ERADICATING mistakes will hold the key to whether or not Nairn County can lift the North of Scotland Cup tomorrow, insists manager Les Fridge.
The County boss took some time out from his preparations for the big game to sit down with Graeme Macleod for an in-depth chat about his seventh final in the competition as a manager when his side takes on Wick Academy tomorrow.
With the two teams having met three times already this season, Fridge is not expecting any surprises from the Scorries, especially given their impressive recent record against Nairn.
The Caithness club have won two of the three meetings with the other ending in a draw and it is for that reason Fridge makes them favourites for tomorrow's final.
But the County gaffer believes that if his players can get it right on the day then they will have every chance of taking the silverware back to Station Park for the eighth time in the club's history.
Fridge said: "I speak to managers all of the time and they all talk about their teams losing goals from mistakes or players switching off. That is what happened to us up at Wick in the Scottish Cup and tomorrow is about eradicating that."
"When you look at the 5-1 game, the first three goals were schoolboy stuff. The last one in the 89th minute came when we were caught out because we had pushed everybody forward. There are four of the five goals that you could say were down to ourselves. We have to eradicate that and be a bit more ruthless with our own chances too."
He added: "Going out of the Scottish Cup was disappointing but again, it is a cup competition and we did well enough in the first game of the tie but we gave away too many silly goals in the replay. The first three goals were avoidable because they came from mistakes and you just cannot do that."
"We have picked ourselves up since then though to win three games and draw on Saturday, so we are in good spirits and we have prepared well this week. We did not have a midweek game, so we got a good week of training in and we will give it our all tomorrow."
Despite the sides having already clashed three times this season, Fridge believes that this game is big enough in its own right and the added edge of it being a final will outweigh any possible psychological advantage that Wick may have over his men.
The manager stated: "I do not think the previous meetings will come into it. We have had a league game, the Scottish Cup game and the replay but this is a final. It is all about what happens on the day - who performs, who wants it and who makes the least mistakes. At this level of football, a lot of it is down to who can capitalise when they are on top and who makes the least mistakes."
Fridge is comfortable with the bookies making Wick the favourites to emerge with the trophies and understands why a lot of people will make his side the underdogs.
"Wick are sitting just above us in the league but because of previous results, people will make them favourites and that is fine" he said. "This is a cup final though and if you cannot get yourself up for a cup final then you should not be playing. Regardless of what level you play at, it is a great achievement to reach a cup final and you are not there to come off second best."
Fridge has been able to assess the previous meetings between the clubs and use what he has garnered to formulate a game plan for tomorrow, which has been conveyed to the players at training this week.
He revealed: "We had midweek games over the last couple of weeks, which meant we were only able to train on Monday nights. We managed to train Tuesday and Thursday this week though and we looked at a couple of things with the way Wick play and we have looked at our shape to combat that. The players have worked hard, prepared properly and are looking forward to the game."
The squad will be as prepared as they possibly can so that by the time kick-off rolls around at 3.00 pm, they are in the best possible position both physically and mentally to perform to their capabilities.
Fridge added: "We will go up a bit earlier tomorrow and will stop off for a pre-match meal. Everything will be set out at the ground in advance, so when the boys arrive, everything is in place for them. We do treat it a bit differently because it is not every day you play in a cup final."
The manager is calling upon his players to grasp a rare opportunity to add a medal to their collection and has pointed out that no one knows whether this will be the last cup final they ever play in or one of many more they will experience throughout their careers.
He declared: "It is a great achievement for us to reach this final for the seventh time in 10 years. There are players at all levels who go through their whole careers and never experience a cup final. When these occasions come along, you have to grab them with both hands - you cannot come off the park with any regrets and have to give everything for 90 minutes. You play football to win things and be involved in these occasions."