2 - 2
2 - 2
Lewis Mackinnon (35)
Shaun Kerr (70)
Mark Chisholm (86)
Mike McKenzie (90)
Steven Edwards for Shaun Kerr (88)
John Coutts for Robbie Duncanson (69)
Paul Urquhart for Steve Dolan (69)
Mike McKenzie for Darren McAlister (80)
Gregg Main (26)
Brian Macleod (37)
Wayne Mackintosh (73)
David Hind (82)
Steven Edwards (90)
Kenny Gilbert (38)
Gary McGowan (40)
Darren McAlister (70)
Gregg Main (85)
||Gary McGowan (60)|
David Watt (Referee)
Both sets of supporters must have trooped out of Station Park scratching their heads and wondering what they had just witnessed after this league match between Nairn County and Deveronvale. The home fans would have been frustrated at their side's inability to hold onto a two-goal lead with five minutes to go. Meanwhile, the travelling support must have wondered how their team could have played so poorly yet nearly take all three points following Gregg Main's late red card for Nairn.
On reflection, the County support would have settled for a share of the points before kickoff. But to be two goals up with just five minutes to go and only draw the game is poor in anyone's book.
Vale are a good team and Nairn haven't played in weeks but that can be no excuse for the way the home side finished the game. And with Main already walking a tightrope having been booked in the first half, the home fans were bemused and frustrated to see him left on the park at 2-0 up before his 85th minute sending off. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but if only Nairn had replaced the 22-year-old buzz-bomb with a more defensive-minded player such as Steven Edwards, Paul Macleod or even Glenn Main to see the game out they would have been home and hosed.
Home boss Les Fridge gave David Hind a home debut while Andrea Coletto came in at left back for the injured Scott Nicholl. The manager also stuck with Shaun Kerr and Lewis MacKinnon in attack, which is now looking like a good, hard-working partnership. But with MacKinnon due to fly back to Australia shortly it will be a short-lived relationship. Meanwhile, there was no place in the squad for utility man Gary Black who missed out officially because of work commitments despite persisting reports of a bust-up with team mates last weekend.
County weathered an early storm and went on to open the scoring ten minutes before half time thanks to form man MacKinnon's strike. Things got worse for the visitors when they were reduced to ten men on the hour mark - Gary McGowan received a second yellow card. And Nairn looked to have made the points save when talisman Kerr struck with only 20 minutes left. But Gregg Main's red card for a second bookable offence five minutes from time was the catalyst for the home side's collapse.
The Vale halved the deficit when Mark Chisholm netted moments after Main's dismissal, three minutes from time. And County's misery was compounded when Mike McKenzie struck in injury time to haul the visitors level in the most unlikely of circumstances.
The park looked in great condition after a lengthy rest due to the winter weather - this was only Nairn's second home game since November 8. But the game was hampered at times due to a strong wind which was blowing from one end of the pitch to the other.
And it was the wind which helped create Deveronvale's first chance on seven minutes. New boy Hind misjudged a high ball in the box, cushioning it straight into the path of Graeme Watt. But the Vale winger's rasping shot from a tight angle flew past Callum Donaldson's goal.
It was all hands to the pump for Nairn in the early stages as the visitors forced them onto the back foot in an attempt to get an early goal.
Gary Clark's effort from 30 yards looked destined for the net only for Donaldson to be in the right place at the right time to comfortably gather. Looking back on the game, this was to be as much of a goal threat as Vale posed until late in the second half.
Nairn probed forward when Gregg Main had Jamie Blanchard in the Vale goal at full stretch to tip his shot past for a corner with MacKinnon waiting to pounce on any slip up by the goalkeeper.
Kenny Gilbert lined up a Deveronvale free kick which looked to be awarded 30 yards from goal. But by the time the former Ross County full back placed the ball, it was no further than the 18-yard line. But justice was done when his weak shot trundled past the post to the cheers of the home support.
County were back on the attack when Willie Barron played a ball into MacKinnon's feet wide on the right. The big striker did well to hold off a challenge and drive in a shot-come-cross. Kerr managed to slide in and get the slightest of touches on his strike partner's effort, prodding it goalwards. But to the leading scorer's dismay, Blanchard dived low and gathered the ball on the goal line.
By now, Nairn had well and truly weathered the storm and were starting to take a grip of the game. And they broke the deadlock on 35 minutes when MacKinnon netted his fifth goal in six games since returning to the club. Brian Macleod's pass was met by Main who looked as though he was about to turn and have a dig at goal, only for Lewis MacKinnon to appear out of nowhere and blast it past the rooted Blanchard.
Nairn were within a fingertip of doubling their lead on 48 minutes when a high ball into the Deveronvale box was headed on by MacKinnon. The on-rushing Kerr met it first time but Blanchard somehow managed to tip the ball over the crossbar for a corner.
The game then went through a quiet stage with neither side producing any attacking play. But things went from bad to worse for the visitors on 60 minutes when McGowan, who had already been booked for a bad tackle, picked up another yellow card for a similar offence and was despatched to the dressing room by referee David Watt.
Nairn knew they had victory in sight and started to dominate the play once again and it was no surprise when they established a two-goal lead on 70 minutes. Main cleverly chested down a Macleod cross into the perfect position for Shaun Kerr to stroke the ball past the stranded Blanchard for his 14th goal of the season.
The hosts pushed for more goals and in the 73rd minute a corner landed at the feet of Hind. But instead of shooting, he opted to lay the ball off for Macleod, whose weak effort posed the visiting rearguard no real problems.
Kerr was then sent through on goal but his attempt to lob Blanchard was poor and easily mopped up by the Deveronvale goalkeeper.
With a two-goal cushion against 10 men and only five minutes left to play, surely Nairn were about to add three points to their tally. But things were about to go oh so wrong for the home side.
It started on 85 minutes when Main was shown his second yellow of the day for a late challenge and the teams were level numbers again.
The visitors were looking for a lifeline as they forced corner after corner. After several fruitless deliveries, the ball landed at the feet of captain Mark Chisholm. The former Highland League Player of the Year prodded the ball through a ruck of players and into the Nairn net giving Vale hope of snatching something from what had looked like a definite lost cause.
Nairn then made their first sub of the afternoon when Fridge replaced Kerr with Edwards in hope of shoring up what now looked a nervous and shaky team.
But Vale could smell blood and started to throw everything at Nairn. And they were rewarded when comeback man Mike McKenzie rifled an unstoppable shot past Donaldson from a very tight angle to level things up a minute into time added on.
Nairn were well and truly rattled by this stage and Vale searched for a dramatic winner. They very nearly got it seconds before the final whistle when a Chisholm header crept inches past the County goal.
But there was to be no further drama and despite looking like one point gained on paper, the County camp must surely have felt bitterly disappointed at the manner in which they threw away the lead. And the Nairn supporters that left at 2-0 must have had a vision of what was to come.
|Callum Donaldson (GK)||23||10||-||15||-|
|Steven Edwards (sub)||27||18||-||138||3|
No league table has been added for this season.