RUTHLESS Airdrieonians put Nairn County to the sword with a clinical display of finishing which produced four well-taken first half goals as Les Fridge’s side continued their preparations for the 2015/16 Highland League season, writes Graeme Macleod.
The hosts will have gained a lot from a fitness perspective with their second game against SPFL opposition in the space of four days and that is sure to bode well for the campaign ahead despite any disappointment at the result which may be lingering in the camp.
In the only change from Wednesday evening, trialist – who made a goal-scoring appearance as a substitute against Ross County – came in for a start with Kenny McKenzie dropping to the bench. Alan Pollock and Robbie Duncanson were also back among the substitutes with another trialist and Matthew Macleod omitted from the squad.
County started brightly and twice had a sight of goal in the opening couple of minutes as Bradley Halsman slipped in Conor Gethins with the striker shooting over before John Cameron’s audacious attempt at a lob from 25 yards was fielded by Airdrie goalkeeper Neil Parry.
Airdrie opened the scoring with their first attack though. Nairn goalkeeper Calum Antell did well to block David Cox’s initial shot but when the ball was returned into the danger area, the summer signing from Peterhead blasted a volley into the ground which bounced up and over the County stopper and sneaked in under the crossbar.
Jordan Morton ran on to a searching ball over the top of the Nairn defence and smashed a left-footed drive beyond the helpless Antell to double the visitors’ lead just four minutes later.
It was three with just 18 minutes on the clock. Alan Lithgow stooped to glance in an in-swinging cross from the right with his head as an Airdrie quick corner kick routine worked to perfection.
Trialist’s penetrating run in behind the Nairn defence earned Airdrie’s fourth of the afternoon as he timed his advance to meet David Van Zanten’s cute lob over the County back line with an equally-adept dink over the out-rushing Antell.
It was a harsh lesson in finishing from the visiting team who found the net with almost all of their forays forward in the first half to put something of an unfair slant on the score line at the interval. But Nairn refused to let their heads drop and dug in throughout the second half and will move forward knowing they are unlikely to face opposition of such high calibre again this season once the action gets underway for real in a fortnight’s time.
Les Fridge said: “Some of the finishing in the first half from Airdrie was incredible. Their second and fourth goals were both brilliant – good bits of football and they were also sharp and quick, which was very similar to when they came up and played us last year.
“You have to bear in mind that we are playing boys in different positions and trying a few things out. We changed it about at half time and looked a bit more like ourselves. We had more boys on in the second half who were here last year, so they knew more about the way we play.
“It has been unfortunate that we have had two big games against quality opposition back-to-back in four days. Although that is great for fitness, it is not so great results-wise but it is not really about that at this stage.
“We started the game really well but there was a bit of tiredness, which led to a few mistakes such as boys not matching runs or clearing their lines properly. 2-0 at half time might have been a fairer result but you cannot fault Airdrie’s finishing.
“You could say that Airdrie took their foot off the pedal in the second half if you only look at how the scoring went but knowing Gary (Bollan, Airdrie manager), he would not do that and continued shouting at his team to keep working hard and do the right things.
“Overall, it was another good pre-season workout.”
A Nairn County XI will visit Inverness City on Monday evening (kick off 7.00 pm) which will see a team of youngsters and fringe players from Station Park pit their wits against the North Region Juniors Super League side. Next up for Fridge and the first team is the Nairn derby against St Ninian at the Showfield on Thursday (kick of 7.15 pm).
Pictures by Donald Matheson.