CONNOR Scully’s exquisite free kick just before the hour-mark was all that separated the sides at Station Park as Highland League leaders Cove Rangers maintained their 100 percent by edging past Nairn County.
It was always going to take a moment of magic or a mistake for the visitors to make the breakthrough with the way County defended. And it was the former as Scully whipped the ball home to secure the points.
A quick, short corner by Daniel Park from the right pick out the run of Alan Redford 10 yards out at the near post. He swept the ball goalwards first time with his right boot but the diving James Kendall was equal to it as he clawed the ball away.
Good hold-up play by Gussie Dey on 12 minutes allowed him to bring Adam Porritt into play and the midfielder’s powerful drive from 22 yards took a deflection off a defender but would not quite drop under the crossbar.
Jordan MacRae came to life down the left on 17 minutes before picking out Daniel Park with a cut back but his goal-bound drive was kept out by the sliding Adam Naismith.
Cove continued knocking at the door and Jamie Masson’s delivery from the left found Yule and his low shot beat Kendall but was blocked on the goal line by a County defender on 21 minutes.
Then, two minutes later, Adam Naismith misjudged a long ball over the top allowing Yule in on goal but Kendall was out smartly to smother at the feet of the midfielder.
The hosts called Cove goalkeeper Stuart Mackenzie into action on 37 minutes with Ewen Urquhart slipping in Max Ewan down the left with the youngster shimmying away from a defender before picking out Porritt at the edge of the box but his low toe poke was held by the visiting shot stopper.
Cove broke down the park and only a superb double save from Kendall kept Nairn level. Megginson worked a half-yard of space at the edge of the box to get a shot away that was blocked by the English goalkeeper and MacRae looked for all the world as if he would tap home the rebound. But Kendall had other ideas as he leapt to his feet and spread himself to make another impressive save.
It was a poor start to the second half for Nairn as Cove almost opened the scoring less than a minute after the turnaround. Harry Milne’s raking low shot was destined for the far corner until it was tipped wide by the diving Kendall. Then, from the resulting corner, Cove worked the ball to MacRae at the far post but Kendall stood tall to block the striker’s snap shot.
County’s best move of the game so far saw Urquhart play Porritt in down the left on 56 minutes and his low cross was flicked up by Dey at the near post before the striker let fly with a shot himself as the ball broke, sending the ball inches off target from eight yards.
But the visitors found a way in front two minutes later and it took a special strike to put the league champions in front. Connor Scully stood up to a free kick 10 yards out from the by-line just outside the right side of the box before whipping an in-swinging effort across goal and into the top left corner of Kendall’s net.
Nairn almost fashioned a leveller on 69 minutes with Ewan’s ball over the Cove defence picking out Jack Maclean but his first touch was heavy and Mackenzie advanced from his line to gather.
Adam Naismith’s goal line clearance kept it at one on 88 minutes as he blocked substitute Jordan Brown’s goal-bound shot with his chest.
Nairn County – Kendall, Naismith, Ednie, Callum Maclean (yellow 86), Glenn Main, Porritt, MacDonald, Urquhart (J. Maclean 63), Dey (McConaghy 75), Ramsay, Ewan (y 41). Subs unused: Cuthbert, Cameron Maclean, Munro, MacBean, D. Maclean (gk).
Cove Rangers – McKenzie, C. Milne, H. Milne, Yule (yellow 84), Redford, Kelly, Park, Scully, Megginson (y 38), MacRae (Brown 68), Masson (y 51). Subs unused: Ferguson, Macleod, McCafferty (gk).
Referee – Darren Munro.
Pictures by Donald Matheson.