TWO second-half goals saw Forres Mechanics progress into the last four of the North of Scotland Cup and a meeting with Inverness CT as Nairn County put in a much-improved showing than in the last meeting of the clubs a week-and-a-half ago.
But it was in the final third where Forres had the edge with Craig McGovern excelling at the heart of the Cans defence while two lapses from the County back line at the other end proved to be costly.
James Kendall was called into action five minutes in when the goalkeeper had to hold Alan Pollock’s snap shot from 10 yards.
County were inches away from going in front seven minutes in but Max Ewan blasted Dylan Mackenzie’s low delivery from the right just wide of the target after the County attacker had left Callum Howarth for dead with his surge down the wing.
The hosts twice sprung the Cans high line early on with the first ending in Adam Porritt’s attempted long-range lob being gathered by Stuart Knight before on 11 minutes, Max Ewan looked to be going in one-on-one with the goalkeeper until the linesman raised his flag despite the teenage striker looking a good two yards onside.
The game from swung from end-to-end with both sides unable to fashion any real chances in the remainder of the first half of what was a typically competitive derby.
Andy MacRae weaved his way from the right for Forres and knocked the ball low and beyond Kendall toward Liam Taylor on 59 minutes. But he was denied by a timely intervention by Fraser Dingwall, who turned the ball behind for a corner. From the resulting set piece, Taylor flashed a header into Kendall’s arms at the near post.
The English goalkeeper was called into action two minutes later when he did well to hold Stuart Soane’s low blast from 18 yards.
Knight kept Forres level at the other end on 63 minutes. Max Ewan nicked the ball off Forres defender Graham Fraser just 25 yards from the Cans goal but the Mechanics number one stood up well to block the attacker’s powerful, net-bound effort.
Knight excelled again seven minutes later. Dylan Mackenzie raced across the face of the box and looked to slip in Ramsay on the left. He then teed the ball up for Porritt to run on to at the edge of the box and his blast was excellently tipped away from the top left-hand corner by the diving Cans stopper.
Then, off the Gregg Main corner from the left which followed, Fraser Dingwall knocked the ball down at the far post but Callum Maclean could only hook it over the crossbar from close range.
But the visitors stung Nairn with the opener on 73 minutes as it increasingly looked as if the opening goal would be all-important. Substitute Robbie Duncanson whipped in an out-swinging cross from the right and Stuart Soane was unmarked to rise on the six-yard line and send a downwards header bouncing beyond Kendall.
And the visitors made sure of their progress five minutes later. Andrew MacRae delivered a low cross from the right and Ross MacPherson got there first as he slid in at the near post to divert the ball into the net.
Nairn County – Kendall, Dingwall, Naismith, Callum Maclean, Glenn Main, Ramsay (Urquhart 82), MacDonald (yellow 77), Porritt, D. Mackenzie, Gregg Main (y 81), Ewan. Subs unused: Highet, Maclennan, Ednie, Fernandino-Soto, Munro, Wilkie (gk).
Forres Mechanics – Knight, G. Fraser (yellow 75) (Stuart 89), Groat, Moore (MacPherson 55), Milne (y 52), Pollock (y90+1), McGovern (y 66), Taylor (Duncanson 68), MacRae, Howarth, Soane. Subs unused: Allan, S. Fraser, Paterson, Stuart, Brown (gk).
Referee – Gordon Seago.
Pictures by Donald Matheson