ABSENTEE-hit Nairn County went toe-to-toe with double-chasing Formartine United and can count themselves unlucky not to have taken anything out of this Highland League clash at Station Park.
The illustrious visitors have already taken this year’s Aberdeenshire Cup and are in the last four of the Highland League (Morganti) Cup but can count themselves fortunate to have taken all three points from a Nairn County side who were only able to name one first team squad member on the bench.
A slack Tom Maclennan pass 11 minutes in put Conor Gethins through on goal but the striker was denied by Ryan Macleod, with the Nairn goalkeeper alert enough to advance from his goal line to narrow the angle.
Formartine goalkeeper Ewan Macdonald was called into action at the other end on 19 minutes after Jordan MacRae slipped in Ewen Urquhart but he was kept out by the advancing United stopper. Cohen Ramsay’s follow up was then scooped up by the visitors’ number one.
The opener arrived just a minute later though. Tom Maclennan swung in a right-footed free kick from wide on the left and the ball was diverted into the far corner of the net by the head of Jordan MacRae from 10 yards out.
Nairn gifted the visitors a leveller on 33 minutes. Gethins touched the ball down to Archie Macphee and from just inside the penalty area, he hooked a volley on the turn towards the bottom right corner that Macleod allowed to squirm through his arms.
Formartine were then awarded a penalty three minutes later when the ball was blasted at Adam Porritt and struck his arm from close distance, although the defender appeared to be outside the box. But Ryan Macleod dived to his left to push Scott Barbour’s tame penalty kick behind for a corner.
Just when it looked like Nairn had got off with it, Formartine went in front from the corner following Macleod’s penalty save. Macphee’s in-swinging delivery from the left dropped to Conor Gethins at the far post and he was the quickest to react, turning the ball high into the net.
Max Ewan netted his first Station Park goal last weekend with a thumping header and the teenager almost repeated the feat on 51 minutes. MacRae did well to work half a yard wide on the left under pressure from Gary Wood and his cross was met by the head of Ewan but Macdonald touched the ball over the top to deny the youngster.
Macdonald kept Formartine in front again nine minutes later. Glenn Main did well to win the ball 40 yards from goal before setting Maclennan free. He then played the ball into the path of MacRae, who was in behind United defender Gary Wood. The centre half appeared to foul the County striker but MacRae kept his feet and advanced forward only to be denied by a superb Macdonald block at the goalkeeper’s near post.
United cranked up the pressure and on 74 minutes, Macphee’s in-swinging cross from the left was left by two Nairn defenders and allowed to bounce through to Jonathan Crawford but the ball bounced in front of the centre half and he could only turn it over the crossbar from eight yards.
Adam Porritt had to clear off the goal line to deny Stuart Smith a goal for Formartine after the full back headed a Gethins corner goalward on 87 minutes.
Nairn then had men over on the break a minute later as MacRae raced forward with the ball but the ball bobbled off the attacker’s shin, allowing covering Formartine defender Jamie Michie the chance to dispossess him.
Nairn County – R. Macleod, MacDonald, K. McKenzie, Naismith, Glenn Main, Porritt, Urquhart, Maclennan, Ewan, MacRae (yellow 58), Ramsay (McConaghy 78). Subs unused: Highet, Cuthbert, Cameron Maclean, Wilkie (gk).
Formartine United – MacDonald, Michie, Smith, Ferries (Anderson 82), Crawford, Wood, Burnett (Greig 70), Mackintosh (Rodger 82), Gethins, Macphee, Barbour. Subs unused: McKeown, Main (gk).
Referee – Alex Shepherd
Pictures by Donald Matheson