A FULL week of proper training was what manager Ronnie Sharp revealed to be the secret behind Nairn County’s rampant performance against Huntly as they put a congested early-season fixture list behind them to dump the Black and Golds.
Sharp’s men had squeezed 10 games into the first 35 days of the season, disrupting training plans and restricting the manager’s ability to work at resolving the faults he saw in his team’s performances. But having enjoyed only their second free Wednesday night of season, the hosts simply blew their visitors away as they racked up their biggest league win of the season so far.
Sharp said: “We have played 10 games in just over a month, which is a lot of games. It means we cannot train properly and boys have had to try to change their shift patterns and work because we have changed the training from the usual Tuesday evening to Monday evening to accommodate the Wednesday games.
“But this week, it was great to train Tuesday and Thursday, which is the first time we have done that in a long time and it showed. We were able to work on things at training this week and the boys gain confidence from that. Hopefully, we can move that on to next week, when we are at home again.”
The first two goals came from Cohen Ramsay corner kicks from the right as his left-footed deliveries were powered home by firstly Dylan Mackenzie and then Callum Maclean.
He added: “We have been lacking at set pieces for the last season or so, when we did not have the firepower height-wise in the box but we have it now with Fraser Dingwall coming in and Callum (Maclean) getting his goal. Dylan Mackenzie proved he is good in the air too.
“I thought we played well right from the start and were on top for most of the game. The tempo was set when there was a long ball put in by Huntly early on and Fraser Dingwall won a powerful header away and then did the same when the ball came straight back at him. That set the tempo for the whole game and we were aggressive in the challenge from there – not dirty but getting around the park well and winning tackles.”
Ramsay marked his return to the team from injury with not only his two first half assists but almost having a hand in two of County’s goals in the second half as well as find the net himself to net the man of the match award.
The wide man had missed the last two games while his fellow left-sided player Kenny McKenzie had been out for four matches and also returned to the line-up.
Sharp said: “We have been lacking in the goals department lately but we had been missing a lot of players. We had Cohen and Kenny back today, which makes a big difference, especially in the full back areas taking the ball out. Kenny (McKenzie) and Adam Porritt on the other side can get us up the park a bit. You are putting teams under pressure then rather than just sitting in. They are getting forward and the rest of the boys are playing higher.”
Skipper Gregg Main played in a more advanced role, dovetailing with Max Ewan in attack but his afternoon was ended prematurely when he was punched on the right cheek from behind by Huntly captain Michael Clark at the centre spot with just under 20 minutes remaining, an incident which incensed Nairn assistant manager, Michael Rae.
With play down Huntly’s left at the time, the incident was understandably missed by referee Alan Proctor but also escaped the attentions of his two assistants, with Main having to be substituted with his face covered in blood and his cheek badly swollen.
Sharp commented: “Gregg has taken a bad one in the face and it is in a bad way. We will say no more about that but those who saw it know what happened.”
That led to the visitors losing their heads and Paul Napier picked up a second yellow shortly afterwards to reduce Huntly to 10 men. Nairn kept their heads and were able to turn the screw with two late goals to clinch the victory, including a maiden first team strike for 18-year-old Seamus McConaghy, who has become the latest in the long list of teenagers to be given their chance in the Highland League by manager Sharp.
The boss said: “Seamus has come through the under-17s, was in the under-20s last season and now he is in the first team squad. He has been doing really well for the under-20s and has come into the first team squad more and more this season and I cannot fault what he has done so far.
“You look at the rest of the team as well with Cohen Ramsay, who is still only 18 and Max Ewan playing through the centre up front as a 17-year-old boy. They are doing fantastically well considering the experienced players they are up against every week. It is good for the future of the club.”
Sharp brought trialist Gussie Dey on from the bench again early in the second half and is now looking to get the attacker tied up.
He revealed: “Gus has been training with us for the last few weeks and we will look to get him in this week. He has done really well for us in the couple of games he has played. We brought him in to see what he was like because we were pretty light up front and have tried a couple of different combinations there. As I said, Max is just a teenager as is Dylan Mackenzie, who has also played there and we are bringing on more teenagers from the bench like Seamus.
“We were needing other players in and he has done really well in training. We will look to offer him a contract this week.”
The win moves Sharp’s men on to 10 points for the season so far and ahead of the tally they acquired from the same games against the same opponents last season having only accrued seven points from the eight games they have played in this campaign, including a 5-2 home loss to today’s opposition.
Sharp added: “We have played three of the top five from last season all away from home and we have gone to Buckie as well, which is another hard, hard place to go. We had played five away games and only three home games before today but that will even itself up over this week and next with back-to-back home games, where we were looking to pick up some points. It is hard going away from home, especially to the top teams, where it is especially hard to pick up points and you really need to be at full strength to give yourself a chance.”
He added: “We have another tough one next week against Turriff, who also have a young team and I know Kris Hunter their manager well. It will be an interesting game and I am sure he will have them going. We will just look to keep playing the way we are and the game is here which is a plus because the pitch is great and you can play good football on it – the ground staff are doing a fantastic job.”