MISSED chances cost Nairn County as the home side hit the crossbar once and the post twice during a 3-2 reverse to Inverurie Locos in an entertaining clash at Station Park.
County almost made a dream start to the match with Jordan Macrae's cross from the left finding a stooping header from Gary Kerr at the front post but the 10-goal front man's effort flashed just wide of the target.
A fine through pass by Ross Naismith sent Kenny McKenzie racing towards goal from the left but he was denied by advancing Inverurie goalkeeper Scott Mathieson, who got a decisive boot to the midfielder's shot to divert it past the post.
Nairn's fine start was rewarded on eight minutes though. Goalkeeper Mathieson was penalised for catching Kerr in the back of the head with a punch as he looked to deal with Jordan Macrae's cross from the left. Referee Alan Proctor awarded County a penalty and Gregg Main stepped up to convert from 12 yards.
A great sweeping move almost saw Nairn double their lead on 21 minutes. Wayne Mackintosh played the ball inside to Gregg Main who helped it on to McKenzie. He then slipped Macrae in down the left and continued his run into the box to meet the wide man's cross with a glancing header that clipped the face of the crossbar.
It was the post that denied Nairn two minutes later. Mackintosh controlled a high ball with his back to goal six yards out. Despite having three defenders on his back, he managed to turn and fire in a shot that clipped the outside of the post on its way past.
County then broke forward on 24 minutes with Kerr slipping the ball in to Macrae who was racing in from the left but the attacker blasted into the side netting.
Two goal line clearances in a row denied Nairn a second goal on 29 minutes. Kenny McKenzie jinked in from a left and despatched the ball under Mathieson but Neil McLean heroically hacked the shot clear. It then dropped to Kerr who's follow up shot was diverted over the top by the boot of the well-placed Ryan Broadhurst.
A superb save from Dylan Maclean prevented Inverurie from drawing level on 34 minutes. Neil McLean picked off a slack pass from Wayne Mackintosh and his looping ball towards the far post from the left was clawed away by the back-tracking goalkeeper.
But the equaliser arrived two minutes later. McLean smashed in a low free kick from the left and it struck the leg of Colin Charlesworth at the front post and flew into the net with the Locos midfielder knowing nothing about it.
The referee's whistle came to Mathieson's rescue on 41 minutes after he dropped a high ball to the feet of Mackintosh who managed to flick in to Jack Maclean, who was about to score when the official intervened.
At the other end, Glenn Main was dispossessed by Joe McCabe on the edge of his own box with the Inverurie striker working his way into the danger area but the striker was denied by a fine block from the restored County stopper.
County started the second half in a positive vein and Naismith saw a free kick from 25 yards dip just past the left-hand post on 49 minutes.
But Inverurie found their way in front on 54 minutes. McLean whipped in an in-swinging free kick from 30 yards out on the left and Dean Donaldson rose highest at the near post to glance home a header.
The woodwork prevented Nairn from drawing level seven minutes later. Macrae advanced down the left and beat two men before playing the ball inside to Naismith but his rising drive struck the post with Mathieson rooted to the spot.
There was nothing the Locos could do to prevent Jordan Macrae from crashing home his first goal in County colours in stunning style on 63 minutes. Gregg Main fired in a free kick from just inside the Locos half on the right and the young attacker met it on the volley from 15 yards to leave Mathieson helpless.
A Main delivery from the right almost saw Nairn in front on 71 minutes as Kerr met the midfielder's cross with a flashing header at the front post that flew inches wide with Mathieson unmoved.
Another Main set piece almost saw Nairn go in front on 80 minutes. This time the midfielder had a go himself from 25 yards out in a central position but his dipping effort flew just the wrong side of the post.
But it was Inverurie who found a winner six minutes from the end. Colin Charlesworth got the break of the ball as Callum Maclean's clearance cannoned off the Locos midfielder and he raced in on goal to drill his shot beyond Maclean.
County were denied a point on 86 minutes thanks to a superb last gasp challenge from Broadhurst. The centre half stretched out a leg from behind Ross Naismith just as the County man was about to slot home a leveller to make a superb sliding intervention.
Nairn County - D. Maclean, J. Maclean (Morganti 64) (yellow 68), C. Maclean, S. Mackenzie, Glenn Main (y 69), Mackintosh (y 34), Naismith, K. McKenzie, Kerr, Gregg Main (y 58), Macrae (Mackay 89). Subs unused: Barron, Moir, Ednie, Highet, R. Macleod (gk).
Inverurie Locos - Mathieson, Rennie, McLean (Selfridge 78), Souter (yellow 27), Anderson, Broadhurst, Leyden (Forsyth 71), Laing, Hunter (Donaldson 34), McCabe, Charlesworth. Subs unused: Jeffrey, Crisp, Willox, Booth.
Referee - Alan Proctor.
Pictures by Donald Matheson