A FRESHENED up Nairn County team were narrowly defeated by Formartine United last night but manager Les Fridge was satisfied with his players' efforts after a draining few days, writes Graeme Macleod.
County took on the Pitmedden side just four days after suffering penalty shootout heartache in the Highland League (Morganti) Cup final and saw Stuart Anderson net the only goal of the game with just less than 20 minutes remaining.
Fridge said: "Saturday took a lot out of us both physically and mentally having put so much into the game. We have a lot of boys carrying knocks with Sam Urquhart not feeling too well and Adam Naismith picking up an injury on Saturday. I decided to freshen the team up a bit as well and that gave a chance to some other players to come in from the start like Kenny McKenzie, Paul Macleod, Mo (Michael Morrison), Tony Wallace and Conor (Gethins).
"I thought it was a good 90 minutes with the changes that we made and overall, it was a decent performance."
He added: "The goal was quite fortunate as it was a cross which took a deflection at the front post. That allowed the ball to loop over for Stuart Anderson coming at the back post to score after making a good run."
"I thought we did really well though and did more than enough to take something out of the game. We had the better of the chances in the first half and were well in it in the second half but as soon as they scored, they just killed the game, which was unfortunate because we had a bit of momentum at that stage and looked more likely to score."
"You can never rule Formartine out though and they are up there near the top of the league for a reason. They have good, good players and one wee lapse of concentration from us and a lucky deflection on the cross led to them scoring and cost us. That shows you the quality of player that they have."
County have three remaining games this season with a trio of victories and a slip by Inverurie Locos now needed to guarantee a fifth place finish.
Fridge has been pleased with what he has seen from his players in games against the top four clubs since the turn of the year and feels that bodes well for next season.
"That is your benchmark," he stated. "Formartine are one of the teams investing heavily in bringing in a lot of quality players."
"We have beaten Turriff in the semi final of the cup and definitely deserved to take something out of both league games against them, we deserved something out of the Cove game here and we have beaten Brora up there and deserved to win the game on Saturday in the cup."
"Now, we have played Formartine here tonight and probably deserved something out of the game. They came here with a strong team to win on the off-chance that Cove might slip up."
"We have competed with these top four teams and shown that we can take results off them. We want to get up and in among them in the league next season and although it is very hard to compete financially with one or two of them, you can certainly compete on the park with them because it comes down to 11 v 11. We have proved that we can more than match these sides on our day."