Written by Nairn County FC July 31st 2021

It was a disappointing day at Station Park to kick-off the home league season as we unfortunately picked up where we left off on Wednesday night with a lack of urgency in possession and some defensive gifts out of it contributing to a 2-0 reverse at the hands of Deveronvale. The visitors were worth their win with a more committed showing all round, picking up the vast majority of second balls through more determination and better workrate with a defensive shape and organisation which blunted our attacking threat. 'Vale goalkeeper Sean McIntosh was rarely troubled and except for a routine block from a Kenny McKenzie shot in the first half, the stopper had nothing but catching practice to keep him occupied. That was, in part, down to Deveronvale's excellent defensive organisation and gritty commitment to prevent us from building any incisive moves or advancing into prominent scoring positions. We still managed to create our fair share of openings though but that coolness required in front of goal was sorely lacking at the vital moment, which will be troubling for manager Ronnie Sharp. A poor day started as it meant to go on with Fraser Dingwall sustaining a serious knee injury in the pre-match warm-up to add to Sharp's injury woes. The centre half has a suspected torn medial ligament and joins Calum Howarth, Tom Maclennan, Scott Davidson, John Treasurer and Lewis Mitchell in being ruled out for the medium to long term. That meant our line-up was: Nairn County – Will Counsell, Rory Williamson (Sam Gordon 75), Cohen Ramsay, Callum Maclean, Callum Ednie, Glenn Main, Max Ewan, Angus Dey, Conor Gethins (Dylan Mackenzie 70), Liam Shewan (Seamus McConaghy 62), Kenny McKenzie. Subs unused: Ciaran Young, Scott Mutch, Dylan Maclean (gk). Deveronvale – Sean McIntosh, Ross Aitken, Kyle Willox, Robbie Allan, James Connelly, Innes McKay, Sam Robertson (yellow 65) (Max Stewart 90+1), Rory Davidson, Dane Ballard, Michael Watson (Courtney Cooper 75), Robert Scott (y 64) (Matt Jamieson 83 (y 90+2)). Subs unused: Kevin Adams, Charlie Hay, Grant Noble, James Blanchard (gk). The visitors went in front after just six minutes with a goal which was completely avoidable. Glenn Main was played into trouble when he was the last defender with a pass infield as he was instantly swarmed by Dane Ballard and Robert Scott. The ball broke kindly into the path of the former and he was off, advancing in on Will Counsell's goal before trundling the ball past the exposed Nairn goalkeeper. Cohen Ramsay's cross from the left on 17 minutes found Conor Gethins who helped it on to Rory Williamson, who was arriving at the far post. He took a good first touch to take the ball out of his feet but his composure deserted him at the crucial moment, as he blasted wildly over the crossbar. Main then looked to make amends for his role in the opener as he found the chest of Gethins with a ball forward from defence. The striker knocked the ball down to the unmarked Liam Shewan but he sliced his shot from 18 yards well off target. Kenny McKenzie seized upon a poor 'Vale clearance on 27 minutes but his powerful snap shot from just inside the box was at a comfortable height for McIntosh, who pushed the ball over the crossbar. A long ball forward from the 'Vale defence a minute later was headed past the advancing Counsell by Scott. But the ball trickled wide of the left-hand post. Just when it looked as if we would go in at the break just the one goal down, the Banffers added a second in first half stoppage time. Ballard flicked the ball on to Scott, who appeared to pull it down with his arm. But take nothing away from the strike as he got his head up and picked his spot in the top right-hand corner of the net with a powerful, swerving strike from fully 25 yards that left Counsell rooted. It almost got even worse as a cross in from the left found its way through to Sam Robertson arriving at the far post but he somehow side-footed off target when in a great position to make it three. Max Ewan beat advancing goalkeeper McIntosh to a through pass three minutes after the restart and was impeded as he attempted to hurdle to sprawling goalkeeper. But referee Baxter thought otherwise. Ewan then beat Innes Mackay to reach the by-line on the left before McIntosh got a slight fingertip to the Nairn attacker's cross on 54 minutes. That proved to be crucial as it directed the ball ever so slightly behind the arriving Shewan, resulting in the forward stretching backwards to connect with the header and sending the ball wide of the far post. Robertson's cross from the right took a slight nick on it to send it towards the front post with the ball cracking the upright as Counsell scrambled across his line. Three minutes later, a Robbie Allan diagonal pass towards the left touch line tempted Counsell from his line. But Scott got there first and side stepped the Nairn goalkeeper before clipping a looping effort towards the unguarded net. Ramsay sprinted back though and managed to hook the ball clear from underneath his own crossbar. We had another penalty appeal waved away on 71 minutes. Callum Maclean's drive was destined to hit the target until it struck the arm of defender James Connelly – who had turned his back on the ball – but again Baxter was not having it. Dylan Mackenzie broke at pace on 75 minutes and only a superb, last ditch challenge by Connelly prevented the Nairn sub from advancing in one-on-one with the goalkeeper. The ball broke out the left to Ramsay and with the time to take a touch and pick his spot, he instead let fly first time and sent a rising shot well over the crossbar. The best we could muster in the final quarter-of-an-hour was in the last minute as Callum Maclean got his head to a ball into the box but the defender's effort was tame and easily fielded by McIntosh.

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