2 - 2
Mark Perry (29)
Gary Harris (34)
Shaun Kerr (2)
Shaun Kerr (40)
Kris Downing for Sean Keith (60)
Danny Tritton for Jonathon Watt (80)
Gary Nicol for Darren Still (81)
Scott Nicholl for Billy Horne (46)
Marc MacDonald for Shaun Kerr (72)
Derek Nicol (85)
Graham Lonie (89)
Scott Nicholl (58)
Andrea Coletto (83)
Roddy Cobb (Referee)
If last week was a case of two points dropped for Nairn County then today was certainly one gained as Les Fridge's side battled their way to a share of the spoils at Kynoch Park.
County were rocked last week by Deveronvale's two late goals at Station Park following Gregg Main's red card. But this time out Nairn showed grit and resolve to earn themselves a deserved share of the spoils to all but kill of their hosts' title aspirations.
It was a depleted squad that manager Fridge had to pick a team from for this match - and the boss will have even more selection problems to contend with ahead of Tuesday's trip to Cove Rangers. Gregg Main missed out because of suspension while Willie Barron was unavailable because of work commitments. Steven Edwards has been linked with a move to Elgin City and was not in today's squad and that along with Gary Black's ongoing absence meant that Andrea Coletto partnered Wayne Mackintosh in the middle of the park. Glenn Main played on the right of midfield while Billy Horne came straight back into the team at left back. Graeme Stewart, Scott Nicholl and the recently recalled Marc Macdonald filled the vacancies on the bench.
County made a flying start to the game as they took the lead with less than two minutes on the clock. The prolific Shaun Kerr was on the man profiting from Keith's sloppy start to the game but from then on it was the hosts who dictated play throughout the first half. And it was no surprise when the Maroons levelled as Mark Perry netted from close range.
Martin Allan's men went in front for the first time from the penalty spot when David Hind fouled Stuart Walker in the box. But Nairn were level before the break as Kerr netted his second of the game following a good passing move involving Main and Brian Macleod.
County were in front with just over one minute on the clock. Coletto picked out the advancing Horne with a ball out to the left. He knocked it forward to Macleod who cut inside and clipped and in-swinging cross over the home defence. The ball was perfectly controlled by the unmarked Shaun Kerr who took one touch before stroking a low shot under Keith goalkeeper Barry Warwick and into the far corner of the net.
The hosts looked to respond on eight minutes when Sean Keith clipped the ball into the box and Mark Perry raced in to stab a shot at goal. But his effort was blocked by Nairn goalkeeper Callum Donaldson at the expense of a corner.
Four minutes later, Keith were back on the attack when Gary Harris played a neat one-two with Michael Fyfe. Midfielder Harris received the return ball but saw his angled drive held by Donaldson.
Coletto was caught in possession in the middle of the park on 14 minutes by Fyfe. The Keith wide man raced forward and cut the ball back toward Keith from the by-line. But Donaldson managed to nick the ball of the home forward's toes at the front post.
County were inches away from doubling their lead four minutes later when Main sent in a speculative cross from deep on the left only to see his delivery bounce off the top of the crossbar before being cleared.
The hosts were back on the attack a minute later when Keith crossed from the left. But Walker's near post header went well over Donaldson's bar.
The Kynoch Park side should really have drawn level on 25 minutes though. Billy Horne's poor free kick forward found only Keith feet and the ball was cleared as far as County defender Martin MacDonald. The former Brora Rangers man - who impressed throughout the game - could only boot the ball off the advancing Keith. The young forward raced in on goal but under pressure from Stephen Skinner, he could only place his close range shot past the left hand post.
Keith continued to put pressure on the Nairn goal three minutes later when Horne was dispossessed in the middle of the park leaving MacDonald exposed at the back. The Nairn centre half managed to shepherd Fyfe out to the right wing but his curling, left-footed shot from 18 yards glanced just past the far post.
The hosts finally drew level on 29 minutes. Harris broke down the left as Nairn were left three versus three at the back. The Keith man hit the by line and then cut the ball back to the advancing Mark Perry - whose run hadn't been tracked. The former Dundee United and Aberdeen man was unmarked as he stroked home Keith's equaliser from six yards.
And five minutes later, the home side were in front for the first time in the afternoon. A Coletto slip allowed a simple through-ball find Walker in the box. He knocked the ball past Hind and went to ground very easily as he brushed past the former Elgin City captain. But referee Roddy Cobb pointed to the spot and Gary Harris stepped up to stroke the ball into the bottom left hand corner.
Despite being under pressure for the majority of the half, County always looked dangerous on the counter but it was still a surprise when they struck back five minutes before the break. A neat passing move started when Main played the ball down the line on the right to Kerr. He then knocked it inside to Macleod and made the run past Nairn's stand-in captain. Macleod picked out the run of County's top scorer, taking out the last defender in the process. Suddenly Shaun Kerr was in on goal and he made no mistake as he despatched the ball into the top right hand corner.
And County could have taken a lead in with them at the break if referee Cobb had pointed to the spot when Main was tripped in the penalty area. But the man in the middle waved away Nairn's appeals.
Keith looked to increase their lead on 48 minutes when Harris found some space 20 yards from goal but his shot - under pressure from Hind - went well over the top.
Five minutes into the half, a free kick forward by half time substitute Scott Nicholl was headed down to Kerr by Lewis MacKinnon. But only a flying block from Keith utility man Derek Nicol denied the Nairn man his hat-trick as the Maroons top scorer threw himself in front of the ball.
Keith were back on the attack on 53 minutes when Walker tried his luck with an effort from 15 yards out on the right. But the home side's forward's shot flashed across goal and wide of the far post.
The home side continued to dominate possession-wise but Nairn's dogged resistance kept the 2006-07 Highland League champions at bay. Martin Allan's men just could not carve open any real opportunities and were restricted to long range pot shots. This was perfectly demonstrated after 64 minutes when captain Darren Still's left-footed shot from 22 yards drifted well over Donaldson's goal.
Nairn continued to weather the Keith storm though and started to pose the hosts problems of their own. After 68 minutes, a Main throw-in from the right found Wayne Mackintosh on the right edge of the penalty area. The Nairn midfielder chested the ball down but saw his subsequent shot fly into the side netting.
A knock picked up by Shaun Kerr saw him replaced by Marc Macdonald, who has just returned to the club following a fruitful loan spell at Highland League new boys Strathspey Thistle. The former youth team captain played on the right of midfield with Main moving forward to partner MacKinnon in attack. And it was the ex-Nairn St Ninian man who came close to re-establishing County's lead on 73 minutes. Macleod played the ball inside from the left to the County utility man who then beat a Keith defender. But his low shot from 16 yards was held by Warwick who had dived smartly to his right.
Both sides looked to win it with high free kicks on into the box but no clear cut chances were forthcoming. In fact, the closest either team came to snatching a winner in the dying stages was when Keith substitute Danny Tritton's left-footed effort from 22 yards in the 93rd minute flew well wide of goal as County clung on for a deserved point.
|Callum Donaldson (GK)||23||11||-||16||-|
|Scott Nicholl (sub)||25||2||-||44||1|
|Marc MacDonald (sub)||22||1||-||23||-|
No league table has been added for this season.