NORTH OF SCOTLAND CUP SEMI-FINAL
NAIRN COUNTY 2 – 2 INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE (NAIRN WIN 7-6 ON PENALTIES)
WEDNESDAY 18TH OCTOBER 2023
STATION PARK, NAIRN
Goalscorers: Ross Tokely (45+2), Steven Mackay (51); Harry Lodovica (65 & 88)
Penalty Shootout scorers for Nairn: Andrew MacLeod, Angus Dey, Ross Tokely, Alasdair Gillies, Ciaran Young, George Robeston & Steven Mackay
A sensational performance from the Station Park side saw them overcome Championship side Inverness Caledonian Thistle to secure their place in the Final of this season’s North of Scotland Cup, following a thoroughly entertaining encounter at Station Park.
After a thrilling 2-2 draw, the game was decided on spot-kicks.Dylan MacLean was the home side’s hero when he saved a Zak Delaney’s penalty to earn Nairn County a 7-6 penalty win and book a place in the North of Scotland Cup final against Premiership side Ross County.
The home side lined up again without the influential trio of Conor Gethins, striker Scott Davidson and flying winger Andrew Greig, as they looked to cause an upset.
The visitors line-up included first team men Danny Devine, Zak Delaney, Lewis Hyde, and Harry Lodovica all starting. New signing and Canadian World Cup star, David Wotherspoon made his debut for the Caley Jags.
The Station Park side were under the cosh during the first period, with the home side looking dangerous on the counter-attack. The second period saw the Station Park side grow in confidence and they came within two minutes of securing victory in regulation time.
Caley Thistle almost scored in the opening minute when a great ball from Jake Davidson found Harry Lodovica unchallenged on the edge of the six-yard box, but he nodded wide of the post.
Inverness kept up the pressure as a pass from Adam Brooks found David Wotherspoon through on goal, but his shot was well saved by Dylan MacLean who parried it out for a corner.
There was a golden chance for Hyde before the break when the goal opened up for him around the penalty spot, but a split-second indecision allowed on-loan Ross County attacker George Robesten to clear the danger.
Sean Welsh went off late in the first half, with a knee injury ending his involvement, which is a fresh blow for the Caley Jags captain, with youngster Keith Bray taking over in the engine room.
Station Park erupted when former Inverness star Ross Tokely gave Nairn the lead in injury time at the end of a first half in which the Highland League team on the back foot for spells.
The home side in contrast began the second period on the offensive, and their efforts were rewarded six minutes after the restart.
Nairn player-boss Steven Mackay headed home a glorious second, following a Ross Tokely assist, before the visitors reduced the leeway on 65 minutes. Harry Lodovica crashed home a superb left foot effort.
The same player hit his second of the night when he swivelled on the penalty spot and his right foot effort found the net, via the inside of the post with two minutes remaining to send the tie to a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
In a penalty shoot-out of the highest calibre, Nairn held their nerve and it was keeper Dylan MacLean who was the home hero in a 7-6 shoot-out win.
Nairn County will now face Premiership Ross County in the final on November 11 or 12 after they defeated Brora Rangers at Dudgeon Park.
Nairn now make the short trip to the Highland capital to face Clachnacuddin on league business.
NAIRN COUNTY: Dylan Maclean: Callum MacLean, Steven Mackay, Ross Tokely, Fraser Dingwall (C): Alasdair Gillies, Andrew MacLeod, Kenny McKenzie (Sam Gordon 86′), George Robetson, Ciaran Young, Aaron Nicolson (Angus Dey 64′)
Subs unused: Lewis Munro (GK), Owen MacDonald, Jamie Carnihan, Tyler Eadie
INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE: C.Mackay, Davidson, Nixon, Welsh, Delaney, Devine, Brooks, Hyde, Lodovica, Thompson, Wotherspoon
Subs: Bray, MacLeod, Walker, Keogh, Meacher, Patterson (GK)
Match Referee: Kevin Buchanan