2 - 1
2 - 1
Duncan Jones (54)
Shaun Kerr (57)
|Martin Wood (85)|
Wayne Mackintosh for Scott Graham (54)
Willie Barron for Shaun Kerr (72)
Chris Finnigan for Duncan Jones (82)
Stuart Walker for Wayne Mackay (11)
Graham Logie for Phil McCall (54)
Jamie Lennox for Michael Fyfe (64)
Gregg Main (22)
Stephen Skinner (35)
Shaun Kerr (58)
Gary Black (87)
Gregg Main (51)
An impressive 2-1 victory over a Keith side looking for a second league championship in three years gave Nairn County the perfect boost going into next week's massive North of Scotland Cup final match against Inverness CT as they continued their run of form in what is being billed as "Grand Slam September" for the club.
After putting Clach to the sword in one of the club's most eagerly awaited league fixtures last week and that final and a huge Scottish Cup match in Edinburgh coming up, this game may have been seen to be the one which was of least importance. But the significance of this victory cannot be understated as it hoists Les Fridge's side up to joint top in the Highland League table as well as signalling County's intentions of challenging the Aberdeenshire clubs' dominance of the league.
The manager kept faith with the same starting eleven who racked up that 4-1 win over Clach seven days ago. In fact, he kept the whole squad the same which meant Wayne Mackintosh and Willie Barron again had to settle for a place among the substitutes.
The final outcome of the game looked far from becoming a reality however in the 51st minute when County were reduced to 10 men after Gregg Main received a second yellow card. But this only seemed to spur the hosts on and they opened the scoring through Duncan Jones only three minutes after the dismissal. Incredibly, the home side doubled their advantage three minutes later when the prolific Shaun Kerr netted. But Martin Wood pulled a goal back five minutes from time for the visitors to set up a nervy finale but Nairn held on to pick up a deserved three points.
It took until the 13th minute before there was any goalmouth action when Kerr wriggled free of the visiting defence and was baring down on goal before he managed to clip the ball over the diving Andy Shearer but his effort was headed off the line.
Nairn's number nine then tested Shearer from distance but the goalkeeper was equal to it as he pushed it round his post for a corner.
Gregg Main found himself in trouble with referee Kerrigan when he was booked for a crude challenge from behind on Michael Fyfe in the 23rd minute.
Keith really should have gone in front 10 minutes later when a mistake by Billy Horne let in Fyfe but he could only shoot weakly at John Campbell.
The visitors were now beginning to make their mark on the game and a hopeful ball into the Nairn box after 40 minutes found Derek Nicol unmarked but his powerful drive from 16 yards went past the post with Campbell well beaten and not a home defender in sight.
This spurred the hosts into action and a fine cross by Jones was met by the head of Scott Graham but an impressive tip over the bar by Shearer prevented the home side taking a half time lead.
The second half was only two minutes old when Gary Black was unlucky to see a pile driving shot fly past Shearer's right hand post.
At the other end, Campbell had his fingers warmed by a rasping shot from Dean Donaldson as The Maroons pushed for the opener.
A late tackle by Main saw the Nairn man shown a second yellow card in the 51st minute and it looked then like it was going to be a long half for County. But being a man down seemed to galvanise the home side and they begun turning the game on its head when some great play by Kerr saw his close range effort blocked by Shearer. As the visitors struggled to clear, the ball broke to Jones who slotted home from close range to the delight of the home fans in the 54th minute.
Nairn sent on local lad Mackintosh for Graham as they tried to tighten up the midfield but they went on to stun their visitors even further in the 57th minute. A long Martin MacDonald clearance out of defence was chased down by the ever-willing Kerr. He went past the last Keith defender as if he wasn't there and coolly stroked the ball past the wrong-footed Shearer.
Keith were now desperate to get back into the game and threw caution to the wind as they attacked Nairn at every opportunity.
County replaced goal hero Kerr with returning captain Willie Barron before the visitors came close to pulling one back in the 80th minute. Donaldson met a corner full on but his luck was out as his header skimmed the top of the Nairn crossbar.
Barron really should have put the game to bed a minute later when he latched onto a through ball and found himself one-on-one with Shearer but after rounding the goalkeeper, his goal bound effort was scrambled round the post by a desperate Mark Perry lunge.
This miss could have proved costly when a poor defensive header by Horne landed at the feet of Wood who struck a beauty from all of 22 yards into the postage stamp five minutes from time.
Alarm bells were beginning to sound in the home defence as Keith pushed for an equaliser but it was Nairn who should have really added to their tally late on. Brian Macleod twice found himself through on goal but was twice denied by the diving Shearer, without whom Keith would have been dead and buried long before referee Kerrigan blew the final whistle.
But in the end it was a fine win for County, which sees them sit proudly joint top of the league table. Thoughts now turn to next Sunday's cup final against Inverness CT and manager Fridge has the nice problem of selecting from a squad brimming with confidence. With Gregg Main still available for that game despite his red card, and Kerr and Graham on form up front, the questions on the fans' lips as the joyously filtered out of Station Park after this win were will Barron start, and will Mackintosh get the nod?
|John Campbell (GK)||28||9||-||92||-|
|Wayne Mackintosh (sub)||20||5||1||87||5|
|Willie Barron (sub)||27||4||1||187||48|
|Chris Finnigan (sub)||22||6||-||29||3|
No league table has been added for this season.