HARD-working Nairn County refused to yield and stood strong against a Brora Rangers onslaught in the season-opener at Station Park, writes Graeme Macleod.
The bookies never gave Nairn a chance with some pricing 8/1 for a County win and although the outcome was never in doubt from the moment Steven Mackay broke the deadlock with just two minutes on the clock, the hosts dug in and a four-goal deficit was probably harsh on Ronnie Sharp's men.
The visitors took less than two minutes to open the scoring. Andrew Grieg cut in from the left and on to his right foot before floating a cross to the far post that was powered into the net by Steven Mackay, as he sent his header drifting across Dylan Maclean.
At the other end, Jordan Macrae's quick throw-in on the left found Gary Kerr at the front post and the new centre forward tried to wriggle his way through two defenders but the ball was scooped up by Joe Malin in the Brora goal.
Brora dominated from there on but Kerr called Malin into action on 18 minutes as the goalkeeper had to deal with the striker's looping header off Macrae's long throw from the left.
Maclean had to look smart as he threw himself to his left to keep a hold of Grieg's curling shot from 18 yards to prevent the ball from finding the top right corner.
A Calum Riddell header off a Callum Ednie cross after a short corner on the right 32 minutes in was blocked at the far post with Jordan Macrae crowded out as he attempted to bundle home the rebound.
The woodwork prevented Nairn falling further behind on 36 minutes. Alan Pollock cut in from the left and delivered a cross that found the head of Mackay but his effort struck the far post.
Maclean made a stunning diving save to deny Zander Sutherland on 41 minutes. The nippy striker got himself on the end of Pollock's cross from the left and volleyed goalwards but Maclean dived to his right to tip the ball away.
The visitors went close to doubling their lead four minutes after the break. A Morrison corner from the left was headed clear to the edge of the box but Zander Sutherland's low drive drifted just past the post. Then, two minutes later, Pollock fired into the side netting at the far post after meeting a deep cross from the left.
The second Brora goal arrived on the hour though. Dale Gillespie appeared to use an arm to control the ball in the middle of the park but referee Graham Beaton allowed play to continue. That allowed the midfielder to clip a deep cross to the far post for Zander Sutherland to run on to and hoist a neat effort over Maclean.
The stopper did not let his head drop though and he parried a powerful drive from Mackay at the far post behind for a corner just minutes later when the striker looked odds-on to score.
However, Brora found their way through a third time 12 minutes from the end. A short corner caught Nairn cold and the home side were unable to get the ball clear which allowed James Ross to fire in from eight yards.
Just a minute later, County broke forward and substitute trialist Jamie Mackay was scythed down by Colin Williamson as he raced in from the right. The foul looked like it might have taken place just inside the box but referee Beaton awarded a free kick that was easily dealt with.
Five minutes from the end, Brora found rounded off the scoring. Grieg's in-swinging cross from the left appeared to be left by Maclean and Riddell for one another and that allowed substitute Paul Brindle to nip in between the pair and flick the home with his head.
Nairn County - D. Maclean, Ednie, P. Macleod, Riddell, Glenn Main, C. Maclean, Kerr, Macrae (M. Macleod 75), Trialist (Trialist 64), J. Maclean, Naismith (yellow 58). Subs unused: Barton, Munro, R. Macleod (gk).
Brora Rangers - Malin, Pickles, Ross, Williamson (yellow 78), Houston, Gillespie, Pollock (Brindle 64), Morrison, Sutherland (Trialist 85), Mackay (Campbell 75), Grieg. Subs unused: Grant, MacDonald, Trialist, Cormack (gk).
Referee - Graham Beaton.
Pictures by Donald Matheson