AN EXHILLERATING derby encounter at Station Park finished all-square as Nairn County and Forres Mechanics shared eight goals after a dramatic 90 minutes of action.
Forres were first to settle and Simon Allan's out-swinging free kick from the right on four minutes was headed just over the top by Lee Fraser.
The towering centre forward was not to be denied seven minutes later though. Gordon Finlayson's deep cross from the right to the far post was met by Lee Fraser as he powered home a header to open the scoring.
It was another header that saw Forres double their advantage on 14 minutes. The visitors were awarded a corner despite Calum Riddell appearing to miss a high ball to the far post as he challenged Kyle Scott. Referee Billy Baxter awarded the Mechanics a corner kick though on the advice of his linesman despite being better positioned than his blind-sided assistant. That was to prove crucial as Finlayson's delivery from the left was nodded home by Stuart Soane from almost on the goal line.
The hosts should have found a foothold on 18 minutes. Gary Kerr flicked the ball through for Ross Naismith but the attacker intelligently left it knowing he was offside. That allowed Chris Moir to sprint in on goal but as he bore down on Stuart Knight, he blazed wildly over.
Two minutes later though, the home side were back in the game. Kenny McKenzie teed up Naismith and his powerful, low shot was too hot for Knight to keep a hold of with Gary Kerr bundling home the rebound.
A minute later, Jamie Mackay's low cross from the right was just too far in front of Kerr for him to turn home his second of the night.
But County's equaliser came on 23 minutes. Kenny McKenzie latched on to a Naismith through pass and raced away from the Forres back four before showing a cool head to slip the ball under the advancing Knight for his first goal of the season.
Knight had to look lively to pounce on the ball on his goal line after a Naismith corner from the left struck Soane on the back.
At the other end, Allan's out-swinging free kick found Soane at the far post but he glanced the ball just past the upright on the stroke of half time.
County passed up a great chance to go in front four minutes after the break. Kerr ran on to Naismith's through pass and sprinted away from the Forres defence but with just Knight to beat, he leaned back as he went to execute his shot and fired over the crossbar.
The striker made up for it on 53 minutes though as he put Nairn in front. Naismith's great pass sent Jamie Mackay scampering down the right. He then cut the ball back to Naismith who saw his first time drive blocked by a defender with Gary Kerr first to react to ram home his second of the night.
But County's lead lasted just four minutes. Lee Fraser's in-swinging cross from the left was met by Liam Baxter who struck a side-footed volley which sneaked under the body of Dylan Maclean.
Nairn found their way back in front on 68 minutes. Substitute Gregg Main's exquisite diagonal pass put Gary Kerr in behind Gordon Finlayson and he made no mistake as he smashed the ball past Knight to complete his hat trick.
Forres threatened 10 minutes from time as Lee Fraser chested down a Baxter cross from the right but he sent his volley wide of the near post.
The visitors found a leveller four minutes from time though. Allan's deep free kick from the right was missed by Dylan Maclean allowing Graham Fraser to stoop at the far post and head in to make it four goals apiece.
Nairn County - D. Maclean, Morganti, C. Maclean, Barron, Glenn Main, Riddell (Gregg Main 59), Naismith (Mackintosh 73), Moir, Kerr, K. McKenzie, Mackay (J. Maclean 82). Subs unused: S. Mackenzie, Macrae, R. Macleod (gk).
Forres Mechanics - Knight, Allan (Yellow 60), G. Fraser, Moore (y 39) (Graham 69), L. Fraser, Baxter (Hutcheson 80), Cameron, Scott (Groat 68), MacPherson (y 51), Finlayson, Soane. Subs: Grant, Forbes, McLean, Storrier (gk).
Referee - Billy Baxter.
Pictures by Donald Matheson.