TERRIBLE was the word used by Nairn County manager Les Fridge to describe the goals shipped by his leaky defence to Wick Academy, writes Graeme Macleod.
In the fifth and final meeting of the two sides this season, the Scorries took their tally of goals scored against Nairn during this campaign to 18 in an entertaining 3-3 draw.
Fridge watched his team fall two goals behind - the opener coming on 19 seconds - before battling back to 2-2 with Wick also reduced to 10 men.
Academy immediately restored their lead though only for Nairn to level things up again two minutes later. But despite half-an-hour still remaining, the hosts could not find a winner.
Fridge said: "When you score three goals, you expect to win the game but the goals we lost were terrible."
"Our overall performance was decent enough but the manner of the goals that we lost is the negative."
"We will take the positives out of it and look to be more ruthless at defending set pieces."
He added: "Their first goal came after just 19 seconds. I got a report on Wick's game at the weekend and they scored after just 10 seconds against Lossiemouth at home, so I said to the boys to keep it tight from the off but they played a long punt up the park, Mo (Michael Morrison) slipped, their boy (David Allan) went in on goal, cut it back and they scored from it. That put us on the back foot."
"We came back into it and had the majority of the play but then found ourselves two down. Andy (Naismith, assistant manager) keeps a track of the stats during each game and he made it that they had one attempt on goal, which they scored from, and had two corners in the first quarter-of-an-hour or so and then they went 2-0 up."
"That gave us a mountain to climb against a decent side but in fairness to the boys, they came back, although we got a wee bit of luck with the first goal. That was nothing more than we deserved because we were playing some nice football at that point and were knocking the ball about well."
County equalised 10 minutes after half time with Sam Urquhart being fouled in the penalty area by Michael Steven, a challenge which saw the Academy defender dismissed.
Fridge said: "The boy took Sam down and he was the last man, so he had to go. That got us right back into the game and I thought we dominated the last half-an-hour after they went down to 10 men with them trying to hit us on the break."
"We went behind straight away and again it came from a set piece, which was disappointing. We have a big game on Saturday coming up now, so we need to work on one or two things ahead of that."
Just a few minutes after going behind again, County levelled through Andrew Skinner's first for the club with the full back thumping home the goal of the night.
Fridge commented: "It was a brilliant goal. To be honest, I think it is his first goal for us even if you include training as well!"
"It was a great hit - he played the wee short one off the corner and rifled it in and that was important to get us level so soon after going behind again."
"After that, the winner just would not come - Sam had a great effort that was unlucky to come back off the post and their goalie had one or two good stops. John Cameron had a wee sniff as well but he was crowded out by defenders in the six-yard box."
Last night's match was the only one in the Highland League to survive the winter weather, a credit to the Station Park ground staff with the pitch in a perfectly playable condition.
That meant Saturday's Highland League (Morganti) Cup quarter final opponents, Clachnacuddin were idle going into the weekend's crunch clash at Grant Street, which does not necessarily hand the Lilywhites an advantage, according to Fridge.
The boss explained: "I would rather we go into it having played tonight. That is only our fourth game since New Year, so the fact that we played tonight is a good thing. I thought we played a lot of good stuff against Turriff in our last game, where we had a lot of play and created a lot of openings but there was a bit of rustiness. The more you play, the better."