DYLAN Mackenzie put his first ever senior hat-trick on the board on a night of high drama at Station Park as Nairn County came back from two goals down to record a 3-2 success over Wick Academy.
County could have opened the scoring two minutes in with Callum Maclean ghosting between goalkeeper and defence to meet Ross Naismith's free kick with a header that came back off the face of the crossbar with the Nairn centre back unable to turn in the rebound.
After a frantic few minutes, Nairn threatened again with Jordan MacRae getting his head to Dylan Mackenzie's cross from the left with a glancing header but the ball bounced just past the far post.
It was Dylan Mackenzie's turn to put a cross wide when he connected with Kenny McKenzie's in-swinging free kick from the right but he miscued his effort and put it past the far post.
Nairn had Jack Maclean to thank for keeping them level when he headed a Steven Anderson header off a Jack Halliday corner from the left off the goal line from just inside the far post.
But it was Wick who found the opening goal on 31 minutes. Ross Allan ran on to a cleared ball and skipped away from Ryan MacDonald before being tripped in the box by Glenn Main. Richard MacAdie stepped up and sent Ryan Macleod the wrong way from 12 yards.
And the Scorries made it two just four minutes later. Ryan Macleod had impressively palmed a Steven Anderson shot around the post but Nairn failed to clear the corner properly and when the ball dropped back at the edge of the box, Gordon McNab swept it across the rooted Macleod and into the bottom corner.
Nairn pulled one back on 37 minutes. Ross Naismith sent Dylan Mackenzie in on goal and he advanced forward before stroking the ball beyond advancing Wick goalkeeper Sean McCarthy for his second goal of the season.
Wick went down to 10 men two minutes into the second half. Michael Steven caught Jordan MacRae with what can only be described as a clothesline in the inside left channel and the Wick skipper was sent on his way by referee Alan Proctor having seen yellow just before the break. Indeed, the Academy centre back could have been away earlier having escaped a caution for booting the ball out of the ground after it had run out of play.
Wick went direct and aggressive from then on but five minutes later, Nairn drew level. MacRae did well down the left to hold off Andrew Hardwick before delivering a low cross from the by-line that was crashed home by the on-running Dylan Mackenzie from close range as he netted his second of the night.
A Jack Maclean cross from the right on 74 minutes found its way all the way through to MacRae at the far post and he cut back on to his right foot but could only blast across goal and wide.
Five minutes later, substitute Gary Kerr connected with a header as he met Dylan Mackenzie's cross from the right after a sweeping Nairn move but he could only direct the ball at McCarthy.
A rapid Nairn break saw them go in front 10 minutes from time. Ryan Macleod plucked a Wick corner out of the air and sent MacRae scampering forward. He had the nous to find his strike partner Dylan Mackenzie with a slipped pass and the electric forward burst away before planting the ball beyond McCarthy.
Wick then went down to nine men with Jack Henry seeing a second yellow card for a crunching foul on Cohen Ramsay at the halfway line.
But the visitors could have snatched a draw when a slack back pass by Ramsay put Academy substitute Marc Macgregor in on goal but the Nairn defence recovered in a nick of time to just crowd out the powerful forward.
Nairn County - R. Macleod, J. Maclean (yellow 85) (Urquhart 86), C. Maclean, MacDonald, Glenn Main, Porritt, R. Naismith (Kerr 60), K. McKenzie, D. Mackenzie (Ewan 90), MacRae, Ramsay. Subs unused: Ednie, Munro, D. Maclean (gk).
Wick Academy - S. McCarthy, Hardwick, Steven (yellow 41, 47), Mackay (y 72), Allan, Halliday, Henry (y 4), McNab, Manson, Anderson (y 88), MacAdie (Macgregor 58). Subs unused: Sinclair, Reid, Cameron, McCarthy (gk).
Referee - Alan Proctor.
Pictures by Donald Matheson.