Written by Nairn County FC July 24th 2021

203 days have past since our last Highland League match and it was worth the long, long wait as we started the new Highland League season in the best possible manner with a 2-0 win away at Keith. We lacked that final slice of conviction in front of goal throughout the first half and despite Keith’s promising start to the second 45, Liam Shewan’s crisp drive put us ahead before a Seamus McConaghy stunner clinched the three points. Ronnie Sharp handed debuts to Rory Williamson, John Treasurer and Conor Gethins with Dylan Mackenzie making his first start since November 2019 after a long spell out injured. The teams were: Nairn County – Will Counsell, Rory Williamson, Cohen Ramsay, Callum Maclean, John Treasurer (Glenn Main 87), Fraser Dingwall (yellow 51), Max Ewan (y 63), Kenny McKenzie (y 56), Conor Gethins, Dylan Mackenzie (Seamus McConaghy 65 (y79)), Liam Shewan. Subs unused: Angus Dey, Sam Gordon, Ciaran Young, Callum Ednie, Dylan Maclean (gk). Keith – Craig Reid, Stewart Hutcheon (Kian McCredie 77 (yellow 86)), Luke Emmett, Demilade Yunus, Ryan Robertson, Connor Grant, Liam Duncan, Tom Andrews, Przemyslaw Nawrocki, Michael Selfridge, Michael Ironside (Kieran Yeats 51). Subs unused: Andy Stewart, Jordan Robertson, Kyle Irvine (gk). It took a fantastic sprawling save from goalkeeper Will Counsell to keep us level just six minutes into the game. The hosts worked the ball into the box from the right and Michael Ironside looked to have clipped it over the Nairn shot stopper from an acute angle at the near post for the opener. But the County custodian made himself as big as could as the ball struck his arm and was cleared to safety. Max Ewan’s out-swinging corner kick from the right was met first time on the volley by John Treasurer on nine minutes but his effort was well off target. Fraser Dingwall’s diagonal pass from the middle of the park then sent Ewan free down the right. He rolled the ball back to Rory Williamson, who swung in a cross which was controlled on the turn by Conor Gethins at the near post. But the striker could only find the outside of the side netting with his angled drive. Ironside controlled a short free kick on 14 minutes and skipped away from Liam Shewan before seeing his shot from just outside the box held by Counsell at the second attempt. Cohen Ramsay hit the by-line on the left 22 minutes in. He stood the ball up for Ewan in the centre but there was little power in the cross, which meant the attacker’s header was tame and easily dealt with by Keith goalkeeper, Craig Reid. Dylan Mackenzie then cut in from the left on 28 minutes and on to his right foot only to see his powerful effort parried away by Reid. Williamson picked out Shewan with a raking diagonal pass on 31 minutes but the left-sided attacker could not get over his shot and sent the ball well over the crossbar. Five minutes later, Shewan’s corner from the right found Gethins unmarked in the middle but the striker was stretching backwards to connect with the header, which meant there was a lack of power in his effort and Reid clutched easily. Gethins then saw a low, 30-yard drive held by Reid on 39 minutes before his ingenuity setup our best chance of the half a minute later. His deft flick off Williamson’s infield pass sent Kenny McKenzie racing in behind the Keith defence. The Nairn midfielder dragged his low shot across goal and towards the far corner and was only prevented from finding the net by Reid’s trailing leg. Keith’s Przemyslaw Nawrocki nicked the ball off Williamson on 43 minutes and then stepped inside Treasurer. His low shot across goal came back off the far post before the rebound was worked to Liam Duncan, who saw his shot from the edge of the box held by Counsell. Michael Selfridge made a marauding run down the left for the hosts four minutes after the break as he burst from his own half into the Nairn penalty area. He picked out Tom Andrews at the edge of the box with his cutback, who turned and fired his low shot towards goal but Counsell was equal to it as he got down well to hold. Duncan was then unmarked 15 yards out at the far post to meet a deep cross from the left on 61 minutes as Keith continued their promising start to the second half but he volleyed well wide of the target. But Nairn turned the heat up on the hosts on a sweltering day at Kynoch Park to clinch the three points with two goals in the final 20 minutes. Kenny McKenzie’s ball into Gethins’ feet on 73 minutes saw the striker hold off his marker with his back to goal before rolling the ball into the path of the unmarked Shewan. And he needed no second invitation to lash a low effort under Reid and into the net to get us off the mark for the new season. A series of goal line blocks somehow prevented us from going further ahead on 76 minutes. Ewan raced in along the by-line on the left before delivering a low ball which was flicked goalwards by Seamus McConaghy at the near post. His effort was blocked by Reid and trickled through to McKenzie at the far upright and he too was denied by the Keith goalkeeper. The ball then broke out into the penalty area to the on-rushing Fraser Dingwall, who thumped it goalwards only to see it stopped on the goal line by the well-placed Demilade Yunus. Ewan and Shewan again linked up well down the left with the Nairn goalscorer’s delivery coming in at an awkward height for McConaghy, as the ball struck the County sub in the hip area at the front post before being cleared. But it all threatened to unravel for Nairn on 81 minutes when the referee did not see a shirt pull on Shewan with the ball running through to Callum Maclean, only for him to be dispossessed by Yunus. He then raced in on Counsell’s goal from the right before squaring his pass across the six-yard line, taking the stopper out of the equation. Nawrocki was waiting unmarked to seemingly tap in the equaliser but out of nowhere, John Treasurer appeared to make a last grasp, sliding block which, with hindsight, was a match winner. We then went back on the attack at the other end on 83 minutes with Shewan rolling the ball into the path of Ewan on the left but he blasted wildly over at the near post. We made sure of the win a minute later though. Ewan showed fantastic desire to prevent Cohen Ramsay’s clipped ball forward from left back from running out of play for a throw-in. He then played it forward to McKenzie, who in turned helped it on to the unmarked Gethins. The Irishman went around the goalkeeper but was denied by the clearance of a covering defender on the goal line. Keith could not get the ball away though, as it broke out to McConaghy. He showed great composure to step inside from almost on the by-line to the right of goal to open up the angle and then bend a dipping effort across goal with his left foot, as the ball dropped in at the far post to make sure of all three points.

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