RONNIE Sharp praised his Nairn County players as they ended the season on a high by winning 3-0 away at Highland League champions Cove Rangers thanks to a double from Cohen Ramsay and Tom Maclennan’s thumping volley.
The result lifts County to eighth in the table and guarantees Sharp’s men a top half finish having accrued 17 more points than last year.
Pre-match talk of Cove putting out their youth team proved unfounded with County fielding the younger eleven while the Aberdeen club included the likes of first team regulars Nick Gray, Johnny Smith and John McCafferty with ex-Highland League champion Bryan Bell and vastly experienced centre forward Andrzej Kleczkowski featuring as trialists.
Sharp was delighted to pick up the three points which ensures Rothes, Wick Academy and Huntly all cannot surpass Nairn in the final table.
He said: “When we saw the team, they had a few trialists, which is totally understandable from their point of view because they would not want to risk their main, first team boys ahead of the playoffs this weekend. But it was still a good team and we still had to win the game. After the performance we put in on Saturday, we are just delighted to get the three points, which ensures we finish in the top half of the table. That is a big, big thing for us.
“We set the target of 50 points for the season six or seven weeks ago and we have now surpassed that target. Over the course of the season, the players have been excellent and I cannot fault them – they have been superb for us. It is progression as we have gone from 13th to 8th and cannot drop lower than 9th and we have gone from 34 points to 51 points. That is us up 17 points, which is a lot and we are delighted with it.”
Ramsay headed Nairn in front early on in the second half before making sure of all three points by tucking home his second 11 minutes from the end.
Sharp said: “I think that is five for the season for Cohen and it is great for him to score a double here. He is still only 18 years old and it was a superb header for the opener, which came at the right time for us. I did not really see it go in until he started celebrating and then he added his second late on to round it off for us.”
Tom Maclennan’s sweet volley was sandwiched in between Ramsay’s effort as he struck home his second goal for the club since joining in March.
“Tom has come in from Ross County and is a very good technical player,” Sharp added. “He is an excellent striker of the ball, as you saw with his goal tonight. He is only going to improve greatly as well.”
Daniel Hoban has played County’s last seven games in goal after joining on loan from Inverness CT and now returns to his parent club.
“He has been very good,” stated Sharp. “He has made the defence a lot stronger and more confident. He is only a young boy but he has a big future in front of him. We would be keen to have him back on loan next season if he is kept on by Inverness CT but it would all depend on what they want to do with him. That is something we will come to next season.”
Attention now turns to recruitment for Sharp and he is looking to make minimal adjustments to his squad compared to his previous two summers at the helm, having to cobble together a squad at short notice in 2016 and then deal with the loss of a number of first team regulars 12 months later.
“It depends what is available around our area,” he explained. “There are good players around but we have got Rothes, Brora, Clach and Forres right on our doorstep. Some of these clubs have got big money but if we can get a couple of players in to strengthen the squad that would be great. But we have got our under-20s squad and we will look to that as well – there are some really good players in that squad.”
Sharp is now looking to continue the progress made by his squad over the last two years as he looks ahead to the 2018/19 campaign.
“Hopefully we can build on what we have achieved,” he revealed. “It is another year under their belts for the boys. The team has only really began to settle down this year because last season, we were firefighting all season. This year, we have added to it slowly and brought in boys lately who will only improve once they have a full pre-season with us.”