4 - 3
4 - 3
Brian Macleod (pen.) (23)
Shaun Kerr (30)
Gary Black (35)
Shaun Kerr (49)
Michael Mackenzie (33)
Steven Mackay (pen.) (41)
Martin MacDonald (o.g.) (73)
Andrea Coletto for Shaun Kerr (72)
Marc MacDonald for Gregg Main (84)
Tony Farquhar for Alan Dorrian (72)
Martyn Farquhar for Mark Kennedy (84)
James Murray for Michael Mackenzie (89)
Martin Sanderson (41)
John Campbell (40)
Gary Black (43)
Chris Finnigan (87)
Michael McNab (Referee)
A thrilling 90 minutes at Station Park saw eight-man Nairn County emerge with all three points from a game that had it all thanks to a second half display of true grit and a superb cameo from stand-in goalkeeper Steven Edwards.
It was all going so well for the home side when they went in front through Brian Macleod's penalty after Shaun Kerr was fouled in the box before Kerr himself added a second. Brora pulled one back but only a few minutes later, Garry Black's blockbuster restored Nairn's two-goal advantage and it was looking as if Nairn would romp to a convincing win. The match was turned on its head though when County goalkeeper John Campbell was sent off. So often the villain of the piece when red cards are dished out to Nairn players, Steven Edwards took over in goals and was the hero of the hour as he kept the visitors at bay. But he couldn't stop the resulting penalty though as Brora hauled themselves back into the proceedings immediately after Campbell's sending off. Then Black was given his marching orders only three minutes later. But County added a fourth goal after the break against the odds as Kerr grabbed his second of the day before Martin MacDonald's own goal halved Nairn's lead again.
The action wasn't over there though and Chris Finnigan became the third home player to be sent off when he was dismissed three minutes from the end. But Les Fridge's side clung on for a crucial win.
The manager was still without Duncan Jones and Wayne Mackintosh so made only one change to the team that was beaten by Deveronvale in midweek as Scott Graham dropped to the bench to make way for Kerr. Back-up goalkeeper Willie Ridgers was at a wedding so Darren Jarvie earned a place among the substitutes as County went with five outfielders on the bench.
The hosts came flying out of the traps and came close to opening the scoring inside the first few minutes. But less than 60 seconds on the clock, Gregg Main whipped in a corner from the left that found its way through to Willie Barron at the far post but his volley was deflected over for another corner. This time Main delivered from the right and he picked out Martin Sanderson at the near post but his low volley from 10 yards was hacked clear from the goal-line by the well-positioned Gary Macleod.
Barron came close again for the hosts three minutes into the game when he met a Finnigan cross from the right with a header that was parried by Brora goalkeeper Michael Gray before Macleod cleared the danger.
The visitors began to find their feet in the game after Nairn's flying start and forced several corners but the solid County defence prevented the Cattachs from creating any chances. And it was the home side who came close to breaking the deadlock again after 16 minutes when Gregg Main found himself in space 25 yards out but his right-footed drive drifted across goal and flashed over Gray's crossbar.
The hosts got the opener 23 minutes in when Brian Macleod's cross from the left found Kerr in the box. He flicked the ball past former Nairn man Mark Smith before spinning the Brora defender who then sent Kerr sprawling to the deck. Referee Michael McNab pointed to the spot and Macleod stepped up to drill home from 12 yards.
The hosts almost doubled their lead three minutes later and the move began from the most unlikliest of sources. Martin MacDonald was attempting to clear his lines and sent a long punt up the park that put Chris Finnigan in on goal. The former Elgin City man wanted too many touches though and Gray races from his goal-line and collected the ball at the Nairn forward's feet.
Kerr grabbed his 12th goal of the season on the half-hour mark as County doubled their lead. Gregg Main's corner from the right was headed clear to Steven Edwards who was lurking at the edge of the box. He took the ball down before firing a 22-yard shot goalwards. The defender's effort was going past the post until Kerr stuck a leg out to divert it past the wrong-footed Gray and into the net from eight yards.
