2 - 0
2 - 0
North of Scotland Cup (Final)
Scott Graham (10)
Brian Macleod (15)
Willie Barron for Duncan Jones (46)
Wayne Mackintosh for Steven Edwards (64)
Chris Finnigan for Scott Graham (83)
Kevin Fraser for Gavin Morrison (62)
Shaun Carrol for Daniel Park (63)
Nick Ross for Zander Sutherland (68)
Willie Barron (59)
Wayne Mackintosh (76)
Billy Horne (85)
Stephen Skinner (87)
Craig Sim (Referee)
Nairn County are the kings of the north yet again after Les Fridge's side secured the North of Scotland Cup for the second time in four seasons with a 2-0 final victory against Inverness CT.
The full time SPL side had no answer for County's flying start as Nairn raced into a two-goal lead with only 15 minutes on the clock. Scott Graham opened the scoring for the Highland League outfit after 10 minutes before captain-for-the-day Brian Macleod put the Nairn fans in dreamland by adding a second only a few minutes later. The stout resistance of County's back line meant there was no way back for the young Inverness side as their attacks were all snuffed out by the superb partnership of Martin MacDonald and Stephen Skinner.
Manager Fridge went with the same 16-man squad for the third game in succession. That meant that the heroes in yellow were goalkeeper John Campbell; a back four of Billy Horne, Skinner, MacDonald and Gary Black; Steven Edwards, Duncan Jones, Gregg Main and Macleod across the middle while Shaun Kerr and Graham teamed up in attack.
County came flying out of the traps and were one goal to the good when Kerr's cut back was converted by Graham and then five minutes later it was two as Macleod raced in to slot home Jones' pass across the face of the penalty area.
The first action of note came after eight minutes of play when Inverness CT wide man Zander Sutherland became the first man in referee Craig Sim's notebook when he was booked for kicking the ball away.
The opening goal then arrived two minutes later when Duncan Jones fed Shaun Kerr down the right channel. Nairn's top scorer clipped the ball across from the by-line where Scott Graham was on hand to apply the finish as he smashed home a side-foot volley from six yards after racing across ICT defender Daniel Welsh to be in exactly the right place at the right time.
The goal seemed to settle County into their usual passing rhythm and the boost they received from taking the lead was obvious. They almost added a second when Jones' throw-in from the right was met by a speculative overhead kick from Steven Edwards but his long range effort drifted over ICT goalkeeper Kyle Allison and past the post.
The second goal arrived after quarter of an hour though as Nairn completed their superb start to the proceedings. It was a classic counter attack as a Caley move broke down and Jones collected the ball deep in his own half on the right hand side of the pitch. With the Inverness men pushed forward in numbers, the former Aberdeen midfielder surged forward and played a low pass across the face of the ICT 18-yard box. The ball was intended for Kerr in the middle but he stepped over it and let it run through to Brian Macleod who was in acres of space at the left edge of the penalty area. The Nairn wide man showed composure to stroke the ball past the advancing Allison and although the goalkeeper got a touch to it, there was enough power in the shot to see it trickle into the net to spark more joyous scenes among the County supporters.
Inverness' first attempt at getting back into things came after 28 minutes when a throw-in was headed clear to Dale Gillespie but his effort from 22 yards flew well wide of goal. Then a minute later, a free kick into the Nairn box dropped to Zander Sutherland but he pulled his left-footed effort across goal and past the far post.
County had a shout for a penalty waved away when goal scorer Graham was brushed off a high ball into the box by Caley defender Welsh in the 32nd minute. Then 60 seconds later, County almost added a third goal when Jones' corner from the right was met by a towering MacDonald header but his effort flew past the near post.
County were back on the attack after 38 minutes when a Jones cut back from the by-line found the on-running Gregg Main but his right-footed shot missed the inside of the near post by a matter of inches as it ruffled the side netting on its way past.
The closest ICT came to grabbing a first half goal was five minutes before the break when a deep free kick into the Nairn box from the right found Stuart Leslie unmarked. His eight-yard shot rebounded off the back post and flew across the face of John Campbell's goal before being cleared to safety.
Graham's tireless work was the source of County's next attack as he chased down and won a seemingly lost cause in the right corner. After collecting the ball, the former Fort William forward fed Kerr who fired across goal where the unmarked Macleod was running in at the back post but he hit his shot straight at Caley goalkeeper Allison.
County were forced into a half time substitution as the influential Duncan Jones was unable to continue because of a back injury and had to be replaced by Willie Barron in a like-for-like change.
The next goal in the game was going to be all important as it could have given ICT a way back into proceedings while a third County goal would surely have put this final well and truly to bed. And it was the SPL club who started the half brightest as Nairn looked content to sit on their lead. After 58 minutes, Leslie wriggled inside Barron on the left but saw his low drive held by Campbell at the near post.
Five minutes later, Caley won a free kick 20 yards from goal and Zander Sutherland tried his luck with a direct shot but just like Main in the first half, his effort brushed the side netting on the way past to the relief of the County supporters.
A crucial intervention from Macleod in the 72nd minute preserved Nairn's two-goal advantage as he intelligently flicked away substitute Kevin Fraser's cross from the left to prevent Shane Sutherland from getting on the end of it and scoring a certain goal.
Caley were struggling to break down Nairn's solid spine and clear cut chances were at a premium throughout the second half. ICT were restricted to efforts from long range while County were content with retaining possession whenever they won the ball. Four minutes from time, Shane Sutherland got a rare sight of goal when he cut in from the right but his left-footed shot from 22 yards was easily held by Campbell.
The full time club threw bodies forward in the dying minutes and their one final chance to get back into things came a minute into injury time. A cross in from the left dropped to substitute Shaun Carrol but his tame overhead kick failed to trouble Campbell who pounced on the loose ball.
That was the last action of the game as referee Sim's final whistle confirmed Nairn's status as North of Scotland Cup winners 2008. Captain-for-the-day Brian Macleod and club skipper Willie Barron lifted the trophy together as County took home the silverware for the second time in four years prompting a night to remember back at the Nairn County Social Club.
|John Campbell (GK)||28||10||-||93||-|
|Willie Barron (sub)||27||5||1||188||48|
|Wayne Mackintosh (sub)||20||6||1||88||5|
|Chris Finnigan (sub)||22||7||-||30||3|
No league table has been added for this season.