FINDING a way past one of the meanest defences in the Highland League is the task being thrown at Nairn County this weekend as they prepare to welcome Turriff United to Station Park in the quarter finals of the Highland League (Morganti) Cup.
It is all go in this competition for Nairn with the dust still settling on events at Princess Royal Park on Wednesday night when County dumped Deveronvale out of the competition in extra time, despite being reduced to nine men just three minutes into the additional half-an-hour. The exploits of the players in that tie will have taken their toll ahead of this one with minimal recovery time and nothing in the way of an opportunity for manager Ronnie Sharp to prepare his squad going into this last-eight encounter.
Only one club, Cove Rangers, have conceded less goals than Turriff United in the Highland League so far this season with the men from The Haughs having one of the best defences around at this level. They are unbeaten in 2017 and will be looking to continue that record in this tie, which they are sure to go into with confidence if they had anyone observing their potential opponents at Princess Royal Park in midweek as Nairn played out a dull 90 minutes at Banff before digging deep to squeeze through in extra time, despite their numerical disadvantage.
There will be live coverage of this tie available on facebook.com/nairncountyfc and @NairnCounty on Twitter if you are unable to make it along to Station Park for this one. Updates start with team news before kick-off, all of the major talking points throughout the match, report on the final whistle and reaction from County boss Ronnie Sharp in the evening. Meanwhile, a preview of the match is below:
Date: Saturday February 25th 2017
Competition: Highland League (Morganti) Cup quarter finals
Opponents: Turriff United
Manager: Ross Jack
Venue: Station Park, Nairn
Previous meeting: Turriff United 2 Nairn County 0 October 15th 2016
Last time out: Deveronvale 1 Nairn County 2 AET; Turriff United 4 Fort William 0
League position: Nairn County 13th Turriff United 7th
Form guides: Nairn County LLDWLW Turriff United WLDWWW
Team news: Suspensions will cost Ronnie Sharp three of his most influential players for this tie with Wayne Mackintosh, Jordan Macrae and Gregg Main all counting the cost of their dismissals at Deveronvale on Wednesday night with the trio all issued with one-match bans for this competition. Reece Barton is also set to miss out as he is visiting family and Paul Macleod is a major doubt because of the gash to the head he sustained in that first round tie at Banff. However, County will be boosted by the return of top scorer Gary Kerr, who sat out in midweek with a suspension of his own carried over from his time with Strathspey Thistle last season. Also back in the reckoning are Jack Maclean, Callum Ednie and Ryan Macleod, who were ruled out due to work commitments on Wednesday with Jamie Mackay also returning after sickness. 17-year-old midfielder Aaron Fraser has been called into the squad having impressed for the under-20s.
One to watch: Kevin Main. Among the best goalkeepers in the league and one of the main reasons why Turriff have such a mean defensive record this season. The stopper has recently signed an extension to his existing contract at The Haughs and is a key part of manager Ross Jack's plans to develop his young squad. An experienced, two-time Highland League champion, his knowhow in the dressing room and in high-pressure situations will be invaluable to United going forward and finding a way past him enough times to score more times than the visitors is going to be a huge ask for Nairn in this one.
Match officials: Referee Dan MacFarlane, Assistants Duncan Anderson and Darren Westmacott.
Weather forecast: Light rain showers 8 degrees 15 mph wind.
Admission prices: Adults £8 Concessions £5.