2 - 3
2 - 3
North Region Challenge Cup (1st Round)
Stephen Skinner (7)
Scott Graham (52)
Jamie Watt (9)
Jamie Watt (pen.) (17)
Jamie Watt (pen.) (27)
Darren Jarvie for Billy Horne (67)
Chris Finnigan for Jonathan Holland (79)
Eric Watson for Clark Bain (71)
Phil Reid for Barrie Stephen (73)
Jonathan Holland (8)
Bryan Braidwood (Referee)
A valiant second half display was not enough to save Nairn County from exiting this season's North Region Challenge Cup at the first round stage to reigning Highland League champions Cove Rangers.
For the second week running, County took the lead at Station Park as Stephen Skinner was on hand to head home his first goal of the season but the visitors struck back almost immediately when Jamie Watt netted from the penalty spot. Former Deveronvale hit man Watt added a further two goals - one more from the penalty spot - to complete a first half hat trick. But County added their game in the second half and pulled a goal back through Scot Graham but it proved to be too little too late as John Sheran's men progressed to the quarter finals.
Manager Les Fridge made a total of four changes to the starting line up for this game. Wayne Mackintosh missed out through injury while Steven Edwards' work commitments ruled out the former Ross County utility man. Neil MacDonald also dropped out of the team while holiday commitments meant captain Willie Barron was unavailable. To make matters worse for the manager, Andrea Coletto was ruled out during the warm up because of illness and saw his place in the starting line up filled by Johnathan Holland. Defender Billy Horne, Gregg Main and Scott Graham also came into the team.
The home side flew out of the traps and broke the deadlock after only seven minutes. Stephen Skinner rose highest in the box to meet a Duncan Jones corner and power home a header at the back post to net his second goal for the club.
But Nairn's lead only lasted two minutes as Kevin Webster cut in from the left and fired a low shot off the base of John Campbell's post. It left the County goalkeeper flat footed and Jamie Watt reacted quickest to the loose ball to smash home from close range.
With 17 minutes on the clock, referee Bryan Braidwood took centre stage with the first of a series of bizarre decisions. Clearly out to make a name for himself, the whistle pointed to the spot when the ball struck Gary Black's body in the box, indicating that the former Forres man had used his hand. The man in the middle must have been the only person inside Station Park to think it was a penalty, but Watt wasn't complaining as he stepped up to send Campbell the wrong way from 12 yards.
If the County management team were unhappy with the officials at the first decision, they would have been incensed 10 minutes later when Braidwood awarded Cove a second dubious penalty. Barrie Stephen showed great trickery as he raced down the left and cut into the box. Nairn's Brian Macleod swept the ball away from the former Keith wide man and made little or no contact with the Cove winger, who went to ground. But the referee again awarded a penalty and Watt did the business from the spot to complete his hat trick and put daylight between the two sides.
Clearly fired up by the injustices of the first half, Nairn came out after the break and took the game to the league champions as Duncan Jones fired just over the crossbar immediately after the restart.
Then Macleod went close for the home side when he fired a shot from a tight angle into the side netting when perhaps a squared pass to the waiting Black or Holland may have been a better option.
The hosts continue to dominate though and Shaun Kerr was inches away from diverting a Holland cross into the net before seeing his well struck effort parried to safety by Cove goalkeeper Lee Windrum seconds later.
County's incessant pressure paid off after 52 minutes though as they halved the deficit and hauled themselves right back into the game. A high cross into the penalty box from the left was misjudged by Windrum and Scott Graham stooped to head home his first goal of the season.
Martin MacDonald then missed a glorious chance to pull County level when he played a great one-two with Holland which sliced open the Cove defence but the former Brora man pulled his shot wide of the post.
Campbell then denied Watt with a fine save in the 71st minute before Nairn were denied their own penalty, which looked a cast iron foul. Kerr dispossessed Kenny Mackenzie in the Cove penalty area and was then clearly pulled back by the centre half but it was no surprise to the home support to see their own claims for a spot kick waved away by Braidwood.
It was to be Nairn's final foray into the visitors' box and it was Cove who came closest to adding a late goal when Martin Johnston's powerful effort rattled back off the crossbar.
|John Campbell (GK)||28||3||-||86||-|
|Darren Jarvie (sub)||20||1||-||21||-|
|Chris Finnigan (sub)||22||1||-||24||3|
No league table has been added for this season.