A YOUTHFUL under-20s side took an impressive scalp last night by edging out North Region Juniors Super League side Inverness City in an entertaining game on the all-weather surface at the Academy Playing Fields.
Coach Stuart Finnie left out all players with first team experience with Saturday’s North Caledonian Cup quarter final at Halkirk United clashing with the club’s first team game against Turriff United. It meant that only two of his starting line-up had turned 18 years old as Euan Wheeler, Sam Campbell, Jack W. Maclean and Ian Payne all returned to the first eleven and Aidan Stewart made his first start in goal. There was a debut for Ciaran Young while his fellow under-17s squad members Logan Hallam and Tyler Eadie appeared from the bench along with Nairn-based trialist Sean McWilliams, recently released by Inverness CT.
Inverness had the better of the play in the early stages and it was no surprise when they broke the deadlock 24 minutes in having already passed up a couple of decent chances. Chris Eadie turned well at the edge of the box and his low shot flew into the bottom corner leaving Stewart helpless.
Nairn found their feet though and seven minutes later, Young towered above his marker at the far post to meet Payne’s cross from the right with a header that was saved by the goalkeeper.
County levelled it on 32 minutes. Ryan MacBean fastened on to a slack pass back to the goalkeeper before using his pace to sprint in on goal and blast past the advancing City number one.
MacBean should have doubled his tally just five minutes later after running on to Hallam’s neat through pass and cutting inside a defender but from close range, his shot was diverted off target by the goalkeeper.
Maclean strode forward from defence on 42 minutes but could only fire straight at the goalkeeper from 22 yards before Nairn went in front two minutes later. Debutant Logan Hallam nicked a pass from midfield to the City right back and used his pace to advance in behind the visitors’ defence before showing a cool head to pick his spot past the goalkeeper.
A great move saw Nairn increase their lead on 50 minutes. Wheeler’s superb pass out of defence was perfect for Payne to race on to down the right. His cross from the by-line was a striker’s dream and Logan Hallam timed his run into the box to perfection to crash the ball home at the near post.
City pulled a goal back just five minutes later though when the hosts failed to deal with a corner from the right and Paul MacDonald was able to turn the ball home from close range.
Eadie then saw a rising half-volley from the right edge of the box tipped away by the goalkeeper on 65 minutes before a great passing move by the home side resulted in sub Alex Geddes only just being denied his first under-20s goal when the goalkeeper advanced from his line to block the striker’s first time, clipped effort.
City looked to have salvaged a draw nine minutes from time when a low cross from the left was turned into his own net by the back-tracking Struan Tweedie at the front post.
But Nairn had other ideas and won it on 82 minutes. Tweedie made amends by playing Eadie in down the right and he picked out Ciaran Young with a low cross. The striker had his back to goal but spun the defender and planted a powerful shot high into the net from 10 yards.
Nairn County – Stewart, Wheeler, J. W. Maclean, Cameron Maclean (Cuthbert 89), Gordon (McDermott 60), Cuthbert (McConaghy 66), McConaghy (Eadie 35), Payne (trialist 56), MacBean (Geddes 56), Young (Hallam 35) (Young 81), Campbell (Tweedie 60). Subs unused: -