1 - 0
|Gary Weir (pen.) (90)||None.|
Jonathan Holland for Duncan Jones (56)
Scott Graham for Willie Barron (70)
William Ridgers for John Campbell (79)
|Craig Shearer (29)||None.|
Brian Macleod (90)
Jason Hasson (Referee)
A last-minute penalty proved to be enough for Wick Academy to claim all three points against an off-the-boil Nairn County at a barely-playable Harmsworth Park. It was County's first fixture for six long weeks due to postponements and having a free Saturday and it showed as Les Fridge's side looked cumbersome and laboured on the extremely heavy and boggy surface.
Both Scott Graham and Chris Finnigan dropped to the bench from the side that last played on December 8. Duncan Jones came straight back into the team, Shaun Kerr was promoted from the substitutes and Glenn Main was omitted from the squad. There were also debuts for midfielder Jonathon Holland and goalkeeper Willie Ridgers as second half substitutes.
Fridge opted to revert back to the more familiar 3-5-2 formation for this fixture but an early tactical change which saw Martin MacDonald pushed up front meant this become an unusual 2-5-3 set up for long periods of the match.
County made the more positive start to the game playing down the Harmsworth Hill - and into the pools and bogs at the bottom. Wayne Mackintosh struggled to find his range with two shots from 20 yards out in the first 10 minutes that both sailed comfortably over the crossbar. Then Steven Edwards controlled a Wick clearance some 25 yards out before unleashing a volley that looped just over the top.
It took 28 minutes for the first bit of real football to be played in this scrappy affair and with it Nairn managed to carve open the home defence. Shaun Kerr played a perfectly-weighted pass down the right into the path of Willie Barron who sent a low ball across the face of goal Martin MacDonald. But the former Brora man could only side-foot his 10-yard effort straight at goalkeeper James More who had a comfortable save after the puddles had taken all of the sting out of the Nairn man's effort.
Wick were the width of the crossbar away from opening the scoring two minutes later. Craig Shearer out jumped Steven Edwards to meet a high free-kick into the box from the centre-circle and his looping header bounced off the top of the crossbar to the relief of the visitors.
A minute before the break, the hosts squandered a great chance to take a lead in with them at the break. Wideman Richard MacAdie sprung the Nairn offside trap and raced towards goal before unselfishly squaring the ball across goal to Gary Weir. The pass had taken John Campbell out of the game and all the Wick striker had to do was roll the ball home. But somehow he managed to miss the target completely as he scooped the ball over the bar with Gregg Main desperately racing back for Nairn.
The home side almost took full advantage of playing downhill in the second half five minutes after the restart when MacAdie's shot was spilled behind by Campbell at the expense of a corner. Then three minutes later, MacAdie almost turned provider when he evaded the attentions of Main and Mackintosh on the left to pick out Martin Gunn inside. The Wick skipper was in acres of space some 22 yards from goal but mis-fired with his low shot, sending it wide of Campbell's left post.
Home goalkeeper More kept his side level in the 55th minute when he denied Martin MacDonald. The County utility man had been picked out by Shaun Kerr and with his back to goal, he spun the defender and crashed a right-footed shot from 12 yards shot that seemed destined for the net at the near post until the Scorries' shotstopper dived across and parried it around the post.
A minute later, Nairn were back on the attack and at this stage looked far more likely to make the breakthrough. Brian Macleod delivered a perfectly-flighted cross from the right that looped over the head of defender Alan Sinclair at the back post and found Shaun Kerr. But agonisingly for County's top scorer, his header came back off the crossbar and the ball was cleared.
Jonathon Holland almost made an instant impact three minutes after his 56th minute introduction as he played in Kerr on the left channel but the Nairn striker tried to beat More at the near post and his effort was smothered by the goalkeeper.
The hosts tested Campbell again four minutes after the hour mark when Gary Manson whipped in an inviting ball from the left that Weir met with a bullet header at the front post it was straight at the Nairn goalkeeper.
Campbell had to be alert in the 73rd to deny the home side again when Bryan McKiddie played in MacAdie down the left. The goalkeeper raced from his line to narrow the angle and block the Wick winger's close range shot with his legs. It was to be Campbell's last save of the match as he struggled to shake off a knock picked up soon-after and was later replaced.
The game was developing an exciting cup tie feel to it as both sides chased the win but it led to the diminishing of quality on display in what was already a scrappy and ugly affair with both teams resorting to booting the ball from one end to the other. And it was in Nairn's favour that play swung in the 78th minute when Macleod's cross from the left picked out Kerr at the back post. The striker controlled well but instead of pulling the trigger, he then tried to step inside his marker which gave the goalkeeper that crucial second or two to get his positioning correct to be able to block the shot that followed.
The home shotstopper then made a superb block four minutes later to keep things level when Martin MacDonald latched on to a long ball over the top of the Wick defence. His low shot was creeping in at the near post but More dived to his left to tip the ball wide.
Then in the 85th minute, County finally beat the on-form More when Mackintosh worked the angle for a low shot 25 yards out. However, his powerful drive flew past the keeper's right hand post by a matter of inches.
But disaster struck for Nairn in the first minute of injury time as the hosts snatched all three points. It all started when Gunn played in MacAdie on the left but his angled drive was kept out by an excellent parry by substitute goalkeeper Willie Ridgers at the front post. The ball broke to Martin Sanderson who seemed content to guard it for Ridgers to come and collect. But the Nairn defender was wrestled off the ball by MacAdie who stabbed it free and the loose ball broke to Gary Weir.
He lifted it goalwards and past the now-stranded Ridgers but he was denied by Brian Macleod on the goal line, who deflected the ball over the crossbar with his hand. It left referee Jason Hasson no option but to point the penalty spot red card the Nairn man, but if the official had been more eagle-eyed he may have seen a foul on Sanderson in the build up to the sending off incident. Weir stepped up to send Ridgers the wrong way from 12 yards and secure all three points for the home side and condemn Nairn to their second defeat in a row.
|John Campbell (GK)||28||20||-||69||-|
|William Ridgers (sub) (GK)||23||1||-||1||-|
|Jonathan Holland (sub)||29||1||-||1||-|
|Scott Graham (sub)||20||9||1||9||1|
No league table has been added for this season.