THERE were plenty of positives for Nairn County to take out of today's opening day derby clash at Forres Mechanics as the home side edged an entertaining encounter.
Quality players in the final third make the difference at this level and the Mechanics certainly have one in Stuart Soane. And it was his sweeping half-volley on 13 minutes which proved to be the only goal of the game.
The visitors started positively but Forres nearly broke the deadlock on the break six minutes in. Calum Howarth raced on to Alan Pollock's ball down the left and clipped in a cross that was directed across goal and beyond the far post by the head of John Cameron.
Cameron was at the heart of things for Forres again three minutes later when the County defence switched off, allowing the forward in on goal but he was denied by a great save from debutant Stephen Foster, who spread himself well to make the block.
Foster again kept out Cameron this time saving with his legs but the opener for Forres arrived on 13 minutes. Simon Allan's deep cross from the right was caught on the half-volley by Stuart Soane as it dropped and he swept the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from 15 yards out.
Nairn looked to respond two minutes later with Jordan MacRae teeing up Ross Naismith but the midfielder drilled his low shot from the edge of the box inches past the left-hand post.
Naismith had another chance on 23 minutes after Jack Maclean did well to beat Alan Pollock on the right and pull the ball back but Nairn's number 7 saw his shot from 10 yards out at the front post deflected across goal and inches past the post.
County were then controversially denied a leveller on 26 minutes. Ewen Urquhart swept the ball home after Forres goalkeeper Stuart Knight had collided with his defender but the linesman's flag was up and the goal was disallowed.
Forres threatened to double their lead just before the break but again Foster excelled as the goalkeeper tipped Soane's header off a deep Pollock cross from the left wide of the post. From the resulting corner, Graham Fraser flashed a header inches past the near post.
Ross Naismith had another sight of goal for Nairn on 47 minutes but his volley from 20 yards out on the right flashed across goal and wide.
Only a goal line clearance by Graham Fraser denied Nairn an equaliser on 63 minutes. Urquhart hit the by-line on the left and played the ball across goal but the Forres centre half was in the right position just inside the far post to blast clear ahead of the arriving Jack Maclean.
Lee Fraser lifted the ball over the head of Foster on 68 minutes but the Nairn goalkeeper raced back to clutch the ball as it was about to cross the line.
Fraser had another chance nine minutes later when he managed to turn on the edge of the box and unleash a powerful drive that flew over the crossbar.
Forres Mechanics - Knight, Allan (Milne 36) (Duncanson 46), G. Fraser (yellow 60), Groat, Moore, L. Fraser, Pollock, Cameron (Stuart 81), Howarth (y 50), R. Fraser, Soane (y 35). Subs unused: Brown (trialist), Paterson, Storrier (gk).
Nairn County - Foster, J. Maclean, C. Maclean, A. Naismith, Glenn Main, Porritt, R. Naismith (MacDonald 59), Urquhart (Ednie 82), D. Mackenzie (Ewan 70), MacRae, Ramsay (yellow 88). Subs unused: Munro, M. Macleod, R. Macleod (gk).
Referee - Stephen Brown.
Pictures by Donald Matheson.