Cup Final Build-Up: Les Fridge

8th April, 2016 •
Posted In: Other
Written By: Graeme Macleod •
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A 50/50 cup finals record goes on the line tomorrow as Les Fridge leads Nairn County into battle against Brora Rangers for the right to lift the Highland League (Morganti) Cup, writes Graeme Macleod. And having already lifted this cup back in 2011 with a thumping 4-0 win over Fraserburgh, the Station Park boss knows his players are going to have to produce a similar level of commitment and performance if they are to again take the trophy back to Nairn.

Fridge has led the club to eight previous finals in just under 12 seasons at Station Park, winning four and losing four. And having lost the last two, the bookies strongly expect County to extend that run of defeats to three but that will not stop Fridge and his players from travelling to Grant Street Park with the sole aim of emerging victorious.

He said: "If you look at the last three years, Brora have been league champions twice and they have been right up there in the race again. I do not know anyone who has beaten them twice in the same season over that period of time."

"It is a very difficult thing to do it and it is a cup final - the major cup final for our league. I think the fact that it is two North FA teams says a lot about the standard of football in the north."

"We are not there to make up the numbers because we have shown that we can compete with them if everybody is on their game, does their job, is up for it and works hard."

"We have nothing to fear but at the same time, we have to give them massive respect and we are going in as the underdogs but we have nothing to lose."

Fridge witnessed Brora at their scintillating best at Christmas time when he watched them thump Clachnacuddin 10-1. That game was a week before County were due at Dudgeon Park and allowed the boss to formulate a game plan which worked to perfection, with Nairn emerging 2-1 victors.

Fridge said: "They play a certain way and I have had the chance to watch them again over the last few weeks. Whether they alter things slightly because of the way we played up there in January, I do not know."

"Yes, tactics and formations are big things and they help but at the end of the day, we have quality in our squad and football is won or lost either on mistakes or a bit of magic. If you make mistakes, then you lose games but we have quality - as do Brora - and we have players who can produce that bit of magic in games."

"It is about what we do on the day. What I came up with to beat them up there will be in my mind but they could come up with something that is totally different on the day. We will look at it, have a game plan and setup with a system and formation that I think can win us the game."

Fridge's preparations for this final have been far from ideal with his charges taking on Fraserburgh in the Highland League just over three days before the big game.

"I like to think that we are very professional in the way that we prepare and setup for games," he said. "This one will be different because we had a game a couple of days before, which, to my knowledge, has not happened before this final.

"Although it is the same for Brora, we will both have to prepare slightly differently for the game. That might be a good thing though because we will not have a lot of time to think about it. You can sometimes over-think these things, so that could be a benefit."

County have not had their troubles to seek on the injuries front this season with several key players being ruled out through long term knee issues.

Fridge said: "I do not carry a big squad, so being without Martin MacDonald, Wayne Mackintosh and Tony Wallace for the majority of the season is a big blow for any team."

"Conor (Gethins) is sitting on 31 goals this season and will be a big miss but we are giving him every opportunity to be fit."

"Young Jordan Macrae has also broken his arm to end his season. He has been doing really well and making an impact in the under-20s but we will have to do without him too."

It is the second final County will contest this season having suffered the disappointment of losing the North of Scotland Cup final 6-2 to Wick Academy in November.

"It is great getting to a cup final but it is never good losing a cup final," Fridge stated.

"The strange thing is that I thought we started really well in the Wick final before they hit us with a sucker punch and we then found ourselves 2-0 and 3-0 down."

"It was a strange one the way it transpired because we were on top of things to begin with but it did not work out for us on the day."

"It is a massive achievement to reach a second final in the same season though and all credit to the players. You are looking at something like half-a-century since that last happened, so it is a great achievement by everyone connected to the club."

"I hope the players and supporters go there, have a great day and we will do our best to win the trophy again."

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