NAIRN County make a return to North Caledonian League football for the first time in decades this weekend as the under-20s travel to Thurso to take part in the first round of the Jock Mackay Cup.
Stuart Finnie's young lions have excelled in the North of Scotland League this season but this is a different challenge entirely as they put themselves to the test against an adult side in this cup competition. The squad go into the match knowing what to expect having already tested themselves against Thurso's fellow North Caledonian League outfit, Tain St Duthus at Station Park two months ago, a match in which the visitors ran out 4-2 winners.
The club won the North Caledonian League title and MacNicol Cup double in 1955 having previously won the championship in 1936. The double-winning season followed a North Caledonian Cup success the previous year while there were further MacNicol Cup victories in 1957 and 1960 with a double of the Football Times Cup and the Ness Cup being achieved in 1958. Finnie and his team of 2017 will be keen to emulate that sort of success some 60 years later.
Date: Saturday February 4th 2017
Competition: Jock Mackay Cup
Manager: Steven Reid
Venue: Sir George's Park (The Dammies), Thurso
Last time out: Orkney 1 Thurso 0, Nairn County U20s 3 Clachnacuddin U20s 1
Form guides: Thurso DDLLDL Nairn County U20s DWLWLW
Team news: Loanees Craig Munro and Matty Macleod are available for this tie having been brought into the squad from their temporary stays at Nairn St Ninian while Callum Ednie - who has featured predominantly in the first team squad this season despite still falling within the U20s age criteria - will also make the trip north. Euan Wheeler, Ian Payne, Craig McDermott, Joe Cuthbert and Jack Maclean have recently been promoted from the under-17s squad for their good performances and positive attitudes in training but the latter is unavailable for this one while Payne is struggling to shake off a groin injury. It is touch-and-go whether Reece Barton will travel as he may be required for the first team's match against Cove Rangers but new signing Gavin Smith is included in the squad as an overage player.
Provisional squad: Fraser Wilkie, Struan Tweedie, Craig Alexander, Craig Munro, Callum Ednie, Euan Wheeler, Ian Payne, Craig McDermott, Reece Barton, Aaron Fraser, Calum Grant, Joe Cuthbert, Andrew Colliar, Matthew Macleod, Ryan MacBean, Sam Gordon, Gavin Smith.
Match officials: Referee Graham John.
Weather forecast: Heavy rain 6 degrees 18 mph wind.
Admission prices: Adults free Concessions free.