MORE positivity on the ball is what Nairn County manager Ronnie Sharp is looking for from his players when they come up against the top Highland League teams next season.
Sharp saw his team’s season ended by a 3-1 home defeat to Brora Rangers in the quarter finals of the North of Scotland Cup.
After going behind to an early Andrew Grieg strike, County had the chances to level the tie before half time but failed to take them and that meant that when Grieg found the net shortly after the restart, it put the Cattachs well in control.
Zander Sutherland added a third for Brora on the hour before Jordan Macrae pulled one back for Nairn 15 minutes from time.
“I think their experience told in the end,” said Sharp. “They were more dangerous than us in the final third of the park. We had the chances but we have to take them – we went one down early on but we had a big chance to equalise just after that. Dylan Mackenzie was in with just the ‘keeper to beat but waited for the challenge to come – we have to be more positive in those situations.
“We had other chances in the first half with one off the post but against teams like Brora, you have to take them. You are only going to get a few chances and I thought we had some really clear cut ones as well. But they are an experienced team with quality players, although the good thing is we never folded after going one down early on. The problem is that we were 2-0 down just a few minutes into the second half. That was a problem for us at the start of the season and I thought we were over that.
“You are chasing the game all of the time if you go a goal down early on. For the first 20 minutes, I thought if we were able to hold them and not lose any goals then we might have been able to put them under a bit of pressure but they are too experienced for that.”
Sharp was frustrated to see his team concede goals at the start of each half.
He said: “We have to be more disciplined when we come out. We lost the ball in the middle of the park and then they were right on top of us. We cannot afford to do that.
“We have to be more positive and I thought we were trying to go back the way with the ball instead of being positive and going forward. They just closed us down and the next minute, the ball is in the back of the net.”
Macrae struck his ninth goal of the season to finish as the club’s joint second top scorer alongside captain, Wayne Mackintosh.
“It was a great free kick from Jordan,” Sharp stated. “We had two or three chances and we are getting in and around the box and it is down to making the right decision at the crucial time and we are not there yet. We are not experienced enough for that yet but they have ex-professionals in their team and they make good decisions and I think that was the difference.
“The work rate was great from us and I cannot fault the players for that. We just gave the ball away in difficult areas for ourselves.”
Sharp will be not be taking any time off and has already thrown himself into his preparations for the 2017/18 season.
He added: “I would like to think we are going to improve but it is not going to be big, big steps. We need to make small steps to improve every year. The young boys have done really well and we have boys that have just played their first full season in the Highland League and others who have never played in the Highland League before. Hopefully, they will learn from it this year and come back to pre-season stronger and we can be a bit wiser next year.”
The manager ended with a message to the fans as the curtain fell on the campaign.
He said: “The supporters have been excellent to the players all year. The players are trying their best and putting the effort into every game. Hopefully, the supporters see that because it has been great that the supporters are turning out at every game and not just at home games because we have an excellent support which follows us to every away game and I would like to thank them all for that.”