4 - 0
Martin Johnson (24)
Kevin Tindal (65)
Martin Johnson (74)
Clark Bain (79)
John Beaton & Brian Wright
Barrie Stephen for Robbie Henderson (60)
Dean Lawrie for Kevin Webster (64)
Jerry O'Driscoll for Martin Johnson (79)
Marc MacDonald for Shaun Kerr (79)
Whoever decided it was a good idea to send Nairn County all the way to Aberdeen for a match on a Tuesday evening needs a serious reality check.
When the midweek fixtures were drawn up, County had as many as seven to fit into the schedule between now and the end of the season. But for some reason, Les Fridge's men were ordered to the furthest destination of them all in Cove Rangers for the very first re-arranged game.
The distance from ground-to-ground falls just within the Highland League's flawed 110-mile rule. But adding on the extra distance to places like Inverness and beyond - where most of the County squad is drawn from - then the distance is well exceeded. A possible solution would be for clubs to only play other clubs from the same regional FA on midweek dates.
Because Nairn had to depart so early to make it to Rainbow Taxis Park in time for the 8 pm kick off, Les Fridge was without eight members of his squad due to work commitments. Along with the injured Chris Finnigan, the manager had to do without Martin MacDonald, Willie Barron, Gary Black, Scott Graham, Steven Edwards, Callum Donaldson, Billy Horne and Graeme Stewart.
It meant the starting eleven pretty much picked itself as Andrea Coletto reverted to the more-familiar left back role as Gregg Main returned from suspension in the middle of the park. Stephen Skinner shifted into the middle of the defence while Scott Nicholl filled the vacancy at right back. John Campbell took over from Donaldson in goals and three youth team players - Craig Park, Murray Wilson and David Green - were named on the bench. And in a huge boost to the team, the in-form Lewis MacKinnon did NOT return to Australia yesterday as scheduled as he retained his place in attack for this one.
County competed well for the first hour of the match but the loss of three goals in 12 second half minutes sealed their fate.
The hosts took the lead when martin Johnston fired past the returning Campbell on 24 minutes to give the reigning league champions a half time advantage.
And they doubled their lead 20 minutes into the second half when Kevin Tindal diverted a Barrie Stephen beyond the reach of Campbell before Johnston grabbed his second of the night nine minutes later.
The scoring was rounded off 13 minutes from the end when Clark Bain fired home the goal of the night to wrap up the points for the home side.
The returning Campbell - playing for the first time since the away match at Fraserburgh in October - was tested early on Richie Livingstone fired a shot goalwards. But the former Hibernian shot stopper showed no sign of rustiness as he made a routine save.
County were containing their hosts well in the early stages and were neat in possession in the first two-thirds of the park. But a lack of attacking penetration left forwards Shaun Kerr and Lewis MacKinnon isolated in attack with the Cove defence rarely tested.
Livingstone was the danger man for Cove again on 23 minutes when he was teed by Johnston. But the ex-Peterhead man fired his shot wide of Campbell's goal.
Only one minute later though, the home side were in front. Kevin Webster raced down the left and sent in an inviting cross which was met by the head of Martin Johnston. The former Elgin City striker bulleted the ball into the ground and it bounced up and over the diving Campbell to put John Sheran's men ahead.
County continued to probe for an opening and Glenn Main's inviting cross was well taken by Cove goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie before the former Nairn St Ninian man sent Nairn's best chance of the game well off target.
The woodwork prevented Cove from doubling their lead on 41 minutes when Murray McCulloch's long throw found Robbie Henderson at the back post. The Cove striker's low drive hit Campbell's post and flew across the face of goal with Eric Watson only inches away from applying the finishing touch.
Campbell was called into action early on the second half when Paul Tosh met a Tindal free kick. But the Nairn goalkeeper got down well to his right to save the former Forfar Athletic forward's header.
Henderson then latched onto a Watson clearance and attempted to lift the ball over Campbell. The goalkeeper got a touch to the ball though and that took the sting out of the effort and allowed David Hind to race back and clear from the goal line.
The hosts doubled their lead on 65 minutes as they grabbed a killer second goal. Substitute Barrie Stephen fired a long-range free kick towards goal and the former Keith and Deveronvale winger's effort flicked off the head of Kevin Tindal leaving Campbell with no chance.
And it was three for the home side in the 74th minute as McCulloch hit the by-line on the right and cut the ball back to Martin Johnston. The Cove number nine then picked out the bottom corner with a well-placed shot from 10 yards to score his second of the game.
Cove rounded off the scoring on 79 minutes when Clark Bain smashed a long range, wind-assisted effort into the bottom corner of the net to seal the three points for the home side.
|John Campbell (GK)||29||15||-||98||-|
|Marc MacDonald (sub)||22||2||-||24||-|
No league table has been added for this season.