3 - 1
North Region Challenge Cup (Quarter Final)
Dean Donaldson (pen.) (14)
Darren Still (105)
Barry Somers (pen.) (114)
Brian Macleod (pen.) (68)
Barry Somers for Jamie Lennox (67)
Derek Nicol for Mark Perry (79)
Neil Robertson for Stuart Walker (107)
Duncan Jones for Brian Macleod (78)
Glenn Main for Neil MacDonald (84)
Gregg Main for Stephen Skinner (91)
Ronnie Wright (Referee)
It took a fiercely competitive 120 minutes of football for reigning Highland League champions Keith to see off Nairn County at Kynoch Park in the quarter finals of the inaugural SFA Challenge Cup. A disputed penalty in the second half of extra time finally saw off the challenge of the visitors who were well organised throughout the match.
Manager Les Fridge handed a start to the returning Martin MacDonald in defence while Darren Jarvie returned to the midfield meaning Chris Finnigan dropped to the bench. Duncan Jones was fit again after an injury lay off but could only make the bench as well.
It took seven minutes for the home side to create their first chance of the match when Stuart Walker cut in from the right and fired a low drive across the face of John Campbell's goal. The keeper got a strong palm to it and he needed to make a decent contact because Jamie Lennox was waiting to pounce at the back post and would have been certain to score.
In the 14th minute, the hosts went one better as they opened the scoring. Darren Still's hopeful high ball forward looked harmless enough but it was chased into the box by Lennox. With the ball all but comfortably in Campbell's arms, Brian Macleod tugged back the Keith striker who hit the deck and referee Ronnie Wright pointed to the spot. Dean Donaldson stepped up to give the Maroons a one goal advantage.
Macleod looked to make up for his misdemeanor three minutes later as County came close to levelling the score. The ex-Clach man whipped in an inviting cross that Shaun Kerr connected with a glancing header but his effort flashed well wide of the target.
County top scorer Kerr then was inches away from equalising after 19 minutes. This time it was Willie Barron with the cross in from the same flank that Kerr met with a stooping header after squeezing between two home defenders. With Keith goalkeeper Andrew Shearer beaten, the ball glanced off the top of the crossbar as it flew over the top to the agony of the visitors.
A slip at the back by Martin MacDonald in the 25th minute almost handed the hosts their second goal when he allowed a through ball to run into the path of Martin Wood. The ex-Motherwell man took one touch before firing in an early shot that was held by Campbell to the relief of MacDonald.
A minute later, the home side came even closer to doubling their advantage when Mark Perry met a Walker corner from the left with a towering header that was hacked clear from the goal-line by Nairn's Macleod.
Steven Edwards then tested Shearer with a powerfully struck, low free-kick from 22-yards in the 28th minute that had to be palmed past the post by the former Ross County shotstopper.
County were back on the attack a minute later when Kerr's ball into the box from the right was flicked past Shearer by Martin MacDonald but the ball trickled past the wrong side of the far post.
Ten minutes before half time, Walker's ball in from the right picked out goalscorer Donaldson and his low drive was blocked by Campbell's foot.
Nairn had one last chance on the stroke of half time when they played their best football of the half. The move started with Neil MacDonald wide on the left and his low pass into the box found Kerr with his back to goal. The Nairn frontman laid the ball back to Edwards whose first time drive from the edge of the box was palmed wide by Shearer.
County came out in the second half and began to play the better football of the two sides after a first half of a lot of high ball tactics from the visitors although when they did have the ball on the deck they created some real clear cut chances. This continued after the break as they went close to equalising ten minutes after the restart. Barron tried his luck with a shot from 15 yards that was palmed wide for a corner by the diving Shearer.
The visitors were level after 68 minutes and again Barron was involved. He collected the ball in the box and skipped past Perry. The former Dundee United and Aberdeen man stuck a leg out and sent the Nairn forward tumbling to the deck. Referee Wright pointed to the spot and Brian Macleod stepped up to drill home his second penalty in as many games.
In an enthralling end to the match, the hosts almost grabbed what would certainly have been a winning goal eight minutes from the end. Kris Niddrie rose highest in the box to meet a Walker corner from the left but his header was cleared from the goal-line by Neil MacDonald at the far post.
Almost immediately after, Nairn could have won the game themselves as they broke up the pitch on a great counter attack. Barron breezed past two home defenders as he charged goalwards from the middle of the park and hammered a shot goalwards from 18 yards that was beaten away by Shearer.
With only three minutes of extra time played, the home side almost got their noses in front again when Graham Lonie saw his powerful drive from the left edge of the penalty box drift across goal and wide.
Then a sensational save by Campbell kept the home side at bay in the 95th minute. Walker picked out Wood in the box with a ball in from the right. He cut it back to Barry Somers who must have thought he had scored when he smashed the ball goalwards from close range only to see Campbell fly across his goal and produce a breath-taking block.
Substitute Glenn Main had County's best chance of the first period of extra time but his low shot from the edge of the box whistled past the post.
Niddrie again almost got his name on the scoresheet when he met a Wayne Mackay corner from the right with a bullet of a header that went just over the crossbar.
Nairn hearts were broken though on the stoke of half time in extra time as the hosts grabbed the all-important third goal of the match. Darren Still managed to get turned on the right edge of the box and smashed a low shot across goalkeeper Campbell and into the bottom corner of the net.
The hosts almost snatched a third with 110 minutes on the clock as Somers met a Wood cross from the right with a close range header that was booted clear from the goal-line by Campbell.
Then they sealed the win with only six minutes left. Still went down in the box after minimal contact with Nairn's Duncan Jones and referee Wright pointed to the spot for third time in the game. Somers stepped up to stroke home and ensure that it was Martin Allan's men who went on to take their place in the semi finals.
|John Campbell (GK)||27||6||-||55||-|
|Glenn Main (sub)||22||5||-||15||-|
|Duncan Jones (sub)||23||5||1||62||10|
|Gregg Main (sub)||20||5||-||18||1|
No league table has been added for this season.