AN INSPIRED showing from Brora goalkeeper Daniel Hoban and switching off at two corner kicks combined to cost Nairn County at Dudgeon Park as the home side emerged with all three points.
Brora were denied an opener by Adam Porritt’s goal line clearance on five minutes. Craig Gunn timed his run to perfection to sprint in behind the Nairn defence but after lifting the ball over the advancing Stephen Foster, the Brora striker saw the County centre half race back and boot clear.
But the home side were ahead just five minutes later. Gavin Morrison whipped in an in-swinging corner from the left and with the Nairn defence standing watching, Colin Williamson showed more grit to get on the end of it as he stooped at the far post to crash home a header from six yards.
Nairn were denied a clear cut chance when Dylan Mackenzie beat John Pickles for pace to advance in on goal on the half-hour but referee Billy Baxter pulled play back to give County a free kick to the frustration of the visitors.
A great save from Hoban kept his side in front on 38 minutes. Jordan MacRae stepped up to a free kick 20 yards from goal and lashed the ball towards the top-right hand corner but the home number one threw himself to his left to get a strong wrist to the ball.
Nairn looked bright at the start of the second half and six minutes in, Porritt’s bending shot from the left edge of the box had to be parried past the near post by the diving Hoban.
Brora responded three minutes later when an outside-of-the-boot pass from Craig Gunn put Andrew Greig in behind the County defence from the left but he stabbed the ball first time across goal and wide. Then, two minutes later, the Brora wide man cut inside and bent one past the far post.
Foster was called into action on 56 minutes as he made a superb block to keep out Martin Maclean’s powerful shot from 10 yards.
County had the ball in the net at the other end on 57 minutes when Gary Kerr headed home MacRae’s clipped cross into the box from the left but the centre forward was denied a first goal of the season by the linesman’s flag.
On 61 minutes, Foster made a great save to tip Craig Campbell’s header over the bar after the centre forward met Steven Mackay’s delivery from the left. But from the corner that followed, County switched off to a quick short one and that allowed Maclean to whip in a delivery that was headed in by Steven Mackay to double the home side’s advantage.
Nairn looked to respond nine minutes later with Dylan Mackenzie slipping Kerr through on goal but Hoban was off his line quickly to narrow the angle and stood up well to make a sprawling block from the County centre forward.
Kerr then did well to take down a Porritt free kick into the box on 75 minutes before working the ball to Jack Maclean but his close range, rising side-footer was deflected a few inches past the right-hand post with Hoban beaten.
Hoban came to his side’s rescue again on 79 minutes after MacRae was played through by Kenny McKenzie’s slipped past but the County attacker stabbed his shot against the chest of the upstanding and advancing Brora ‘keeper.
Foster kept out a Kyle Macleod cushioned volley at the far post off a deep Mackay cross from the left and then at the other end, the woodwork kept Hoban’s clean sheet intact on 84 minutes when Adam Naismith smashed a powerful drive from 20 yards off the face of the crossbar. The ball came flying back to the Nairn midfielder and his looping follow-up was clutched on the line by Hoban.
Brora added another goal in the final minute when they capitalised on an uncharacteristic error from the otherwise impressive Nairn stopper Foster. Jack Maclean cushioned a header back to his goalkeeper off a raking ball forward and just as the County number one clutched it, the ball fell through his grasp allowing Andrew Greig to nip in and roll the ball into the net.
Brora Rangers – Hoban, Pickles, MacDonald (Ross 86), Williamson, Nicolson, Morrison, Campbell (Macleod 64), Maclean, Gunn (Graham 64), Mackay, Greig. Subs unused: Paterson, Counsell (gk).
Nairn County – Foster, J. Maclean, A. Naismith, MacDonald, Glenn Main, Porritt, Urquhart, K. McKenzie, D. Mackenzie (Ewan 81), MacRae, Kerr. Subs unused: R. Naismith, Ramsay, Ednie, Munro, M. Macleod, D. Maclean (gk).
Referee – Billy Baxter.
Pictures by Donald Matheson