Written by Nairn County FC March 24th 2021

CUP DREAMS OVER AS MONTROSE SHOW THEIR CLASS!! Mercurial Montrose made quick work of halting our Scottish Cup progress last night with the League One high-fliers ruthlessly exposing the two-division gulf between the sides to setup a last 32 clash away at Fraserburgh next month. This tie had been on hold for almost three months with Montrose only returning to competitive action on Saturday while we had been without a game since January 2nd. The visitors' swift movement and slick link-up play proved too much to handle as Stewart Petrie's men refused to relent throughout the 90 minutes despite the outcome of the tie being beyond reasonable doubt inside the opening half-an-hour. It has still been a memorable run for us though with a convincing win over Threave Rovers, a penalty shootout success against Broxburn Athletic and this opportunity to test ourselves against one of the top part-time teams in the country. Calum Howarth missed out through injury which meant a start for Kenny McKenzie. The line-ups were: Nairn County – Dylan Maclean, Callum Maclean, Kenny McKenzie, Adam Porritt, Fraser Dingwall, Cohen Ramsay, Max Ewan, Tom Maclennan, Liam Shewan (Dylan Mackenzie 60), Scott Davidson (Seamus McConaghy 78), Gordon McNab (Glenn Main 46). Subs unused: Angus Dey, Jack Maclean, Will Counsell (gk). Montrose – Allan Fleming, Cammy Ballantyne (Liam Callaghan 51), Andrew Steeves, Chris Mochrie, Aidan Quinn, Sean Dillon, Harry Cochrane, Terry Masson (Martin Rennie 54), Russell McLean (Lewis Hawke 46), Lewis Milne, Craig Johnston. Subs unused: Graham Webster, Paul Watson, Matty Allan, Cammy F. Ballantyne, Ross Campbell, Aaron Lennox (gk). The visitors went close to opening the scoring on four minutes with Russell McLean blasting into the side netting on the left with teammates well-positioned in the middle. Max Ewan then had an effort at the other end but he did not catch his 20-yard shot flush enough and the ball trickled wide. Just when it appeared as if Nairn were feeling their way into the game well, Montrose struck the opener. Andrew Steeves' shot from a tight angle on the left was not dealt with by Dylan Maclean at his near post and Aidan Quinn was razor sharp to pounce on the rebound and put his side ahead. Liam Shewan looked to have been fouled in the build-up to Montrose's second when he was dispossessed at the halfway line on the left on 14 minutes. Play continued though and although Fraser Dingwall managed to clear Lewis Milne's cross from the right, the ball went straight to Craig Johnston, who smashed it home first time from 10 yards out. Milne then struck the underside of Maclean's crossbar with a stunning effort on 18 minutes as Montrose assumed complete control. Chris Mochrie's powerful drive was parried by Maclean on 16 minutes and then Cohen Ramsay was dispossessed as he drove out from defence eight minutes later but Milne's shot was smuggled behind at the far post by the combination of goalkeeper Maclean and Callum Maclean. From the resulting corner kick though, McLean towered above everyone to nod the ball off the face of the crossbar, with Quinn on hand to scramble home his second of the night to make it three. McLean turned well in the box after being fed by a low delivery from the right but his namesake in the Nairn goal did well to block the shot at his near post on 32 minutes. Two minutes later, the Montrose attacker then rounded the County 'keeper but Adam Porritt raced back to clear the ball off the goal line. Liam Shewan showed good persistence down the left at the other end but his low cross fizzed across goal and was cleared. Milne and Cammy Ballantyne both tried their luck with efforts from the right on 37 and 41 minutes respectively but both were denied by Maclean. The visitors added a fourth just three minutes before the break though. McLean's shot from the edge of the box was blocked by a defender but the ball came back to the towering striker and his first time, snapshot rasped past Maclean. Half time saw Gordon McNab succumb to a toe injury and he was replaced by Glenn Main. Milne showed great skill to turn away from Ramsay in the penalty area on 49 minutes but he blazed his shot over the crossbar from close range. We managed to pull a goal back 10 minutes after the restart. Tom Maclennan's low free kick from 22 yards out just left of centre wrapped around the wall and flashed across goal into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. It took Montrose just four minutes to re-establish their four-goal lead though. Ballantyne's cut back from the by-line on the right picked out Johnston, who stabbed the ball goal wards with his effort deflecting off Lewis Hawke – who was in an offside position – and wrong-footing Maclean before trickling home. Maclennan went close with another free kick on 66 minutes this time from slightly further out with the ball drifting over the crossbar. There was a stroke of luck about Montrose's sixth of the night on 69 minutes with Martin Rennie's shot being parried by Maclean but only on to the back of Hawke, with the ball dropping into the net which the Montrose man knew little about. A quick throw-in on the right 10 minutes from time caught Nairn cold with Johnston advanced in from the right and crashing the ball beyond Maclean at his near post from a tight angle to complete his hat-trick and wrap up a convincing win for Stewart Petrie's side. We wish Montrose the best of luck for the rest of the season.

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