AN AFTERNOON of high drama saw Nairn County take all three points from a Huntly side that eventually finished with eight men. But it is the Black and Golds’ nine men who played the second half and almost earned a share of the spoils who take all the credit for a battling display which frustrated the visitors, who earned the win in injury time.
The home side enjoyed most of the possession in the opening stages and on 19 minutes, towering defender Michael Clark headed a corner from the right towards goal but it was straight at Dylan Maclean, who stooped to hold.
At the other end, a minute later, Cohen Ramsay clipped the ball back from the by-line on the left but it was ever so slightly behind the arriving Kenny McKenzie and the midfielder could only direct his close range header over the top.
Jordan MacRae worked some space at the edge of the box to unleash a left-footed drive low and across goal but it was superbly kept out by the trailing leg of Huntly stopper John Farquhar on 30 minutes.
Then, a minute later, Callum Maclean found himself unmarked to meet Adam Naismith’s in-swinging cross from deep on the left but from just a few yards out, he skewed his side-footed shot across goal and past the post.
Huntly went down to 10 men with Gary McGowan receiving two bookings in the space of a minute. The attacker was booked for a trip on Jack Maclean then disputed the decision and was given his marching orders for a second caution.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Huntly took the lead on 44 minutes. Michael Clark was unmarked to meet an out-swinging free kick into the box from the right with a header that crashed beyond Dylan Maclean.
But the centre half’s celebrations were cut short when he was immediately dismissed for a gesture made to the referee following his goal.
County looked to make the numerical advantage count and four minutes into the second half, Adam Porritt smashed a 25-yard shot just past the right-hand post.
Ramsay then delivered a cross from the left on 54 minutes that Dylan Mackenzie met with a glancing header that flashed across goal and beyond the far post.
County levelled in fortuitous circumstances on 62 minutes. A desperate Huntly clearance just inside the box struck Dylan Mackenzie on the shin with the ball trickling into the bottom left corner for the striker’s third goal in as many games.
Returning midfielder Ewen Urquhart almost put County in front on 71 minutes but he could only direct McKenzie’s ball across goal from the left wide of the far post from a few yards out.
Nairn found their way in front 15 minutes from the end. A short Adam Naismith corner on the left to Ramsay was delivered on to the head of Urquhart, with the midfielder drawing a magnificent diving save from Farquhar as he tipped to the ball on to the post. But Max Ewan was the first man to react as he turned home the rebound from close range for his second goal in County colours.
County should have put daylight between the sides on 83 minutes when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Dylan Mackenzie. But the impressive Farquhar blocked MacRae’s spot kick and then diverted Naismith’s follow up over the bar with an outstretched leg.
It looked like it was going to come back to haunt County as the home side equalised in dramatic style in the final minute and it was a disaster for the visitors. A long punt up the park was knocked past the out-rushing Dylan Maclean by the Huntly sub Matty McDonald with the striker racing in to roll home a last-minute leveller as Christie Park erupted and all remaining home players piled into the celebrations.
But the drama was not finished there as Nairn went up the park and were awarded another penalty for a handball in the box to win the game. Matty McDonald became the third Huntly player sent off when he protested the decision and after a lengthy delay, skipper Glenn Main led by example to remain cool and smash home the spot kick which earned earn all three points.
Huntly – Farquhar, Donald, Jack (yellow 30), Murison, Clark (red 44), Booth (y 82), Napier (y 22), Wyness (Hay 84), McGowan (y 39, 40), Ewen (McDonald 70 (r 90)), Stewart (Andrews 75). Subs unused: Reid (gk).
Nairn County – D. Maclean, MacDonald (Urquhart 69), Callum Maclean, Naismith (yellow 42), Glenn Main, Porritt, J. Maclean (Ewan 60), K. McKenzie (y 56), D. Mackenzie (Fernandino-Soto 84), MacRae, Ramsay. Subs unused: Highet, Munro, Cameron Maclean, R. Macleod (gk).
Referee – Alex Shepherd.
Pictures by Donald Matheson