NAIRN County manager Ronnie Sharp was positive about the efforts of his team as they came close to nicking a point off high-flying Highland League leaders, Cove Rangers. But the Station Park boss felt the game should never have been scheduled in the first place.
County were given just a week-and-a-half of notice that the fixture would be played last night – despite originally being scheduled for a Saturday and the club having six free Saturday dates between now and the end of the season.
The short notice meant that Sharp was without some key players, who had made holiday and work arrangements on the basis that the club would have no Wednesday night fixture this week.
The manager revealed: “Two of our defenders who have played most of the season (Fraser Dingwall and Kenny McKenzie) were both out as was Dylan Mackenzie, our top scorer, so we had to rejig the team. But I thought everybody put in a fantastic effort. You could see some of them going down with cramp but that was just due to a lack of game time.
“The players base their lives around having a game on a Saturday, so we cannot fault them if they book time away during the week. We have Kenny McKenzie who deliberately booked his holiday from Sunday to Friday after checking the fixtures and seeing we had no game tonight.
“We then had Jack Maclean agreeing to do a job in Wick from Tuesday to Thursday as we were not supposed to have a game and fortunately he was able to travel down to play, which shows his commitment but he then has to drive straight back up there at full time.
“The fixtures do not help you at all. People do not work 8.00 am to 5.00 pm every Monday to Friday anymore – everyone is on different shifts. You really need to know the structure of the fixtures weeks in advance so boys can rearrange their work commitments and clubs can schedule training nights – not with a week-and-a-half’s notice like we were with this game.
“Finding out a week or two before a game that you are going to be playing on that date is not the best for anyone and it does not look good.”
The match was scheduled after Nairn’s last outing had finished and had Sharp known before that game that his side was due to host high-flying Cove a week-and-a-half later with some key players unavailable, he may have revised the substitutions he made in that 5-0 dismantling of Lossiemouth to get more game time into those players who had to come into the team in this one.
He said: “It would have given us the opportunity to do that as we would have known who was available for tonight and who is not. You could see tonight that some of the boys went down with cramp and that is just because of a lack of minutes in their legs. If we had known earlier that we would be playing tonight, it would have given us the chance to get these boys up to speed in previous games.”
Connor Scully’s pinpoint free kick just before the hour-mark was all that separated the sides with Nairn running the reigning league champions closer than most of their opponents have this season as John Sheran’s men maintained their 100 percent league record this season.
“The effort and commitment was great and the last few games have been the same,” said Sharp. “Considering we had a few boys unavailable, I thought everybody did their best and we were beaten by a fantastic strike, which I did not think we could have done much about.
“It is disappointing to lose the game but you have to remember that Cove came here last year and took eight goals off us and they came into this one having scored eight again at the weekend. But we restricted them to not many chances.
One of the players recalled by Sharp was centre forward Gussie Dey, making just his third start for the club. And the manager felt he did his chances of remaining in the team no harm at all.
“I thought his performance was great,” the manager stated. “He held the ball in well and slipped a lot of good passes in for boys. He is beginning to settle in now having stepped up from the amateur league. He has done really well when he has come off the bench and is now performing when he starts games, which is good to see.”
Sharp is now looking for his players to recharge their batteries and prepare to go again having now reached the halfway point in the season and played everyone in the league once.
He said: “The effort we have put in against Brora, Lossie and then again tonight has been really good. The players who have come into these games have done well and there are no complaints from us with their effort.
“We created a few chances tonight as well, which was good to see and to hold a team as strong as Cove to just the one goal took a tremendous performance effort-wise. We now move on and look forward to the second half of the season.”