A TOUCH of class from Conor Gethins settled this Nairn derby as plucky hosts St Ninian eventually succumbed to their Highland League neighbours, writes Graeme Macleod.
In the latest annual summer friendly between the two clubs, County had to work hard for the win having been pegged back on three occasions at the Showfield. But once Gethins smashed in his side’s fourth of the evening 18 minutes from time, the Saints had nothing left to conjure up another leveller.
Les Fridge brought Sam Maclean, Andrew Hardwick, Paul Macleod, Kenny McKenzie, Ross Naismith, Alan Pollock and Robbie Duncanson into his starting line up with Calum Antell, Andrew Skinner, Callum Maclean, Bradley Halsman, John Cameron, Conor Gethins and trialist Tony Wallace all dropping out in the seven changes made to the team since their last pre-season outing against Airdrie on Saturday.
County found themselves ahead on nine minutes as Kenny McKenzie capitalised on Saints goalkeeper Ross Hepburn misjudging a cross from the right to stoop and head goalwards with the ball trickling over the line.
St Ninian levelled on 40 minutes though when former Nairn attacker Marc MacDonald’s pass between the Nairn centre halves from out on the right was weighted perfectly for Sam Walker to run on to and the left winger calmly lifted the ball over advancing County goalkeeper Maclean.
But County were back in front almost immediately as Paul Macleod forayed down the right and his cutback from the by-line found Duncanson, who swept home a cool finish.
Saints levelled things again seven minutes into the second half though when Gavin Chisholm – Fridge’s first ever signing as Nairn manager back in 2004 – raced in behind the County defence to meet a ball inside from the left before sliding a low drive.
Paul Macleod could only head a searching ball out to the right wing into the box but Sam Urquhart made the most of it as he crashed a header of his own into the top corner to restore Nairn’s lead just a minute later.
Saints again cashed in on their ability to get in behind the visiting back line to net a third equaliser on 63 minutes. MacDonald latched on to Jason Morganti’s ball over the top from the left and out-stripped the Nairn defence to poke his effort beyond the out-rushing Maclean.
But a quick Duncanson free kick was plucked out of the air by Gethins on 78 minutes – taking two St Ninian defenders out of the running in the process – and as the ball sat up, the Irishman cracked home a stunning volley from 20 yards to settle the contest.
Nairn County – Maclean, Webb, Macleod, Morrison (Cameron 54), Hardwick, A. Naismith, R. Naismith (Maclean 64), Pollock (Gethins 46), Duncanson, Glenn Main, McKenzie (Urquhart 46).