IF Highland League championships were handed out for heart, effort and commitment to the cause then Nairn County would be strong favourites for success this season based on today's opening match of the campaign, writes Graeme Macleod.
Ronnie Sharp's side may have gone down by a harsh four goals to nil but they never stopped running and never stopped working for one another despite possession and goal scoring chances being at a premium.
The outcome of the match was never really in doubt with Steven Mackay heading the opener for Brora just two minutes in and many inside Station Park would have feared the worst at that stage. But Sharp's men put up a stoic display and the boss could not fault the hard work of his charges.
He said: "I was delighted with the effort we put in and the organisation as well because that is something we have been working on ahead of this game."
"We went a goal down in the first couple of minutes but we kept working away up to half time and I thought we came more and more into the game as the first half wore on."
"Some boys were nervous, especially the young boys, who were very nervous. It is a big challenge for them to come in and play against Brora with just two-and-a-half weeks of training under our belts."
"We can only get stronger. Wayne Mackintosh will be back for next week and hopefully we can get a few more bodies in and we will just move on from there. Graeme Macleod and I will be working hard to try to add to the squad and hopefully it will soon be a battle for players to get into the team."
Sharp named trialist Jamie Mackay and four under-20s squad members on his bench as his already-lean squad was depleted further by the absences of Mackintosh and injured duo Gregg Main and Kenny McKenzie.
The boss added: "Brora have been the top side in the Highland League over the last three or four years and they have a really settled team. You noticed the difference in the second half at 2-0 when they were putting on top quality strikers in Craig Campbell and Paul Brindle, who was one of the top goal scorers in the league last year. I thought our defence did really well and it has only been put together over the last two weeks."
"Going forward, some of the boys need games but hopefully by the end of the month, we will be up to speed. This is almost a pre-season for us."
Nairn lost 7-1 at home to Brora last season and Sharp admits he thought something similar might be on the cards following Mackay's early opener.
"I feared the worst and I think some of the players did as well!" he revealed.
"I think we looked shell-shocked for the first 10 minutes but we then got them to do what they have been trained to do positional-wise and once we did that, we settled down. Paul Macleod had an excellent game, as did Callum Riddell and Glenn Main while young Callum Ednie did well and Dylan (Maclean) was superb in goal."
He added: "You could tell the young boys were nervous because they were quiet. It was a first start for Dylan along with Jordan (Macrae), Jack (Maclean) and Callum. They will grow and improve over the next few years and hopefully Nairn will see the best of them."
At the other end of the age spectrum, 35-year-old former County star Willie Barron was thrown straight into the starting line-up by Sharp featuring as a trialist.
"I am not sure if Willie is 35 or 85 he has been on the go that long!" Sharp quipped. "He was excellent today and he has only done two training sessions with us."
"We had Wayne and Gregg Main missing, so we decided to throw Willie in and he did exactly what we wanted him to."
"Brora are very good in the middle of the park through Dale Gillespie especially and Gavin Morrison too. They are both experienced boys, so to do as well as we did against that sort of opposition, I cannot fault any of our boys."