AN ELECTRIFYING first half performance from Nairn County saw them progress to the semi-finals of the Highland League Cup at Clachnacuddin, writes Graeme Macleod.
After seemingly endless delays because of numerous postponements caused by the unplayable Grant Street pitch, this long-awaiting quarter final was nearly plunged into darkness again by floodlight failure half-an-hour before kick off. But once the lamps came back on, it was County who were supercharged with a high-voltage first half showing.
Nairn opened well and on seven minutes, a Conor Gethins cross dropped to the feet of Paul Macleod, who worked the ball to Sam Urquhart but his shot-on-the-turn sliced past the near post.
It took 13 minutes for the breakthrough to arrive as Adam Naismith quickly recycled the ball when a Nairn throw-in on the left had been cleared to the defender on the halfway line. Robbie Duncanson needed just one touch to trap the ball and take it into his stride and another to lash it across John Campbell and into the bottom right corner.
It was a stunning strike to put County in front and was arguably topped as the visitors doubled their lead five minutes later. Conor Gethins stepped up to thunder a free kick from 30 yards out on the left across Campbell and into the top right corner of the net leaving the goalkeeper helpless.
Duncanson's in-swinging cross from the right edge of the box was headed back to the Nairn skipper but his first time volley went straight at Campbell on 33 minutes.
A minute later, the ball dropped to Stuart Leslie at the far post and his volley on the spin from point blank range was saved by Calum Antell, who showed great reactions to make a superb block with his chest. Then, on 38 minutes, Ian Penwright drilled on a low angled effort from the right that was easily held by Antell.
A superb move by Nairn five minutes before the break almost led to a third. Gethins collected the ball out on the right, switched it to Urquhart on the left and his back heel teed up Duncanson. But the skipper's first time drive flew past the near post.
Seconds later, Gethins had a golden chance to double his tally for the night when he was played through on goal but under pressure from a defender, his clip over the advancing Campbell rolled past the post.
Four minutes after the turnaround, Stuart Leslie lashed an 18-yard drive over the bar after being teed up by Gordon Morrison as the hosts made a positive start to the second half.
Naismith then cleared from the line two minutes later after Iain Penwright lifted the ball over the out-rushing Antell.
The hosts continued to press and got their rewards on 57 minutes. A square pass in from the right found Ryan Macdonald and the defender lashed a swerving drive beyond Antell from 25 yards.
Clach went for broke and spent most of the rest of the half camped in Nairn territory but County stood up well to the attempted onslaught, restricting their hosts to a clutch of half chances and speculative shots from distance.
Leslie fired a low drive at Antell but the goalkeeper got down well to gather the ball on 80 minutes.
A Gethins free kick into the box five minutes from time was cleared off the back of Alan Pollock and spun across goal and just past the post.
Leslie then smacked the post in added time for the hosts after doing well to maraud into the box from the left, evading two challenges.
County will take their place in the last four at home against Turriff United on Saturday.
Clachnacuddin - Campbell, Mackintosh (Robertson 83), Finnis, R. Macdonald, McGurk, Callum (yellow 54), Mason (Morrison 29), S. Maclean (y 64) (C. Maclean 74), Penwright, Leslie (y 17), Ingram. Subs unused: Fitzpatrick, Shewan, Grant, A. Macdonald (gk).
Nairn County - Antell, Skinner, P. Macleod (yellow 90+6), A. Naismith, Webb, Maclean (Glenn Main 79), Gregg Main (y 72), Pollock, Duncanson (Cameron 85) (y 89), Gethins, Urquhart. Subs: Morrison, R. Naismith, McKenzie, Macrae, D. Maclean (gk).
Referee - Billy Baxter.
Pictures by Donald Matheson