0 - 2
0 - 2
Stuart Soane (56)
Scott Garrett (84)
John Beaton & Brian Wright
Scott Nicholl for Lewis Mackinnon (71)
Kevin Lonie for Dale Lucas (38)
Scott Garrett for Greig Lamberty (58)
Michael Morrison for Michele Lombardi (70)
Gregg Main (35)
Stephen Skinner (89)
It was the sort of game the County faithful feared they would be in store for once their side went out of the Highland League Cup at Inverurie.
With nothing left to play for apart from pride and the odd league position, Nairn's season is in grave danger of petering out with a whimper. In years to come when the 2008-09 campaign is looked back on, there will be a few highlights that immediately spring to mind. The North of Scotland Cup final win, the run to that cup semi final two weeks ago. One memory that will be near the bottom of the pile at the moment though will be the way the league season ended. But with no showpiece final at the end of it all to look forward to and for the players to impress ahead of, County are finding it difficult to raise their game to the levels which they are used to reaching. And with the Wick juggernaut seeming steaming towards the top North spot in the league, it has left Nairn with even less to play for in their remaining two games.
Going into this one, County knew they needed the three points to keep alive any hopes they had of finishing as the top North side. Manager Les Fridge was without the services of captain Willie Barron which meant Wayne Mackintosh was restored to the starting line up. Marc MacDonald, who took ill during last week's defeat to Wick, was replaced in the team by Billy Horne.
After a tame first half, Huntly's Stuart Soane lit up the proceedings by firing home a 25-yard free kick, although Nairn goalkeeper Callum Donaldson will have disappointed to have conceded such a goal.
And with County pushing for a leveller, the visitors made sure of the three points when Scott Garrett netted to avenge Nairn's 3-1 win at Christie Park earlier in the season.
The sun shone brightly and the Station Park pitch was in great condition. But unfortunately that was about the only positives to be taken from a poor game in which Nairn's toothless display led to them failing to break down what must be said was a very poor Huntly side.
The game started at a pedestrian pace and it was not until the 10th minute that anything of note happened. Soane latched onto a slack clearance but blasted his shot well over the bar to the relief of Stephen Skinner, who was the sinner in the home defence.
At the other end, Nairn were presented with a great chance to open the scoring. Veteran goalkeeper Ross Bremner was at fault as he casually passed the ball straight to County midfielder Wayne Mackintosh. With the goalkeeper stranded, the Nairn man decided to shoot first time from 30 yards despite having team mates in better positions. He saw his effort clear the crossbar to the obvious frustration of his better-placed team mates.
Gregg Main then came to his side's rescue when he cleverly cut out a Neil Reid cut back that seemed destined for the head of Soane as he waited 10 yards out in front of the Nairn goal.
Again the County defence was caught sleeping. This time was Martin MacDonald who was the offender as he was robbed by Reid, who again did well to get to the by-line. But his cross eluded everybody and ran through to safety.
A diagonal ball by Brian Macleod found Glenn Main in acres of space wide on the right. The Nairn man seemed to take too long to shoot though and by the time he did, Bremner had narrowed the angle and was able to deflect the former Nairn St Ninian man's effort past for a corner.
Michele Lombardi really should have put the visitors in front on 28 minutes when he latched onto a clever knockdown by Michael Grant. But the former Forfar Athletic striker sent his shot wide of target.
Five minutes before half time, the Nairn defence were all over the place and almost paid the ultimate price. A tame cross should have been dealt with by MacDonald, but it ended with three Nairn defenders all going for the ball and colliding with one another. It was like a scene out of the Keystone Cops but the ball finally broke to David Hind who timidly put it behind for a corner.
The second half started in the same, slow fashion as the first. But Donaldson was finally called into action on 51 minutes when he dived full length to fingertip a Grant shot around the post.
But it looked as if the big 'keeper was badly at fault for the opening goal when it came on 56 minutes. Although he impressed throughout the match and bailed Nairn out on several occasions, Donaldson allowed Stuart Soane to thunder a 25-yard free kick past his defensive wall as he was rooted to the spot in the centre of his goalmouth.
County looked to respond and Shaun Kerr wriggled free of his marker and sent a powerful shot goalwards. But Bremner did well to parry away and the Huntly defence had all the time in the world to clear as the Nairn strikers and midfielders were posted missing when the chance was there to be had.
The home fans were further aggrieved with target man Lewis MacKinnon was replaced by the more defensive-minded Scott Nicholl, with Glenn Main taking on the role of striker.
Huntly had by now made all their subs and it was one of those replacements, Scott Garrett who was proving to be a thorn in County's side. On 82 minutes, he picked up a misplaced pass by Skinner and sent a first time shot goalwards that seemed destined for the net until Donaldson produced a great save to keep it out and keep Nairn in the game.
That was only to last another two minutes though as again a misplaced pass out of defence was picked up by the lively Scott Garrett. This time, he strode into the box and drew Donaldson off his line before neatly dispatching the ball into the net to win the game for the visitors.
Huntly nearly rubbed salt into the County wounds when a strong header by substitute Michael Morrison was saved by man-of-the-match Donaldson at his near post.
|Callum Donaldson (GK)||24||21||-||26||-|
|Scott Nicholl (sub)||25||6||-||48||1|
No league table has been added for this season.