3 - 3
Jamie Watt (41)
Kevin Webster (60)
Robbie Henderson (81)
Brian Macleod (31)
Brian Macleod (pen.) (36)
|Robbie Henderson for Jerry O'Driscoll (53)||
Andrea Coletto for Darren Jarvie (63)
Scott Nicholl for Wayne Mackintosh (71)
Gregg Main (22)
Scott Nicholl (89)
David Watt (Referee)
This Nairn County side are making a habit of not doing things in half measures. A thrilling 4-3 win over Brora Rangers was followed up by this equally enthralling 3-3 draw away at league leaders Cove Rangers, a result which is all the more impressive considering that Les Fridge had a virtual shadow squad to choose from.
The manager will be a relieved man that his team have finally found their scoring touch. A lack of goals has dogged County all season long but the side have now netted seven in the last two games. A solid base has been the foundation of Nairn's success so far this campaign and if the team can shore things up at the back after conceding six in their last two outings then there is every chance they can go into the summer break on the back of somewhat of a flourish.
Fridge was without the suspended John Campbell, Gary Black and Chris Finnigan - all sent off in that win over Brora - while Johnathon Holland, Duncan Jones and Steven Edwards were ruled out with injury and illness. The boss' worries were further compounded when he was robbed of the services of captain Willie Barron who had work commitments. There was one boost though as Wayne Mackintosh passed a late fitness test and returned to take his place in the midfield engine room. Willie Ridgers made his first start for the club as he replaced Campbell between the sticks and Stephen Skinner came into the defence to make his first appearance since the 5-0 defeat at Clach in February. Darren Jarvie played on the left hand side of the five-man midfield while Scott Graham returned to partner Shaun Kerr in attack. There were places on the substitutes bench for Neil MacDonald and the injury-plagued Scott Nicholl, who has been ruled out since undergoing an ankle operation in July.
Nairn made a lively start to the match and only a timely intervention from home defender Grant Fraser prevented top scorer Shaun Kerr from pulling the trigger after the former Clach man had burst into the box.
Cove's first chance arrived with 19 minutes on the clock and it came about because of some hesitancy in the Nairn defence. Ridgers and Skinner both left a loose ball on the right of the Nairn box for each other to clear and it resulted in Jamie Watt poking the ball free. Skinner hauled him to the deck but Paul Coutts sent the following free kick flashing across goal and past the far post.
County continued to give as good as they got and were back on the attack two minutes later. A short corner from the right found Mackintosh lurking with menace at the edge of the box but his 22-yard drive flew over Cove goalkeeper Lee Windrum's crossbar by a matter of inches.
Strike pairing Graham and Kerr then linked up well to create Nairn's next chance of the game as the former sprinted down the left channel and crossed for the latter but Kerr went for power over precision and blasted straight at Windrum from 15 yards.
The opening goal arrived a minute after the half-hour mark and the league leaders can have no complaints that it fell Nairn's way. Glenn Main showed great commitment to win a tackle on the halfway line wide on the right and he fed Mackintosh down the touchline. He then intelligently pulled the ball back to the edge of the penalty box - instead of delivering the expected cross into the box - where Brian Macleod was on hand to rifle a first time shot beyond the despairing Windrum and high into the roof of the net.
The visitors could have indeed doubled their lead only four minutes later when Graham's cross from the left was met by Martin MacDonald but his header flashed over the crossbar.
But that second goal did arrive nine minutes before the break though as Nairn put themselves firmly in control of proceedings. Graham raced down the left into the box and cut back inside from the by-line. He was duly tripped by Cove right back Clark Bain and referee David Watt pointed to the spot. Macleod was coolest man inside Rainbow Taxis Park as he stepped up to stroke home from 12 yards sending Windrum the wrong way.
Nairn were well-positioned to be in control of the game at the halfway stage but a lack of communication at the back handed Cove a valuable lifeline in the 41st minute. A hopeful long ball out of the Cove defence looked destined to sail through into the welcoming arms of Ridgers. But Martin Sanderson tried to help it on although his head flick sent the ball wide of the goal. Ridgers couldn't get across quick enough to prevent the corner and from the resulting flag kick, the home side halved deficit.
Although Nairn punted the first delivery wide to the Cove right, the second ball into the box found the feet of Jerry O'Driscoll. He pulled the ball across the face of goal where Watt was unmarked to fire high into the net.
The anticipated second half onslaught from the home side never materialised in the early stages of the second half and it was Nairn who first came close to scoring and re-establishing their two-goal advantage. Graham's shot took a heavy off Fraser that wrong-footed Windrum but the ball spun inches past the goalkeeper's right hand post.
Cove managed to get a grip of things and impose themselves on the half as Barrie Stephen and Richie Livingstone both fired wide before John Sheran's men found a levelled on the hour-mark. Kevin Webster got goal-side of Darren Jarvie on Cove's right and the former Arbroath man advanced towards goal before keeping his cool to slot under Ridgers.
The home side now looked favourites to go on and claim all three points to complete an incredible turnaround but plucky County had other ideas. The ever-changing weather had again gone from sunshine to snowstorms meaning the orange ball was required. And in its five minutes on the park, Nairn grabbed the lead again. Kerr trapped a high ball in the left channel and jinked inside Fraser before wriggling past another Cove defender and smashing a 15-yard shot into the top corner making the buoyant Nairn fans delirious once again.
County had shocked their hosts to the core as they led with only nine minutes remaining and Cove's title challenge was in serious danger of being dealt a major blow. But the Nairn joy was somewhat short-lived as the home side drew level only two minutes after Kerr's strike. The County defence could only partially clear a long ball into the box and Robbie Henderson collected on the left to smash home and bring his side level again.
Cove threw bodies forward in search of a winner but the Nairn defence stood strong. But when referee Watt awarded the home side a free kick only 20 yards from goal, the County minds flashed back to the Highland League Cup tie between the two sides in March. On that occasion, Paul Coutts stepped up to curl home an exquisite set piece but on this occasion he was out of range by only a matter of inches as he fired over the crossbar.
The hosts were becoming increasingly desperate and when they won a corner in the dying minutes, the visiting support held its collective breath. Stephen's delivery into the box was poked goalwards by O'Driscoll but Martin Sanderson was in the right place at the right time to hack clear from the goal line. Despite the full time whistle seeming to take an eternity to arrive, it was to be Cove's final chance to snatch a winner as County claimed a deserved share of the spoils.
|William Ridgers (GK)||23||2||-||2||-|
|Scott Nicholl (sub)||24||1||-||42||1|
|Andrea Coletto (sub)||24||6||-||12||-|
No league table has been added for this season.