CALLUM Maclean notched a 93rd minute leveller for Nairn County to take a share of the spoils from what boss Ronnie Sharp felt was his side's worst performance for several weeks.
The manager thought it was nothing less than his troops deserved for the battling qualities they displayed but was disappointed that the quality on show was below the high standards set in recent weeks.
Paul Sutherland opened for Deveronvale in the first half at Princess Royal Park before Ross Naismith's penalty pulled County level.
Substitute Nathan Ross lashed home with just 13 minutes left to put the Banffers in pole position for all three points but Nairn dug deep and Maclean powered home a header three minutes into stoppage time to salvage a share of the spoils.
Sharp said: "We kept going until the end and we have done that in most games but we were poor. It was probably our poorest performance in weeks but to score in the last minute to equalise, we will take the point because we worked hard for it and a point was a fair result. I do not think any team deserved to lose the game but then again, I do not think either team was good enough to win it."
"Our decision-making and first touch was the poorest it has been for a while and you might be able to put that down to the wind and the conditions."
"We showed our battling qualities and that is the best thing that we can take out of it. Last week, we played really good football at Brora and now we have come down here and had to battle for a point. That shows the two good sides to our performances."
The result was Sharp's first point at Princess Royal Park having lost in all of his previous visits to the then-title contenders in his previous five-year spell as County manager.
"It is never an easy place to come and I thought Deveronvale played well," he stated. "Their right winger Paul Sutherland was giving us problems the whole of the first half. He got their man of the match and was the best player on the park."
"We had a good few chances in the first half, even though we did not play that well. When we went 2-1 down, we showed real character to get the point. We made the subs in the second half and changed it tactically as well. We had to do that because their winger was giving us a torrid time and we had to stifle him."
County saw the first Deveronvale goal start from their own throw-in and the second as a result of lengthy run up the left wing by 'Vale wide man, Callum Murray.
"Sometimes there is nothing you can do about it," reflected Sharp. "For the second goal, their boy beat three or four players. From our point of view, that is bad defending but from their point of view, it is good skills. We cannot argue with it because it was a good finish."
Sharp was without the services of suspended duo Gregg Main and Wayne Mackintosh but brought Calum Riddell back into the team for his first appearance in a month while Jason Morganti started for the first time since suffering a recurrence of a previous ankle injury.
The manager said: "We got good game time into Jason and Calum and Paul Macleod made his return from injury. That gives us options for the next few weeks because we have been a bit light squad-wise lately and we always seem to have two or three players out. If we can get the whole squad back together, it will give us confidence going forward."
Macleod managed to earn himself an assist by delivering the injury time cross that Maclean crashed into the net with a thumping header.
"Paul's energy made a difference," commented Sharp. "We needed energy in the second half and he gave us it. I am not sure about him going from centre half to left wing all the time though! But seriously, if he had not made that run at that time then we would not have scored the goal and we would have lost the game. He made that goal and delivered a great cross which was followed by a good header from Callum."
The match was the first of two Nairn trips to Deveronvale this season with the clubs due to meet again in the first round of the Highland League (Morganti) Cup on February 11th. But Sharp does not think either side will gain too much additional knowledge from this clash ahead of that encounter.
He explained: "I do not think they were at full strength and we had boys missing from last week as well. We also had boys playing today who have been out for three or four weeks. I do not think you can read too much into that ahead of the cup tie and it also depends what the weather is like down here!"