A DISAPPOINTING end to 2018 saw Nairn County win just two games in the last three months of the year. But they will be looking for a fresh start in the New Year as they kick off 2019 with a home match against Fraserburgh.
County twice led in last weekend’s away match at Clachnacuddin but individual errors gifted the home side an equaliser on two separate occasions before a late strike swung the game the way of the Lilywhites to ensure Nairn finished the year on a solemn note. High-flying Fraserburgh hardly presents the ideal opportunity to bounce back to winning ways with the Broch the nearest challenges to championship favourites Cove Rangers. But the hosts will go into the match knowing that a victory could propel them up the table by three places if results elsewhere go their way having slipped into the bottom four by virtue of that reverse in Inverness.
Fraserburgh are the only Highland League outfit to have laid a glove on runaway championship leaders Cove Rangers this season, beating them at Bellslea thanks to a single goal from the prolific Scott Barbour at the start of December. However, defeat at Brora Rangers just before Christmas means that the Sutherland side are now a point short of the Broch with two games in hand with Cove a further five points ahead and also having played two games less than Mark Cowie’s side.
It means that they come to Station Park knowing that nothing short of three points will do if they want to keep themselves in a position to take advantage of any Cove slip-up and stave off Brora’s attempts to overhaul them and move into second place. They will go into the match on a high though, having smashed Lossiemouth last weekend thanks to a 10-0 battering of the Coasters.
Live updates from the match will be available through the Nairn County social media channels. To keep up-to-date, logon to facebook.com/nairncountyfc or follow @NairnCounty on Twitter for team line-ups before kick-off, coverage of all the talking points from the match as it happens, a report on the final whistle, reaction from Ronnie Sharp later in the evening and match highlights on NCFCTV on Sunday afternoon. All the details you need to know ahead of the game are below:
Date: Saturday January 5th 2019
Competition: Scottish Highland Football League
Manager: Mark Cowie
Venue: Station Park, Nairn
Previous meeting: Fraserburgh 7 Nairn County 1 August 25th 2018
Last time out: Clachnacuddin 3 Nairn County 2; Fraserburgh 10 Lossiemouth 0
League position: Nairn County 15th Fraserburgh 2nd
Form guides: Nairn County LLWLLL Fraserburgh LWLWLW
Team news: Liam Shewan comes into contention to make his Nairn County debut having joined the club from Clachnacuddin before Christmas. Adam Porritt is still suspended though as he serves the second of his two-match ban following his dismissal in the game against Deveronvale at the start of December. Fraser Dingwall missed last weekend’s visit to Clachnacuddin but he returns to the squad for this one but Ryan MacDonald is on the sidelines due to the abdominal injury he sustained in that match at Grant Street. The game is likely to come too early for Seamus McConaghy, who has only managed light training over the festive period because of a groin injury while Joe Cuthbert, Ryan MacBean and Craig Munro have resumed their loan spells at Burghead Thistle and goalkeeper Fraser Wilkie has re-joined Nairn St Ninian, also on loan. Gregg Main is still a long-term absentee and although Kenny McKenzie was red carded for two cautions last weekend, the first offence was overturned by an SFA Fast Track Tribunal on Friday and the left-sided player is free to play.
One to watch: Scott Barbour. The lively attacker has enjoyed a goals-laden return to Bellslea since re-joining Fraserburgh from Formartine United in the close season. He managed to help himself to four goals last Saturday as the Broch put double figures past Lossiemouth in a comprehensive 10-0 thrashing and he was also on target when County visited Bellslea at the start of the season as he bagged himself a double in a comfortable 7-1 win for the hosts. Playing from the left-sided in a potent three-pronged Fraserburgh attack, Barbour’s low centre of gravity allied to his pace and array of skills cast him as one of the most dangerous front players in the Highland League and keeping him quiet in this one will be a big ask of the Nairn back line.
Match officials: Referee Filippo Mazzoni, Assistants Neil Grant and John Black.
Weather forecast: Sunny intervals 5 degrees 9 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).