A THUMPING win at Wick Academy a fortnight ago may have boosted morale in the Nairn County camp but that cannot take away from the size of the task facing Ronnie Sharp's men this weekend as they return to action after a week off to face defending champions, Cove Rangers.
The Toonsers flexed their muscles last Saturday by hammering Fort William as seven unanswered strikes flew past the Lochaber side's shot stopper. That was the perfect response from Cove after questions were raised over their ability to go all the way again this season following recent draws at Formartine United and Strathspey Thistle, which followed a draw at Fraserburgh and defeat to Buckie Thistle over the festive period.
The Aberdeen club are still well and truly in the hunt for the championship though and know that three points are vital in this one because with the top two clubs Buckie Thistle and Brora Rangers going head-to-head at Dudgeon Park, they will arrive in Nairn safe in the knowledge that something has to give in Sutherland. That will mean that a win in this one will allow Cove to close in on the two clubs above them, reduce the gap to top spot to just four points with a game in hand or climb the table into second spot.
County will have other ideas though and having gained victory for the first time since November with that impressive success in Caithness, will go into this one suitably rested and refreshed having sat out last Saturday with scheduled opponents, Forres Mechanics, visiting Keith in the preliminary round of the Highland League (Morganti) Cup.
You can view a preview of the match below with live coverage of the match available on facebook.com/nairncountyfc and @NairnCounty on Twitter starting with team lines before kick-off, updates on all of the major incidents as they happen while the match progresses, a report on the final whistle and reaction from the manager in the evening.
Date: Saturday February 4th 2017
Competition: Scottish Highland Football League
Opponents: Cove Rangers
Manager: John Sheran
Venue: Station Park, Nairn
Previous meeting: Cove Rangers 2 Nairn County 1 October 5th 2016
Last time out: Wick Academy 1 Nairn County 5; Cove Rangers 7 Fort William 0
League position: Nairn County 13th Cove Rangers 3rd
Form guides: Nairn County LDLLDW Cove Rangers DLWDDW
Team news: Glenn Main returns to the Nairn County squad having missed the trip to Wick Academy a fortnight ago as he served a one-match ban. Jason Morganti and Jamie Mackay are also available after they missed the bounce match against Inverness Athletic last weekend while youngsters Callum Ednie and Reece Barton are likely to be a part of the under-20s squad for their Jock Mackay Cup first round tie at Thurso and consequently miss this match. Back up goalkeeper Ryan Macleod is unavailable because of work commitments and Willie Barron has retired since the club's last competitive outing.
One to watch: Mitch Megginson. The livewire striker scored a cracker when these two clubs met at Harlaw Park in Inverurie back at the start of October. This is the attacker's first foray into Highland League football after a senior career that saw him turn out for Aberdeen in the Premier League, Arbroath, Dumbarton, Brechin City, Raith Rovers and latterly, Alloa Athletic in the Championship last season. He has been a vital signing for Cove in their pursuit of a second successive Highland League title, filling the void left by top scorer Daryl Nicol's departure in the summer.
Match officials: Referee Dan MacFarlane, Assistants Mike Sinclair and Duncan Anderson.
Weather forecast: Sunny 6 degrees 4 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).