TWO late penalty kicks for Inverurie Locos saw Nairn County have to settle for a point at Harlaw Park but visiting manager Ronnie Sharp refused to be downbeat despite seeing his side surrender a two-goal in the final eight minutes.
Callum Maclean turned home an Adam Porritt free kick to give County the lead at half time before Max Ewan rifled in a second for the visitors midway through the second half.
Inverurie’s long ball approach revolving around goalkeeper Andy Reid shelling the ball from one end of the park to the other might have given their supporters sore necks watching the ball fall from the skies at the edge of the County penalty area but it eventually reaped dividends in the final 10 minutes.
Adam Porritt was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball in an aerial challenge on 82 minutes allowing the prolific Neil Gauld the chance to strike from the penalty spot before a desperate Fraser Dingwall challenge on Chris Angus in the box a minute into stoppage time meant that Gauld could then complete the comeback and he duly obliged.
“It was a hard shift for the boys,” said an upbeat Sharp afterwards. “You look at how experienced Locos are and how they finished the game and we probably got a bit nervous. Overall, we are inexperienced and that led to us getting nervous towards the end after working hard to get in front.
“I thought we defended really well for the whole game. I know they will point to us having a couple clearances off the line but that was down to good defending and I thought we played some good stuff.”
Sharp thought his team were hard done by with the first penalty award but had no complaints about the decision which led to Inverurie’s equaliser.
He said: “I thought the first penalty was a bit soft as it was two boys going for the ball and it just hit Adam Porritt on the arm – his arms were by his side and in a natural position and there was nothing he could do to avoid it as the ball was flicked on to him from close range and it was not deliberate.
“The second one was definitely a penalty but for the first one, no chance. That was hard to take with the first one but overall, we have to be pleased with the performance and to take a point. We are coming down here and playing really well with confidence. We had four teenagers playing from the start with the line being led by a 17-year-old, so we cannot complain.”
He added: “We are starting to get boys back now as we have had one or two miss out through holidays and we have really struggled with all the midweek games. Our away form has been really poor but you have to have all your players available when you go away to the grounds we have been to this season and we are now starting to get that.
“We have played well over the last two or three weeks when we have had boy backs – we had one poor performance in the Scottish Cup last week but we took the lessons from that into today’s game and we have to be delighted to take a point despite the way the game panned out.”
Sharp handed a first start to new signing Gussie Dey, who played in support of Max Ewan up front.
The manager said: “I thought Gussie was excellent. It is very hard to come in for your first start in a game like down here after just signing a few weeks ago but I thought he played really well up front. The line is led by Max Ewan who put in a great performance but Gussie was a good foil for him up there too.
“I thought the whole team did really well. We matched them in the centre of the park and played some really good football at times. It is strange to be happy after being 2-0 up with eight minutes to go but we were under a lot of pressure and if it was not for the first penalty, we probably would have got the points. The first one – which I did not think was a penalty – turned it in their favour and then they got the second one, which definitely was.”
The game also marked Glenn Main’s 400th appearance for the club and Sharp had words of praise for his vice-captain, who led the team in the absence of his brother and skipper, Gregg.
He said: “Glenn is 33 now and I thought he was tremendous today. He has been really good since we have moved him to the centre of the park having brought in Fraser Dingwall to play at the back.
“It is a brilliant thing to make 400 appearances for any club and it is a fantastic landmark. He is still as fit as he was when he was 23 and he has been excellent for us.”