FRUSTRATED Nairn County manager Les Fridge blasted his side’s first half defensive display as they crashed out of the William Hill Scottish Cup thanks to a heavy defeat at Wick Academy in this second round replay, writes Graeme Macleod.
The hosts scored two goals in three minutes to put daylight between the two sides with less than 20 minutes on the clock. Although Nairn reduced the arrears with just over 10 minutes of the half remaining, Wick added a third just a couple of minutes later before adding another two late on to seal County’s fate.
Fridge said: “It was similar to the first half last week. You cannot give goals away and make mistakes like we did.
“The first one was down to indecision between Paul Macleod and Calum Antell because nobody took control and their boy nipped in to score.
“For the second one, Webby (Sean Webb) dived in when he did not need to and gave away a penalty. We said to the players that they are quick and had been harping on about it all week.
“The third one came from giving away a free kick when we could have cleared the ball and Chuckie (Gary Weir) had a free header after getting away from Webby.”
He added: “You cannot do that in the Scottish Cup. All three of the goals in the first half were avoidable but it gave us a mountain to climb. We got back into it at 2-1 with a good goal and started the second half well but it was too big an ask.
“We lost the last two goals because we were pushing forward and had the bulk of the play but they were in a comfortable position sitting with six men behind the ball to defend and hit us on the break.
“Unfortunately, you cannot defend in the manner we did and overall, it was a very bad day.”
Fridge’s felt the mistakes made at the back were particularly pertinent given Calum Antell’s lack of action between the posts for County other than at the goals.
He said: “We seemed to stand off them. Even when you analyse everything, you have the mistakes for the three goals and that is what has killed us – the first one in particular. That can be dealt with easily and the second one, Webby did not need to dive in. He was on the ground and tried to stick his foot in to nick the ball away. Then, for the third one, Glenn Main had the chance to clear the ball and missed it then Wayne Mackintosh went over and conceded a foul and they scored from the free kick.
“You cannot play like that and give away goals like that. Every goal we score, we seem to need to work for and that is the way it should be but at the other end, we seem to be gifting very soft goals for some reason and it has been going on all season.”
He added: “The fourth and fifth goals would not have happened if we had not conceded the three goals in the first half. We were on top at that stage and trying to get back to 3-2 with everybody forward and were caught wrong side on a quick throw-in, which led to the fourth goal. Then, Gregg Main tried a big diagonal which was cut out and led to the fifth goal.
“You can sort of understand losing those goals because we were chasing the game but it was the first three goals which killed us. Apart from those goals, it was not as if we were bombarded and I do not think Calum Antell had any other saves to make in the first half. It is just that every mistake we make was punished and that is the way it has been going for us this season.”
Fridge will have a job on his hands lifting his troops after this latest setback but will not have time to allow this disappointment to fester with the next league game just around the corner in the form of Huntly’s visit to Station Park on Wednesday evening. And the boss is preparing to shake up his starting line up for the visit of the Black and Golds.
He revealed: “We are out of the Scottish Cup and that is disappointing. We wish Wick all the best and we now need to pick ourselves up. I will be changing things about for Wednesday and giving others the opportunity to come in.”