LATE strikes from Ross Naismith and Sam Urquhart rescued Nairn County as they battled back to take all three points from 10-man Deveronvale, writes Graeme Macleod.
There were three changes to the team defeat in the North of Scotland Cup final last weekend with Alan Pollock and Adam Naismith unavailable while Gregg Main was suspended. In came Sean Webb, Michael Morrison and Kenny McKenzie.
After an even start, Deveronvale took the lead 14 minutes in with a simple goal. Kevin Souter's in-swinging corner from the left was crashed home at the near post by Liam Forbes as he header beyond the rooted Calum Antell.
Nairn responded by going up the other end of the park and Sam Urquhart cut in from the right but his low drive was held by Grant Pennet in the Deveronvale goal.
A remarkable sequence of events on 18 minutes led to 'Vale being reduced to 10 men. Michael Morrison was judged by referee Liam Duncan to have fouled Martin Charlesworth in the penalty but after consulting with his assistant, Chris Macleod, the man in the middle reversed his decision to award the visitors a penalty kick. Gary Harris had too much to say for Duncan's liking and was dismissed for foul and abusive language before play recommenced with a drop ball.
County almost made their one-man advantage pay just seven minutes later. A corner from the right came all the way through to Robbie Duncanson at the far post. The attacker ran around the ball and guided his right-footed drive narrowly over the top.
Nairn were back on level terms 10 minutes before the break. Andrew Skinner drove forward and played the ball into the feet of Conor Gethins at the edge of the box. The Irish striker's neat flick past the defender was just perfect for Robbie Duncanson to latch on to with his third-man run in from the right and crash an unstoppable drive past Pennet.
Deveronvale re-established their lead a minute after the restart. Antell rushed out to the right-edge of his penalty area to clear and miscued his kick straight to Ross Aitken. With the goal empty, the substitute guiding to ball over the recovering defenders from 25 yards to put the visitors back in front.
A Gethins free kick into the danger area on 56 minutes was headed out as far as Duncanson at the edge of the box but his curling effort did not dip enough to sneak under Pennet's crossbar.
County pushed for a leveller and Bradley Halsman's low drive from the edge of the box was tipped away by Pennet 78 minutes before a McKenzie backheeled effort was held by the 'Vale stopper.
Michael Morrison was pushed up front as the game drew to a close and almost levelled for County but his looping header off a Halsman cross from the left was held by Pennet.
Nairn finally found a leveller six minutes before time. Ross Naismith collected a pass in-field from the left and opened himself up before lifting his head and sending a dipping and swerving shot beyond Pennet and into the top corner for his first goal of the season.
The comeback was completed in the final minute of the 90. Glenn Main's cross from the right was met by Sam Urquhart at the front post and with a standing jump, the attacker arched his back to loop a header beyond the desperate efforts of Pennet.
Nairn County - Antell, Webb, Morrison, Gethins, Urquhart, Skinner, C. Maclean (Halsman 49) (yellow 75), Duncanson, Glenn Main, McKenzie, Wallace (R. Naismith 80) (y 90+3). Subs: P. Macleod, Cameron, Macrae, J. Maclean, D. Maclean (gk).
Deveronvale - Pennet, Krobot, Forbes (yellow 90+1), Rennie (y 60), Fraser, Souter, Cowie (y 52), Blackhall, Simpson (Aitken 41), Charlesworth (Ross 78), Harris (red 19). Subs: Buchan, Keith, Jack, Fyfe (gk).
Referee - Liam Duncan.
Pictures by Donald Matheson