A ROUSING finale to last night's pre-season friendly with Inverness CT gave Nairn County manager Ronnie Sharp reason to be encouraged as he shuffled his side about with a number of players filling several positions throughout what was another tough workout for the Station Park side.
Sharp is taking the opportunity to experiment with his pool and learn what players can do in different positions throughout pre-season in preparation for the 2017/18 Highland League campaign.
Goals from trialists Liam Shewan and Joe Chalmers put Inverness CT two goals in front at the break and they doubled their lead in the first 10 minutes of the second half but County rallied and pulled a goal back through Kenny McKenzie and were unlucky not to further reduce the arrears.
"I thought we finished the game well," Sharp stated. "We are still looking to find the first eleven in the right positions and the boys who came on did themselves no harm. Ryan MacDonald played as a trialist and he came on at right back and did well. Young Max Ewan is still only 16 and he did well up front. Hopefully, we can kick on from here."
"We made two or three errors but you are going to get that at this stage of the season. Better player are going to make things happen in the last third and we just made mistakes. We need to get everybody training regularly and hopefully the holidays are over, so we can work on it."
"One goal went in from distance and a couple were from balls across the goal. We are hoping that in a couple of weeks' time that this will not happen."
He added: "It is hard to judge the standard of the Caley team because as John Robertson says, they are still looking about for a first team but I thought we took a step forward from last week, especially in the second half."
"We are still looking for the first eleven ourselves. Some of the new boys came in and did really well again but we gave away some really cheap goals. I thought there were some big errors and we have to iron those out over pre-season."
"We have a tough start to the Highland League season, so that is why we have taken on games against the likes of St Mirren and Caley and then we have Forfar away next week. The aim is to get the players up to speed because they are going to have to work hard in the first few games of the league season."
Sharp hoped to evolve his first 11 from last season after losing three players in the summer but injuries to key men and further absences through work commitments mean that the manager has had more of a rebuild job on his hands as he anticipated.
He revealed: "Some of our players are just back from holiday and some have been out injured, so we need to get them all up to speed as quickly as we can. It is going to take time and the players have to just get their heads down and work hard."
"We think we have good players but a lot of the players have not played together before. It would be nice to have eight or nine of your first 11 left from last season but we do not have that. Yes, we still have the nucleus of the players there but when you take our main centre midfielder from last season and our main centre forward from last season (Gregg Main and Gary Kerr) out of it with them both being injured just now then that is going to be a big loss."
"Glenn Main came back from holiday last night and went straight into the team though and he made a difference to us."
McKenzie's goal was Nairn's first of the pre-season games and a rare strike from the left-sided midfield player.
Sharp said: "Kenny only managed two goals last season, so he is claiming he is top goal scorer already! It was a great ball in by Jordan (Macrae) but we won it high up the park. We had to do that because we sat off them too much in the first half. We were too deep and allowed their full backs to play and it allowed them to dictate it a bit."
The County boss is hoping to have centre forward Gary Kerr back in time for the start of the season after he underwent surgery on a knee injury on Thursday.
"He had an op and it went well," Sharp revealed. "He goes back down on the 18th, although in a week's time he will be allowed to go and work out at the gym. Hopefully, we will get him back after the 18th and then we will just need to get him up to speed."