Veteran strikers Conor Gethins and Robbie Duncanson traded strikes in this rollercoaster derby match at Station Park. But it was the unlikely source of Callum Maclean who bailed us out and rescued a point after Forres Mechanics played for over a half with 10 men and ended the contest with just nine.
The Station Park faithful are well-used to seeing Gethins and Duncanson finding the net and they were both destined to have their say on derby day. The Irishman gave us the lead before Ross Macpherson’s dismissal but despite his team being down to 10 men, Duncanson fired in the Forres riposte after the break.
Allan Macphee then gave the Mechanics a shock lead and it was a case of trying to hang on for the 10 men of the visitors. Callum Maclean’s first goal of the season eventually drew us level though but we could not find a winner in the remaining minutes, despite Craig Dorrat joining Macpherson for an early bath later on.
Ronnie Sharp made a total of five changes to his starting line-up with Dylan Maclean, Adam Porritt, Angus Dey, Tom Maclennan and Liam Shewan all drafted into the team:
Nairn County – Dylan Maclean, Ben Williamson, Cohen Ramsay (yellow 17), Adam Porritt (y 66), Ryan Fyffe, Angus Dey (Dylan Mackenzie 60 (y 86), Tom Maclennan (y 40), Callum Maclean, Conor Gethins, Scott Davidson (y 67), Liam Shewan. Subs unused: Glenn Main, Kenny McKenzie, John Treasurer, Seamus McConaghy, Fraser Wilkie (gk).
Forres Mechanics – Stuart Knight (yellow 69), Martin Groat (y 77), Craig Dorrat (red 87), Ross Macpherson (r 39), Ruari Fraser, Jack Grant (Callum Johnston 82), Allan Macphee (Paul Brindle 77), Dale Wood, Gordon McNab (y 23), Robbie Duncanson (Stuart Soane 75), Lee Fraser. Subs unused: Thomas Brady, Logan Stalker, Shay Ewing.
We looked to start quickly but it was a case of Knight denying Dey on two minutes. Scott Davidson dropped deep on the right to collect the ball and swing over a left-footed cross to the far post. It was met by the head of Angus Dey but Forres goalkeeper Stuart Knight dived across his goal to claw the ball away.
Forres responded with Duncanson being slipped in by Gordon McNab on five minutes but his left-footed drive was parried away by Dylan Maclean.
Knight dropped the ball under pressure from Davidson with Gethins tapping home the loose ball but the referee judged it to be a foul on the goalkeeper.
Duncanson’s free kick from just outside the box went low and past the left-hand post on 17 minutes before Ben Williamson looped a header well over the crossbar at the other end after meeting Tom Maclennan’s corner kick from the left.
A great reverse pass by Gethins on the half-hour sent Liam Shewan free down the left. He drove into the box and looked to pick out Maclennan with a cutback but a back-tracking defender managed to just get enough of a toe to the midfielder’s shot to deflect it wide.
Lee Fraser wriggled free of the Nairn defence on 33 minutes to work some space to the left of goal but he slashed his angled effort from 20 yards well past the near post.
A minute later, Shewan’s delivery from the left found Davidson at the near post but the ball seemed to strike the unaware forward and fly over the crossbar from close range.
But we went ahead on 36 minutes. Gethins shaped to shoot 22 yards out from goal but instead played a neat give-and-go with Dey, advancing into the box to meet the return pass before stroking the ball under the advancing Knight.
We were then a man up three minutes later after a moment of madness from Forres captain Ross MacPherson. He was dismissed for a headbutt on his grounded Nairn counterpart, Tom Maclennan after the Mechanics man had won a foul and could not really have any complaints.
But despite our one goal and one man advantage, we came out for the second half and invited Forres forward for which we paid the price.
The warnings signs were there on 49 minutes when a Forres corner kick from the right was headed out to Martin Groat, who fizzed a shot just wide.
We gifted Forres their levelled though a minute later. Dylan Maclean raced off his line looking to collect a harmless looking ball at the edge of his box. But the goalkeeper hesitated and the ball was only half-cleared. It dropped to probably the last man on the park Nairn wanted it to when it fell at the feet of Duncanson and with the County shot stopper in no man’s land, the forward did not need a second invitation to clip the ball into the unguarded net from 22 yards.
We went close to going back in front again on 58 minutes. Maclennan’s clipped diagonal pass was chested down by Gethins into his stride but he blasted into the side netting.
Then, disaster struck on the hour-mark as the 10-man Mechanics went in front. McNab switched the play out the Allan Macphee on the left and Ben Williamson stood off the Forres midfielder as he drove inside before reversing a shot which snuck inside the near post from 18 yards with Maclean rooted.
Callum Maclean had two chances in a minute for us when he met Williamson’s cross from the right and clipped the ball over the bar before he drew out a fantastic save from Knight on 64 minutes. This time it was Cohen Ramsay with the delivery from the left that the Nairn midfielder stabbed towards goal but Knight threw himself across his line to tip the ball away just when it appeared to have sneaked inside the right-hand post.
Craig Dorrat then missed an absolute sitter as the Mechanics passed up the chance to double their lead. The defender was unmarked at the back post to meet a bouncing ball into the box from the left but from just a few yards out, he somehow diverted the ball over the bar.
Maclennan’s corner from the left found Callum Maclean but his header was straight at Knight who made a routine save. His next stop was anything but though as he made another excellent block a minute later. Again, it was Maclennan with the delivery as he picked out Davidson but the Forres goalkeeper performed more heroics to deny the Nairn striker.
Forres looked a threat on the break as Nairn committed more bodies forward and on 72 minutes, Fraser bulldozed his way through the Nairn defence before shooting inches past the post and then a Gethins shot at the other end deflected wide of the target by the same distance.
We finally broke Knight’s resistance to draw level 12 minutes from the end. The Forres defence failed to properly deal with Ramsay’s cross from the left and Callum Maclean reacted quickest to prod the ball into the Mechanics net from 10 yards.
We could not find a winner though and indeed it was Forres who came closest to grabbing the fifth goal of the match. Substitute Paul Brindle worked the space for an angled shot from the left but his effort flew across goal and wide.
The visitors ended the game with nine men after Craig Dorrat was shown the red card for a straight legged challenge on Nairn substitute, Sam Gordon.