Written by Nairn County FC August 8th 2021

Goalkeeper Dylan Maclean stepped up his return to action with 45 minutes for the Reserves yesterday in this 2-1 friendly defeat to St Duthus in a dress rehearsal for our opening North Caledonian League fixture of the season. There was 90 minutes for summer signing Grant Hogg as well, who is also continuing to build up his match sharpness after missing much of pre-season due to work commitments. Our youngsters went behind in the first minute before Ciaran Young equalised just before the hour-mark. But St Duthus almost instantly went back in front again and that was how it finished. Reserves Head Coach Stuart Finnie said: "We looked like a team which has not played many games, so it was good to get minutes into everyone and at least we have one more friendly to get more minutes into the players and hopefully, come the start of the season in a couple of weeks, we will be in a better position in terms of match sharpness. "Barring the two goals – which were poor – we had a decent shape about us. Unfortunately, the Riverside is a poor surface, so there is not much opportunity to play much football and I can see a lot of our home games turning into scrappy affairs. "There were definitely positives to take and things to work on before the season starts, so all in all, it was a good workout. "St Duthus were missing some boys today, so we know it will be a lot tougher in two weeks time." Finnie drafted in some players from the Under-18s squad to bolster his selection options and his team was: Nairn County – Dylan Maclean (Gus Wilson 46), Liam Balfour (Will Jack 80), John Grant, Duncan Robertson (Nathan Grant 46), Callum Morrison (Sean Murray 70), Grant Hogg, Scott Mutch, Euan Logan (Kyle Grimm 70), Ciaran Young, Robbie Mackenzie, Kyle MacDonald (Shaun Young 46). Subs unused: – We made the worst possible start to proceedings with the visitors going in front on just 25 seconds. Duncan Robertson back pass bobbled in front of Dylan Maclean and the goalkeeper could not react quickly enough, as the ball bounced off his knee and broke to Kyle Mackenzie for a tap in. Robbie Mackenzie went through on the angle from the right but took one too many touches, allowing the Tain defence to crowd him out. Maclean then made a fine save to keep the deficit at one as he stepped up his return from injury with 45 minutes in this one. Substitute Shaun Young put an inviting ball across goal and just when it looked as if Scott Mutch was about to take his fine goal scoring form for the First Team into Reserves action, the ball was nicked away from him by a visiting defender. A diagonal free kick into the box from substitute Nathan Grant found the unmarked Ciaran Young and he bundled home to level things up on 58 minutes. But just a minute later, Kyle Mackenzie got the better of Nathan Grant in a challenge before the Tain man raced through to slot the ball past the advancing Gus Wilson. Wilson then pulled off a couple of impressive stops to keep out efforts from Tain attackers who had advanced beyond the Nairn defensive line. At the other end, the closest we came to a leveller was off a driven Mutch delivery from the right which which flew across the face of goal but caught both the Young cousins Ciaran and Shaun on their heels as the ball flashed agonisingly in front of them. We continued to press and with 10 minutes to go, Hogg looked to have drawn us level when he shifted the ball on to his left foot just inside the box before curling a shot towards the top corner but to flashed inches past the post. There was a late shout for a Nairn penalty kick after a challenge on Young but the referee waved away the home appeals as Tain emerged with the win. Many thanks to St Duthus for the match and we look forward to welcoming you again for the season opener in two weeks time.

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