SINGLE-GOAL derby defeats heralded the start of the new Scottish Highland Football League season for both Nairn County and visitors Deveronvale as they went down to Forres Mechanics and Turriff United respectively at the weekend.
Despite both outcomes being similar, the scorelines are contrasting with Nairn's goal defeat featuring six goals less than Deveronvale's 4-3 reverse at home to Turriff United in a closely-fought derby encounter at Princess Royal Park.
The Banffers were unbeaten in 90 minutes against County last season and edged a Highland League fixture by the odd goal in three almost a year ago to the day in what was again Nairn's second outing of the season. In the reverse fixture at Princess Royal Park, the visitors required an injury time equaliser to force a 2-2 draw and when the clubs met again at the same venue in the Highland League (Morganti) Cup in February, it was deja' vu as Dylan Mackenzie's last-gasp leveller forced extra time with Nairn advancing in the additional 30 minutes thanks to Gregg Main's penalty kick despite being reduced to nine men.
The home side will have been encouraged by their overall display at Forres Mechanics on Saturday but a lack of cutting edge in the final third will be a concern for manager Ronnie Sharp as he looks for his team to convert their periods of possession dominance into chances created and ultimately, goals.
We will have live updates from Station Park for this one on the club's social media feeds - facebook.com/nairncountyfc and @NairnCounty on Twitter. Log on for team lines before kick-off, coverage all of the talking points as the match progresses, a report on the final whistle and reaction from Nairn boss Ronnie Sharp the following morning. Preview below:
Date: Wednesday August 2nd 2017
Competition: Scottish Highland Football League
Manager: Steve Dolan
Venue: Station Park, Nairn
Previous meeting: Deveronvale 1 Nairn County 2 (AET) February 22nd 2017
Last time out: Forres Mechanics 1 Nairn County 0; Deveronvale 3 Turriff United 4
League position: Nairn County 13th Deveronvale 10th
Form guides: Nairn County L Deveronvale L
Team news: Kenny McKenzie returns to the Nairn County squad for the first home match of the season having sat out Saturday's trip to Forres Mechanics because of suspension but fellow midfielder Ross Naismith drops out as he has work commitments. Gary Kerr is still working his way back towards full fitness and hopes to be back in the team by the end of the month having undergone knee surgery over the close season while goalkeeper Dylan Maclean is still on holiday. Gregg Main is still awaiting a date for an MRI scan to determine the extent of his knee injury and Calum Riddell remains on honeymoon. Also ruled out for the home side are Jason Morganti and Stephen Mackenzie as both have been unable to attend training due to work commitments.
One to watch: Grant Noble. The experienced striker is already up and running for the campaign having bagged a double for the Banffers at the weekend. He knows the league well having come through the ranks at Deveronvale and then spent time with Turriff United and Fraserburgh before returning to Princess Royal Park midway through last season. A nippy centre forward who is deceptively strong, he can hold the ball up with his back to goal and is also able to run in behind to latch on to through passes, which the Vale will look to use to their advantage in this one.
Match officials: Referee Dan MacFarlane, Assistants Ally Bruce and David Osborne.
Weather forecast: Light cloud 15 degrees 11 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).