GOALS at the right times in last night’s 3-0 success over Turriff United were vital for Nairn County ending their 2017/18 programme of home fixtures with a win, according to manager Ronnie Sharp.
Turriff started the match the better of the two teams but Nairn came into it and opened the scoring through Max Ewan seven minutes before the break.
United then pushed for an equaliser with Dylan Mackenzie’s looping header on 79 minutes was followed by Adam Porritt’s sensational free kick a minute before time to seal the win.
Sharp said: “It was a hard, hard game but we probably took our chances at the right times. I know we hit the post a couple of times but we made a few chances and as I said, took them at the right times.
“We did not play well for the first 20 minutes and were under a bit of pressure but after that, I thought we came on to our game – the boys up front were strong and I thought the boys at the back and the goalkeeper were tremendous.
“The opening goal gave us that extra couple of yards in our play because we knew we had something to hold on to when we were under pressure. But we have been good at taking chances over the last few games and our boys are getting more confident.”
Porritt’s effort to wrap up the points came when he caught out Turriff goalkeeper Greg Sim with a free kick that sailed past the stopper at his near post from 35 yards with the United number one anticipating a cross into the box.
“It was completely out of the blue and all down to Adam himself,” said Sharp. “I think he saw the goalkeeper moving far too far over and decided to take the shot on and thankfully it went in. He is a confident lad and it was an excellent free kick.”
Sharp had praise for goalkeeper Daniel Hoban, who has been an impressive loan acquisition from Inverness CT over the last few weeks and made a number of key blocks to keep County in front at 1-0 up.
Sharp said: “We have brought in Daniel lately and that has given us a bit of confidence at the back. We have also changed the shape a wee bit and the defence is doing really well. All the players are fit and available now too, which we have not had a lot this season. If you lose even just one or two key players with a squad the size of ours you will struggle but everyone is fit and playing really well.”
Top scorer Jordan MacRae bagged a hat-trick in the weekend win over Fraserburgh but it was his fellow forwards Max Ewan and Dylan Mackenzie who were among the goals last night.
“The boys up front are a handful with the power and the pace of the three of them,” stated Sharp. “They are all young boys with two 19 and one 17. They are playing with a lot of confidence.”
MacRae capped a fine weekend on Saturday by scooping three trophies at the club’s Player of the Year awards following the Fraserburgh match.
Sharp added: “Jordan swept the board a bit at the awards, which was too be expected because he has got 23 goals for us this season and is still only 19. He has been excellent for us and hopefully he will continue and get another couple before the end of the season.
“It will be up to Jordan himself what he wants to do next season. If he sees us progressing, hopefully he will want to stay and be a part of it but it will be Jordan’s decision. He is playing through the middle up front for us this season and is playing really well. All we can do is improve and show him how we intend to continue to improve.”
Sharp now has a couple of days to prepare his squad for their final two matches of the season with a trip to Deveronvale on Saturday followed by a visit to Cove Rangers two days later.
He added: “We know it will be hard as it always is down at Deveronvale. On the last two occasions we have been down there, we have needed late, late goals to salvage a draw in the league and the cup last year. We are confident going there after tonight and Saturday and we will have to wait and see if we have any knocks after tonight.
“Hopefully, everyone will be fresh and raring to go for Saturday and then Tuesday but it is a lot of games in a short space of time. If we play as well as we are then we will give ourselves a chance but going away from home is different. The last couple of games have been at home with our last away match being Keith a week ago tonight, where we did not play well at all in the first half. Hopefully, we are confident and we can this into Saturday’s match.”
Sharp was saddened to hear of the passing of the club’s former manager, Mansel Craib, who he worked with during his own playing career.
He revealed: “I played under Mansel in the 80s and I was pretty devastated when I heard the news although I knew he was ill. He is just a legend around here. It was fantastic to play for him and he probably single-handedly kept the club going in the 80s. He did everything from washing the strips to looking after the ground to managing the team to getting the players in. He was a fantastic servant to Nairn and the community and he will be sadly missed.
“He was a fantastic character and everyone who played under him will be able to tell you fantastic stories about him. He led Nairn to some of the best ever seasons and results in their history outside the championship-winning year when you look at the conditions he had to work under, especially in the Scottish Cup with a tremendous run playing Dundee and Meadowbank Thistle. It was great to be a part of.”