the growing pressure on the County defence.
Inverness could only succeed in creating one further chance, 14 minutes from time when a hopeful punt up the park sent Hart in on goal but his shot from 10-yards out was comfortably held by Campbell.
The full time whistle was greeted by celebration among the travelling County support who rose to applaud their side who had given their all to put Nairn in their second cup final in two years.
An excellent result for Les Fridge's men to get through to another cup final at the expense of their full-time opposition. With the final at the end of September, this success adds extra significance to this month with the Qualifying Cup clash with Deveronvale looming two weeks beforehand.
|John Campbell (GK)||26||5||-||20||-|
|Scott Nicholl (sub)||23||3||-||34||1|
|Wayne Mackintosh (sub)||18||3||-||25||-|
No league table has been added for this season.