A DOGGED defensive display from 10-man Nairn County earned a deserved three points at Deveronvale's Princess Royal Park as the visitors came up for an answer for everything their hosts could throw at them, writes Graeme Macleod.
County played for over an hour with a man less following Michael Morrison's first half dismissal but the 'Vale attack was blunt and impotent with Callum Donaldson relatively untroubled despite the home side's numerical advantage.
The hosts were awarded an early penalty when - for the second match in a row - County were harshly punished when a cross fired in from close range struck a defender on the arm.
It appeared to be more ball-to-hand than hand-to-ball but the home side could not take advantage and the penalty kick struck the crossbar.
Nairn were awarded a penalty themselves on 26 minutes for a shove on Sean Webb at a corner kick. Conor Gethins stepped up to make no mistake and bag his 37th goal of the season.
If County's penalty award had been fortunate, they were denied a stonewaller a few minutes later when a Deveronvale defender stretched out an arm to bring a high ball under his control. Referee Martin Kerrigan may have been blind side of the incident but it took place a matter of feet away from nearside assistant, Jim Lyon, who had an unobstructed view.
Nairn were in the ascendancy at this stage and were threatening to run over the top of their hosts but the momentum swung the way of the home side when Michael Morrison was red carded 10 minutes before half time.
Martin MacDonald misjudged a header allowing Vale striker Martin Charlesworth to scamper in on goal but the attacker's foray forward was brought to an abrupt end at the edge of the box when he was hauled down by Morrison, who had to go for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity.
In the second half, it was backs-to-the-wall for Nairn but the defence - superbly marshalled by Sean Webb - conspired to limit the hosts to just a handful of chances with the terrier-like Gregg Main and nonstop running of Robbie Duncanson cutting off the supply lines.
Callum Donaldson had to get down well to tip Colin Charlesworth's grounder past the post early on in the second half.
Nairn still looked dangerous going forward and Gethins was unfortunate not to grab a second when he dinked the ball past the goalkeeper only to see it come back off the inside of the post.
Alan Pollock claimed for a penalty after being scythed down in the area but the shouts fell on deaf ears while a two-handed shove on the back of Stuart Leslie after he had meandered his way beyond two defenders and into the box also went unpunished.
The home side rattled the outside of the post themselves and in a frantic finale - which saw over eight minutes of injury time played - Martin MacDonald hacked clear from the goal line to preserve County's clean sheet and wrap up all three points.
Pictures by Donald Matheson