QUALITY play in the final third of the park is what helped Buckie Thistle into the first-round proper of the Highland League (Morganti) Cup according to Nairn County boss Ronnie Sharp, who saw his side’s poor run of results continue.
There was not too much between the sides over the piece but it was at the sharp end where Buckie excelled with a stunning Andrew MacAskill strike giving them the lead on the stroke of half-time before a Steven Ross bullet made it two 10 minutes after the turnaround.
Substitute Sam Urquhart’s effort 10 minutes from the end added an unfair slant to the score line, although County managed to prevent a Buckie clean sheet through Dylan Mackenzie’s penalty kick in the final minute of the 90.
Sharp said: “Buckie were a lot more clinical in the final third and I thought that was the difference between the two teams. Our build-up play was pretty good at times but we just seem to be going through a real bad patch at the moment and we are lacking goals. Hopefully, we can get out of that but it is something we need to keep working on.
“Our goals tally is not the best and that has been shown up in the last four games. Football is all about scoring goals and doing so at the right times. And I thought Buckie did that when they scored bang on half-time. Then, in the first 10 minutes of the second, we were on top but Buckie scored again. A bit of frustration set in with us and we gave another one away but it is one of those tough times we are going through at the moment.”
MacAskill’s opener was fit to win any match while the ball was in the net in the blink of an eye as soon as Ross got turned five yards inside the County box for Buckie’s second. But for all of Nairn’s promising efforts going forward, Thistle goalkeeper Lee Herbert would not have needed to wash his gloves when he arrived home on Saturday evening.
Sharp added: “That has been the difference the last few weeks. When you get half-a-chance, you need to take it. We were doing that earlier in the season but now we do not seem to be confident enough to have a go when the chance presents itself, which is a problem.”
The manager is looking long-term though and again fielded a starting eleven containing six players aged 21 years or under, with 11 of his matchday pool of 17 in that age bracket. That lack of experience has meant improving on last season’s impressive tally of 51 points and a ninth-place finish has been challenging, with maximum points required from the remaining games of the first half of this season against Brora Rangers, Lossiemouth and Cove Rangers to exceed 50 percent of last year’s final tally.
Sharp said: “We had a really good season last season points-wise and performance-wise but the team has changed a bit again and we are still very young as a squad. We have not had the consistency of selection this season as we have had a lot of players picking up injuries, which have been more knocks rather than strains. That has kept boys out for longer than we would have liked and we have had boys unavailable due to work, which there is nothing we can do about. But it means we cannot get a settled team, which is not helping. Last season, we had a pretty settled setup but we just need to knuckle down and dig in at times.
“We have to bring through our own players, which is a good thing. Financially, we cannot compete with the teams above us, around about us and even most of them below us. We have good players but it is just getting over this blip at the moment – we are on a bad run and that is something which sometimes happens in football.”