TOP scorer Ryan MacBean struck in injury time to rescue a deserved point for the under-20s as they battled back to draw 1-1 at Alness United.
Stuart Finnie’s side can count themselves lucky not to have been more than one goal down at the interval after a poor first half showing, although the visitors conjured up the best chance of the opening 45 minutes outside Shawn Grant’s early goal for the hosts.
County came more and more into it as the second half wore on and after passing up a handful of half-chances to level, finally made the breakthrough in time added on.
Alness opened the scoring 12 minutes in. A long ball over the top of the County defence caught the Nairn backline square, allowing Shawn Grant to race in behind and loop the ball over the advancing Aidan Stewart from just inside the left-edge of the penalty area.
For all Alness’s possession and territory, they failed to force Stewart into any other than what the young stopper would consider a routine save and on the one occasion the County number one was beaten, his crossbar came to the rescue.
Nairn looked to threaten on the half-hour with Sam Gordon’s big switch from the right putting Craig McDermott in on goal at the far post. The left-sided player’s first touch was good but his shot took a slight deflection off a covering defender, allowing the Alness goalkeeper an easy save.
Then, three minutes before half time, MacBean did everything right with his header off Seamus McConaghy’s out-swinging free kick from deep on the right but he was denied by a superb save from the Alness goalkeeper, who dived to his left to make a crucial block.
United’s 32-year-old Craig Munro had looked to intimidate Nairn in the middle of the park during the first half but following the introduction of 16-year-old Angus Davidson at the break for County, the midfielder was never in the game, allowing the visitors to successfully put the home side under increasing pressure as the match wore on.
And it should have paid off on 61 minutes when good pressing allowing McConaghy to win the ball high on the left after a poor kick out from the goalkeeper but after drifting inside, the young midfielder lifted the ball over the crossbar.
Alness thought they should have had a penalty on 82 minutes with the ball bouncing up and striking Euan Wheeler on the hand but the big defender had his arms by his body and referee Stephen McDade allowed play to continue.
Just when it looked as if Nairn had missed their chance of taking something from the match, they struck in the first minute of injury time. Substitute Logan Hallam worked the ball infield from the right to Davidson, who helped it on to the marauding Jack W. Maclean on the left. He linked up well with McConaghy, who then committed two defenders and although the midfielder lost his footing by the by-line, he was still able to pull the ball across goal before it went out of play for the arriving Ryan MacBean to slip home his seventh of the season.
Alness United - Carter, Symonds, Ross, Murray, Stewart, Johnston, J. MacKay, Munro, Fraser, McFee, Grant. Subs: Hamilton, G. MacKay, Smith, McNaught, Brown.
Nairn County – Stewart, Wheeler (Colliar 83), J. W. Maclean, Tweedie, Gordon (Hallam 46), Trialist (S. Main 83), Campbell (Davidson 46), McConaghy, MacBean, Geddes, McDermott (Fraser 70). Subs Unused: -.
Referee – Stephen McDade.