ACTION returns to Station Park this Sunday for the first time in nine weeks as Championship hopefuls, St Mirren make the trip north for a pre-season friendly match against Nairn County.
It is the second of a Highland double-header for the visitors, who took on Clachnacuddin at Grant Street Park on Friday evening and it marks the first pre-season fixture for Ronnie Sharp's men. The manager and players have been hard at work for the last fortnight preparing for the new Highland League season and the build-up steps up a notch in this maiden outing in what will be a tough encounter against full time opposition.
St Mirren boss Jack Ross is hoping for improved fortunes in Paisley this season having overseen an upturn in form since taking over as Buddies boss in October. With his side languishing in the relegation places, Ross inspired his charges to a run of form that not only saw them finish two places above the relegation playoff place but also reach the final of the Scottish Challenge Cup, where they were narrowly defeated by Dundee United.
With the top four in the Championship having a shot at promotion through the playoffs, Ross will be likely targeting such improvements to reach the end-of-season shootout with a 13-point gap to be closed on last season's fourth place finishers, Greenock Morton. The Paisley men will be hoping that their Station Park workout is one of the first steps on the road that ultimately leads to Premiership football returning to Renfrewshire in a year's time.
If you are not able to make it along to cheer the team on then you can still follow progress of the match through the club's official media channels. Simply logon to facebook.com/nairncountyfc or @NairnCounty on Twitter before kick-off where you will be able to find team lines, updates on all of the talking points as the match progresses, a report on the final whistle and Ronnie Sharp's reaction to it all once the dust has settled. In the meantime, a match preview is below:
Date: Sunday July 2nd 2017
Competition: Pre-season friendly
Opponents: St Mirren
Manager: Jack Ross
Venue: Station Park, Nairn
Previous meeting: n/a
Last time out: n/a
League position: n/a
Form guides: n/a
Team news: Manager Ronnie Sharp does not have his selection problems to seek going into the club's first pre-season friendly of the summer. New captain Gregg Main and last season's top scorer Gary Kerr are both out with knee injuries and face a race against time to be fit for the opening day of the new Highland League campaign. Glenn Main, Calum Riddell and Callum Ednie all miss out on the visit of the Scottish Championship side because of holidays while weekend work commitments are going to render Stephen Mackenzie unavailable for at least the next few months. On the plus side, new signings Adam Porritt, Ewen Urquhart and Adam Naismith are all in contention to make their debuts while two trialists who have been training with the squad could be given a chance to impress, along with several of the under-20s squad with Sharp set to include a number of 16 and 17 year olds in the pool.
One to watch: John Sutton. An experienced centre forward who is now in his second spell with the Paisley club having also turned out for the likes of Raith Rovers, Motherwell (twice), Dundee, Hearts and St Johnstone during a length career in the Scottish Premiership. Buddies manager Jack Ross will be hoping the striker can get his eye in early ahead of the new season as he targets a push up the table having turned around Saints' fortunes after joining the club midway through last season and avoiding relegation. Sutton's goals and experience could be crucial in achieving that and it will be a testing afternoon for the Nairn backline up against a player of such quality.
Match officials: Referee Billy Baxter, Assistants Stephen McDade and Gordon Seago.
Weather forecast: Light cloud 10 degrees 8 mph wind.
Admission prices: Adults £8 Concessions £5 (season tickets not valid).