IT WAS an afternoon to forget for Nairn County at Harlaw Park as a commanding performance from Inverurie Locos allowed them to add another three points to their tally.
Ronnie Sharp had seen his team push top sides Formartine United and Fraserburgh all the way in recent weeks but they were well beaten by the second-placed Railwaymen.
A defensive mistake cost Nairn the opener on 12 minutes. The visitors looked to play out from the back and were pressed into losing possession in their own first third, with the ball being picked off Ryan MacDonald and worked inside by Locos for Stuart Duff to step on to a skelp a first time low drive into the bottom left corner from 18 yards.
For the second Saturday in a row, Nairn were given a penalty against them for a handball despite the ball striking the County man from just a few yards away. Joe McCabe clipped the ball up against Ryan MacDonald and referee Filippo Mazzoni pointed to the spot. MacDonald was booked for protesting the decision and Neil Gauld stepped up to net from 12 yards.
Another dubious Mazzoni decision led to Nairn going three goals down on 31 minutes. Callum Maclean committed a foul at the edge of the box and the Italian official played the advantage. But when Inverurie failed to score from it, play was called back for a free kick that Andy Hunter stepped up to before clipping the ball over the wall and into the top left-hand corner.
County almost pulled a goal back on the stroke of half time but Adam Porritt’s right-footed free kick from 20 yards out to the left of goal clipped the top of the crossbar on its way over.
Hunter nearly grabbed his second of the game three minutes into the second half when he was allowed to travel forward from the halfway line just inside the right touchline to the left edge of the Nairn penalty area before turning bending a shot across goal and past the far post.
County pulled a goal back on 56 minutes. Cohen Ramsay ran in behind the Locos defence coming in off the left and saw his low shot across goal superbly saved by the finger tips of diving Locos goalkeeper Andy Reid. But Max Ewan was on hand to place home the rebound from a few yards out.
A first time drive by Locos skipper Neil McLean from the edge of the box on 60 minutes was low and well saved by Macleod, who got down well to clutch the ball.
Ewen Urquhart worked the space for a shot at the edge of the box five minutes later but he was denied his first Nairn goal by a solid save from Reid, with the effort straight at the Locos number one.
Macleod was called into action at the other end again on 67 minutes when he stood up well to block Jordan Leyden’s powerful drive from 15 yards out to the left of goal.
But Inverurie killed off any lingering hope Nairn of a dramatic comeback with a goal on 71 minutes. The hosts got away with a handball in the middle of the park when they were awarded a penalty in the first half for less before breaking forward with Andy Hunter being played in on goal. The striker then had the composure to round Macleod and roll home his second of the game.
Inverurie Loco Works – Reid, Rennie (yellow 74) (Crisp 81), Mitchell, Duff, Souter, Broadhurst, McCabe (Charlesworth 74 (y 90+3)), McLean (Laing 74), Gauld, Hunter, Leyden. Subs unused: Herd, Gordon, Mathieson (gk).
Nairn County – R. Macleod, MacDonald (yellow 27), Callum Maclean, Naismith, Glenn Main, Porritt, Urquhart, Maclennan (Ramsay 46), Ewan (D. Mackenzie 64), MacRae, K. McKenzie (Highet 86). Subs unused: J. Maclean, Cuthbert, Cameron Maclean, D. Maclean (gk).
Referee – Filippo Mazzoni.
Pictures by Donald Matheson