IT was an agonising penalty shootout defeat for the under-20s as they exited the Scottish Youth Cup at Inverurie Locos after a battling 2-2 draw.
County had led twice against the dominant hosts but the two teams could not be separated after 120 minutes of action. And it was Nairn's two best performers on the day who were forced to carry the burden of failing to find the net in the shootout as the impressive Cameron Maclean and Seamus McConaghy saw their efforts from 12 yards saved.
There was an early scare for Nairn two minutes in with a short pass back by Craig Munro putting Reece Brown in and after he rounded Fraser Wilkie, he struck the outside of the near post.
Inverurie dominated the early proceedings but it was Nairn who went in front 20 minutes in. Joe Cuthbert's in-swinging free kick from the left was knocked down by Craig Munro at the back post for Max Ewan to prod past the goalkeeper from close range.
A great diving save by Fraser Wilkie prevented Inverurie from levelling on 31 minutes. Owen Lawrence whipped in an inviting cross from the left that was met by the head of substitute Ethan Grant but Wilkie threw himself to his left to keep Nairn ahead.
Then, two minutes later, a rising shot from Inverurie's Josh Bolton flew just over the crossbar after the ball dropped to the Locos attacker 10 yards from goal.
The Locos started the second half well and after the ball bounced off the crossbar off a Reece Brown corner from the left, the same player again hit the bar with a cross from the right with Wilkie beaten.
Inverurie continued to push and Brown's cross from the left dropped to Bolton a few yards out but his stabbed effort was blocked by the well-placed Euan Wheeler on the goal line.
But the home side levelled the tie on 63 minutes. Bolton cut inside on the left and delivered a cross that was allowed to bounce through to the far post where Reece Brown arrived first to nod past Wilkie.
The home side looked to press on from their but Nairn went back in front on 73 minutes as County caught them on the break. Ewan slipped a pass through for Ryan MacBean to run on to and he remained composed to advance forward and slot past the goalkeeper.
Inverurie drew level again just a minute later though. The ball sat up for the unmarked Ethan Grant at the edge of the box and he smashed a first time shot beyond Wilkie.
The home side dominated the first half of extra time but it was Nairn who came closest to adding to the score line when Seamus McConaghy dipped a 30-yard shot over the crossbar by a matter of inches with goalkeeper Sean Cook beaten.
Inverurie threatened four minutes into the second half of extra time but Wilkie stood up well to beat away Bolton's 12-yard drive as the tie went to penalties.
- Mitchell Cheyne (Inverurie Locos) scored.
- Ryan MacBean (Nairn County) scored.
- Josh Bolton (Inverurie Locos) scored.
- Cameron Maclean (Nairn County) saved.
- Owen Lawrence (Inverurie Locos) scored.
- Seamus McConaghy (Nairn County) saved.
- Ethan Grant (Inverurie Locos) scored.
Inverurie Locos - Cook, T. Reid, Lawrence (yellow 103), Gill, Cheyne, Watt, Christie (Strachan 69), Cooper, Bolton, Brown (M. Reid 83), Lind (Grant 17 (y 78)). Subs unused: Hinks, Dawson, Faskin (gk).
Nairn County - Wilkie, Wheeler, Jack W. Maclean (MacBean 46), Cameron Maclean, Munro, Cuthbert (Tweedie 78), Payne, McConaghy, Gordon (A. Main 69), Ewan, Campbell. Subs unused: Millard, Geddes, Colliar, Stewart (gk).