Brora halved the deficit with their first attempt on goal in the 33rd minute. They won a soft free kick on the right after Mackay went to ground easily on the right under pressure from Sanderson. Mackay himself took the set piece and his low ball into the box was bundled home by Michael Mackenzie from six yards with the Nairn defence left wanting.
County were inches away from grabbing their third goal only a minute later when Macleod's cross from the right was met by a thunderous left-foot volley from Shaun Kerr but his 15-yard effort came crashing back off the crossbar with Gray rooted to the spot.
Ten minutes before the interval though the hosts did re-establish their two-goal lead. Edwards' cross from the right was headed clear to Garry Black who took the ball down on his chest and sent a sumptuous volley into the top right hand corner of the net to open his account for the club in stunning style.
But the game was turned on its head five minutes before the break when Campbell was dismissed. Mackay knocked the ball past the County 'keeper and was clipped. The contact was minimal but it was still enough to send the Brora midfielder sprawling to the deck and referee McNab pointed to the spot. To make matters worse for Nairn, the whistler then showed Campbell the red card for a last man challenge despite Garry Black racing to cover. With no goalkeeper on the bench, Edwards took over in goals but he couldn't keep out Mackay's penalty as Brora grabbed themselves a lifeline.
Things went from bad to worse for County three minutes later when then were reduced to nine men as Black was shown a straight red card for lashing out at a Brora midfielder off the ball.
County regrouped at the interval as they looked to preserve their one-man advantage but the expected onslaught of the Nairn goal early on in the second half failed to materialise. And it was the hosts who came more and more into the game as they grew in confidence and looked to strike on the counter attack. Indeed it was Les Fridge's side who scored the next goal against the odds as their hard work and endeavour paid off. Kerr epitomised what Nairn were all about in the second half as he harried Brora defender Graeme Mackenzie and caught him in possession. County's top scorer stabbed the ball back to Gregg Main from the halfway line and the Nairn midfielder threaded a great through ball that sent Kerr in on goal. The former Clach man showed great strength to hold fend off Mackenzie and Mark Smith before rolling the ball past Gray from 15 yards. The goal sparked mass celebrations in the Nairn ranks as all players including goalkeeper Edwards and the substitutes mobbed scorer Kerr.
It was the home side who were back on the attack in the 65th minute when Finnigan raced away from Smith down the right and cut inside onto his left foot but his 20-yard shot sailed over the bar.
Five minutes later, Glenn Main picked out Kerr with a throw-in from the right. County's goal hero got turned in the box but he screwed his shot from 15 yards straight at Gray.
The tired legs in the County side started to show as Brora finally began to make their numerical advantage count. And they grabbed a goal back in the 73rd minute in somewhat fortunate circumstances when Mackay crossed from the right. Edwards was on the verge of punching the ball clear when it took a nick off the head of Martin MacDonald and flashed into the net.
Edwards then came to his side's rescue 10 minutes from the end when he made a sensational save. Mackay was unmarked in the box and collected a high ball into the danger area. The Highland League select midfielder took the ball on his chest before smashing a volley goalwards. The youngster couldn't have caught his shot any better and it seemed destined for the net until Edwards made a magnificent reaction block to maintain County's lead.
The home side were then unbelievably reduced to just eight men in the 87th minute when Chris Finnigan was shown the third straight red card of the match after a heavy challenge on the right touchline. It seemed harsh on the former Inverness CT youngster who got a lot of the ball but did go through the back of the Brora man
Edwards again kept the hosts in front, this time in injury time. County fans had their hearts in their mouths as Macleod launched a high cross from the right into a crowded penalty area that looped towards the back post. But County's make shift goalkeeper came through a clutch of bodies and somehow managed to grab the ball and hold onto it under severe pressure. Nairn defender Martin Sanderson was injured in the scramble and Edwards knocked the ball out for a throw-in so that his team-mate could receive treatment. But unsporting Brora incurred the wrath of the home support when they refused to give the ball back to their hosts. It wasn't to matter though as County clung on for the three points that takes their tally for the season up to the 30-mark.
|John Campbell (GK)||28||30||-||79||-|
|Andrea Coletto (sub)||24||5||-||11||-|
|Marc MacDonald (sub)||21||7||-||21||-|
No league table has been added for this season.