STUART Finnie has warned his under-20s squad they have to do more if they are to make it to the Nairn County first team.
The under-20s head coach’s advice comes in the wake of his side’s 6-2 defeat to Alness United in the first round of the North Caledonian Cup.
United went in front before their player, Chris Graham, sustained a double leg break at the hands of a challenge from his own team mate.
Once the game restarted, Alness doubled their lead before Ciaran Young ran on to a through pass and stroked home across the goalkeeper to half the deficit for Nairn.
But United went further in front as two further goals allowed them to lead the game 4-1 before Angus Davidson pulled another one back from the penalty spot following a foul on Sam Gordon with 10 minutes to go.
Nairn needed two goals in that final 10 minutes to force extra time but it was Alness who managed to achieve such a feat as they safely secured their place in the next round to complete a 6-2 victory with Mark Lamont (2), Alan Kerr, Jack Hudson, Shaun Grant and Taylor Sutherland on target for Kraig Vass’s men.
Finnie said: “First and foremost, our thoughts go out to the Alness player Chris Graham, who suffered an awful injury and we hope that his recovery goes well and he can get back to playing the beautiful game.
“I think Alness are a really good team and thoroughly deserved to win the game. They keep the ball so well and work hard and their experienced just totally got the better of us. They looked that half-yard sharper and their speed of thought was better as well but I must say that Mark (Greig, coach) and I were really disappointed in a lot of our performance.
“We questioned the boys at half time on their hunger and desire. We worked hard at training all week gearing up towards this game and we actually thought we had a really good week but we just felt that the boys did not try to execute the game plan enough.
“The first goal we lost summed up our day really – a long kick downfield by their goalkeeper which was allowed to bounce and run through for their striker to finish easily. We were clearly overawed by them and we just could not get near them.”
Finnie has seen Seamus McConaghy and Joe Cuthbert step up to the first team squad in recent weeks and is demanding more from his remaining squad if they are to follow in their teammates’ footsteps.
He said: “If the boys aspire to make the first team then they have to improve massively, including their dedication and fitness, especially away from training. We only get four hours per week to work them at training, which is not a long time at all, so if they want to make it to the first team, they all must do more in their own time away from training.
“In saying that, there were definitely positives to take from the game – we made a better go of it in the second half and played some nice football. All five subs made a good impact and looked hungry to impress, especially Lewis Mitchell, who I thought came on and gave us good composure and looked to play the ball about. We moved Tyler (Eadie) more central in the second half as well and his energy and hustling was good and he looked a threat too.”
The defeat ends Finnie’s side’s participation in the North Caledonian cup competitions for this season with this being their third year taking part and seeing them earn a maiden victory having edging past St Duthus on penalties in the Football Times Cup.
Finnie added: “These games are a good learning curve for the players’ development and we will continue to enter these cups. We feel we are a good addition to them but unfortunately, today we came up against the team who, in my opinion, are the best in the North Caledonian League.
“Some of the boys may feel we have been a little harsh on them but all we are trying to do is give them the best opportunity of progressing to the first team and some of the boys are just not giving enough.”
Nairn County – Wilkie, Barron, J. W. Maclean (Hallam 55), Davidson, Wheeler, Campbell (Cruden 65), Eadie, McDermott, MacBean (Gordon 70), Young (Mitchell 57), Payne (McWilliams 60). Subs unused: -