HIGHLAND League champions Buckie Thistle will present Nairn County with one of their toughest examinations of the season with the Jags coming into the season with aspirations to repeat their two-in-a-row title success of 2009/10 and 2010/11.
Thistle will be disappointed to have drawn at Turriff United on Wednesday night but at the same time, showed the battling qualities that led to their title success last season as they fought back from 2-0 down to earn a share of the spoils at one of the Highland League's most challenging away venues.
The Jags have already gone through a punishing round of fixtures in the group stages of the Betfred Cup having taken on Cowdenbeath, Dundee United, Dundee and Raith Rovers throughout July while the rest of the Highland League clubs were engaged in pre-season friendlies.
Nairn consolidated their positive showing in defeat at Forres Mechanics last weekend with a first three points of the season when Deveronvale visited Station Park on Wednesday night. The Banffers won the respective fixture by two goals to one at the start of last season with Ronnie Sharp's men enjoying a four-goal swing in their favour to scoop the points. County's trip to Buckie's Victoria Park last season also resulted in a 2-1 reverse and the visitors will have their work cut out to make it another turnaround along similar lines at the home of the champions.
You can find out if Sharp's team can do it even if you cannot make it through to Victoria Park to cheer on the team as you can follow live coverage of the match through Nairn County's official social media channels. Simply logon to facebook.com/nairncountyfc or @NairnCounty on Twitter before kick-off to find out the team lines as soon as they are available, follow updates of all of the talking points throughout the match as they happen, gain access to a report on the final whistle and read the reaction of manager Ronnie Sharp later on the evening. Preview below:
Date: Saturday August 5th 2017
Competition: Scottish Highland Football League
Opponents: Buckie Thistle
Manager: Graeme Stewart
Venue: Victoria Park, Buckie
Previous meeting: Buckie Thistle 2 Nairn County 1 December 10th 2016
Last time out: Nairn County 3 Deveronvale 0; Turriff United 2 Buckie Thistle 2
League position: Buckie Thistle 4th Nairn County 7th
Form guides: Buckie Thistle WD Nairn County LW
Team news: The Naismith brothers, Ross and Adam both miss out on this weekend's trip to Buckie Thistle. Younger brother Ross has work commitments while Adam serves a one-match suspension as a result of his two yellow cards and subsequent red in Wednesday night's 3-0 win over Deveronvale. Also sidelined are Gary Kerr and Gregg Main with knee injuries as centre forward Kerr works towards a return over the next few weeks while club captain Main is due to go for an MRI scan. Goalkeeper Dylan Maclean returns from holiday just before the match but Calum Riddell is still on honeymoon and Jason Morganti and Stephen Mackenzie are both unavailable again because of work commitments.
One to watch: Kevin Fraser. The industrious midfielder is the reigning Highland League Player of the Year having picked up the illustrious prize at the end of last season and has recently been on trial with Inverness CT. The Caley Jags were keen to take their former youth player back to the Caledonian Stadium but could not agree a deal with Buckie, who have now agreed a bumper new contract with their club captain. That will be a huge boost to the Jags in their attempts to defend their title and Fraser will be at the heart of things again for Thistle in this one as they look to return to winning ways after a midweek draw at Turriff United.
Match officials: Referee Ryan Milne, Assistants Brian Dean and Brian Fowlie.
Weather forecast: Light cloud 15 degrees 14 mph wind.
Admission prices: Adults £8 Concessions £5 (two children under the age of 14 are admitted for free if they are accompanied by a paying adult).