LOCAL hero Max Ewan won Nairn County all three points with a 91st minute strike as he rounded off a superb display from the visitors to topple reigning Highland League champions, Buckie Thistle in their own backyard.
Ewan’s fellow teenagers Jordan MacRae and Jack Maclean were also on target for Ronnie Sharp’s men, who were never behind throughout the 90 minutes at Victoria Park as County took it to the home side with a slick display of passing mixed with dogged defending when required.
Buckie settled well with Steven Ross, John McLeod and Lewis MacKinnon all testing Stephen Foster early on but it was Nairn who broke the deadlock on 11 minutes.
A great forward pass by Kenny McKenzie put Jack Maclean in on the right. He cut inside and pulled the ball back beyond the goalkeeper for Dylan Mackenzie, whose shot was blocked by a Buckie arm. Referee Ryan Milne did not go for a card despite the handball being on the goal line but Jordan MacRae stepped up to blast home his second goal of the season.
The home side had the majority of the possession and half chances but Nairn really should have made it two on 17 minutes. MacRae’s slipped pass put Dylan Mackenzie in on goal but his attempted dink over the goalkeeper was blocked by Buckie shot stopper Daniel Bell, who had spread himself well.
Buckie continued to impose themselves and on 26 minutes, right back Andrew Skinner stepped on to a cleared cross into the box to fizz a first time shot from 25 yards inches past the near post.
County had another great chance on 36 minutes when Adam Porritt’s whipped ball in from deep on the right was misjudged by Bell and ran through to Cohen Ramsay but after cutting back on to his right foot, his effort was hacked clear off the goal line by MacKinnon.
Buckie should have been level five minutes before the break with Fraser springing the offside trap to play Chris Angus in on goal but with time to pick his spot, the Jags attacker was denied by the sprawling body of Foster, who made a superb block.
Bell came to Buckie’s rescue again on 43 minutes. A short pass back to the goalkeeper was flicked goalwards by Kenny McKenzie but the outrushing stopper spread himself and prevented the ball from rolling in for County’s second.
Buckie drew level three minutes after the break. Steven Ross beat Callum Maclean to Ross Anderson’s punt forward to the right and he squared for Chris Angus to run on and stroke home the equaliser for the home side.
But County were back in front on 52 minutes. Substitute Max Ewan played MacRae in on the left and he raced in before delivering a low cross for Jack Maclean to bundle into the net at the near post.
County probably should have added a third when Kenny McKenzie played a delightful ball over the top for Ewen Urquhart. The ball hit the midfielder’s shoulder which forced him wide and he had to deliver low for MacRae, whose shot was blocked with Urquhart firing the rebound over the top when well positioned.
Buckie almost found a leveller on 70 minutes when Ross Anderson met a corner from the left with a free header but the ball was blocked and hacked clear.
The Jags were inches away from levelling five minutes later. Maitland’s corner from the left was met by a header from Chris Angus which crashed off the underside of the bar with Nairn scrambling the ball clear.
Jack Maclean and Ewen Urquhart linked up well on 83 minutes but the latter’s low shot was deflected just past the post.
Thistle equalised on 84 minutes though through a direct, route one approach. Bell launched a long free kick forward and Nairn allowed the ball to bounce for Chris Angus to bundle past Foster at the second attempt for a scrappy leveller.
But Nairn won it in the first minute of injury time. A superb pass out from goalkeeper Foster sent Urquhart in on the left. His first cross was blocked at the near post but at the second attempt, he rolled the ball across for Max Ewan to knock home from a few yards out the send the away fans delirious.
County clung on and had the woodwork to thank for preventing a Thistle equaliser in the last minute of added time when one final punt forward was met by a towering header from MacKinnon that crashed off the crossbar.
Buckie Thistle – Bell, Skinner, Dorrat (Maitland 57), Anderson (Copeland 75), MacKinnon, Angus, Fraser, Urquhart, McLeod (Murray 46), Cheyne, Ross. Subs unused: Taylor, Munro, McLean, Strong (gk).
Nairn County – Foster, J. Maclean, C. Maclean, MacDonald, Glenn Main, Porritt, Urquhart, K. McKenzie, D. MacKenzie (Ewan 51 (yellow 83)), MacRae, Ramsay. Subs unused: Ednie, Munro, M. Macleod, R. Macleod (gk).
Referee – Ryan Milne.
Pictures: Donald Matheson