NAIRN County are through to the first round proper of the Highland League (Morganti) after a commanding performance led to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Wick Academy in the swirling wind and rain at Harmsworth Park. The visitors will now host Lossiemouth in the next round on February 10th.
County had not kicked a ball since their last visit to Harmsworth Park five weeks ago but it never showed as they did not look back after two-goal man of the match Jordan MacRae opened the scoring a little under quarter-of-an-hour in.
Dylan Maclean was called into action with four minutes on the clock as he had to dive to his left to keep a hold of Gary Manson’s looping header off a deep cross from the right at the second attempt.
The Scorries threatened again eight minutes later with Gordon McNab delivering a low cross from the left that was touched just past the near post by the boot of Sam Mackay.
Jack Maclean was brushed off the ball in the box at the other end by McNab on 13 minutes but nothing was doing with referee Ben Dempster.
County took the lead a minute later though. Cohen Ramsay’s deep ball in from the left put Jack Maclean in on goal. His shot was blocked by the goalkeeper but Jordan MacRaewas on hand to ram in the rebound.
Indeed, the visitors could have been two up just a minute later when Dylan Mackenzie went in behind the home defence but his attempted clip over the goalkeeper was clutched by Wick number one Sean McCarthy.
The hosts looked for a quick response and Maclean did well to save Sam Mackay’s near post effort off a cross from the right. Then, a superb round-the-corner pass from Mackay put McNab in from the left but he was denied by a great block from Maclean.
But County doubled their lead on 20 minutes. A great pass up the left touchline from Ryan MacDonald caught out the Wick back line and Dylan Mackenzie raced in behind Andrew Hardwick before coolly placing the ball beyond McCarthy for his fifth goal against Academy this season.
Mackenzie could have had his second just five minutes later but MacRae’s driven cross from the right was just too far in front of the young striker for him to head home.
After a quiet 20-minute spell, the game exploded back into life on the stroke of half time as County went three goals up. Adam Porritt whipped in a deep, out-swinging cross from the right and with McCarthy advancing to collect, the ball clipped the head of Wick defender Andrew Hardwick, flew past the stranded shot stopper and in off the far post.
MacRae could have had his second of the afternoon three minutes into the second half after a slack Wick pass put him in on goal but he dragged his low shot across goal from the right.
But County’s top scorer doubled his tally 12 minutes from the end. Kenny McKenzie did well to squeeze a low ball across the face of goal from the by-line on the left and although it was missed by Max Ewan in the middle, Jordan MacRae was on hand to tap the ball in at the far post.
MacRae almost completed a hat trick on 87 minutes after a perfectly-weighted through pass from Ewan put the striker racing towards goal. With McCarthy racing out of his goal, the striker clipped the ball past the stopper and just wide of the target.
Wick almost grabbed a consolation in the final minute of the 90 but Marc Macgregor’s header off MacAdie’s cross from the left hit the crossbar before Maclean made himself big to keep out Anderson’s close range follow up.
Wick Academy – S. McCarthy, M. Steven (yellow 18), G. Steven, Hardwick (Anderson 53), D. Mackay, Halliday (y 64), Manson, MacAdie, S. Mackay (y 41), McNab (Macgregor 53), Gunn (Sinclair 80). Subs unused: Hughes, Allan, D. McCarthy (gk).
Nairn County – D. Maclean, MacDonald, Callum Maclean, Naismith, Glenn Main, Porritt, J. Maclean (Highet 88), K. McKenzie, D. Mackenzie (Ewan 75), MacRae (yellow 39), Ramsay. Subs unused: Fernandino-Soto, Urquhart, Highet, Cuthbert, Cameron Maclean.
Referee – Ben Dempster.
Pictures by Donald Matheson