HAVING pushed in-form Inverurie Locos all the way at Station Park last week, it does not get any easier for Nairn County as they make the trip to take on second-placed Fraserburgh at Bellslea.
With the Locos sitting pretty in third spot in the table, it is the team one place higher up the standing who the visitors are looking to topple this time out as they take on the unenviable task of attempting to add to their points tally at the expense of one of the Highland League’s most impressive sides this season.
Cove Rangers, Brora Rangers, Formartine United and defending champions Buckie Thistle were among most people’s picks for title honours this season but Fraserburgh have continued their year-on-year progression up the standings to put themselves right in among the contenders, even topping the pile prior to their defeat at Buckie last month.
That is all credit to manager Mark Cowie, who has overseen a gradual improvement of his team’s performances since taking over from Kris Hunter as manager at Bellslea with a core of a squad that has come through the Broch’s famed youth development programme.
Ronnie Sharp felt that inexperienced prevented his team from taking any points from Inverurie in that match seven days ago as they went chasing the game with over half-an-hour remaining while trailing just 2-1 and were caught on the break with a sucker-punch at the other end. It was a similar lack of experience that was costly at Bellslea for Sharp’s young side at the start of last season when they led 3-0 at half time but ended up hanging on for a point in roles-reversal of a second half with the match ending three goals apiece.
If you cannot make it to Bellslea to cheer on the team then you can follow the match on the Nairn County social media channels. Simply logon to facebook.com/nairncountyfc or @NairnCounty on Twitter to receive the team line-ups before kick-off, live updates from the match as they happen, a report on the final whistle and reaction from Ronnie Sharp later in the evening. Meanwhile, a preview of the match is below:
Date: Saturday November 4th 2017
Competition: Scottish Highland Football League
Manager: Mark Cowie
Venue: Bellslea, Fraserburgh
Previous meeting: Nairn County 0 Fraserburgh 2 December 3rd 2016
Last time out: Turriff United 0 Fraserburgh 1; Nairn County 2 Inverurie Locos 3
League position: Fraserburgh 2nd Nairn County 12th
Form guides: Fraserburgh LWWLWW Nairn County LWLLWL
Team news: Liam MacDonald, Adam Naismith and Max Ewan all return to bolster the Nairn County squad having missed last Saturday’s match against Inverurie Locos. Callum Maclean is still sidelined with a hamstring injury though and club captain Gregg Main expects to receive the results of an MRI scan on his knee this coming Monday. Callum Ednie is eligible to be involved in this match despite being red-carded for the under-20s at Elgin City on Monday night but Ewen Urquhart remains unavailable. With their loan side Inverness Athletic in cup action this weekend, Craig Munro and Ryan Macleod are free to return to their parent club but the latter has work commitments. Cameron Maclean and Joe Cuthbert from the under-20s squad are again included in the squad.
One to watch: Graham Johnston. The long-serving striker is enjoying his testimonial season at Bellslea and has been in good form recently, bagging the only goal of the game late on at The Haughs last weekend as Fraserburgh netted an important three points with an impressive away win at Turriff United. Johnston has enjoyed a trophy-laden career in his time with Fraserburgh but the one medal that has so far eluded the forward is the league championship and with Mark Cowie’s men tucked nicely in behind leaders Cove Rangers going into the winter months, the centre forward will be desperate to maintain the Broch’s impressive league run this season and take advantage of any slip ups by the current table toppers. Any dropped points in this one will be viewed as costly by Johnston and his team mates if they are not able to mark his testimonial season by rounding off his medal collection with Highland League football’s top honour come the end of the season.
Match officials: Referee Filippo Mazzoni, Assistants Andrew Bannerman and Keiran Fleming.
Weather forecast: Sunny 7 degrees 10 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).