Written by Graeme MacLeod February 4th 2023

The Reserves are through to the semi finals of the North Caledonian Cup after they defeated Alness United in the last minute at Nairn Academy Astro this afternoon. They will now face Invergordon on March 18th for a place in the final.

Head Coach Stuart Finnie had late fitness doubts over no fewer than six of his starting line-up, who all declared themselves fit and soldiered on.

We started down wind on a blustery day at Nairn Academy and Kieran Duffty went through on goal early on but the Alness goalkeeper stood up well to prevent what was a great chance for Nairn to open the scoring.

Playing into the wind, Alness forward Jude Fraser broke free of our defence but goalkeeper Reid Peterkin stayed big to make what would turn out to be a crucial save.

We went in front with 20 minutes on the clock. Skipper Scott Mutch led by example as he drove forward and unleashed a 25-yard piledriver which flew past the helpless Alness goalkeeper and into the top right-hand corner.

Despite playing into the wind in the second half, we almost doubled our lead when Duffty rounded the goalkeeper but an Alness defender managed to race back and block the striker’s effort on the goal line.

Alness piled the pressure on from there on in though and we were camped almost within our own box for the next 20 minutes. But on a rare breakway, an Alness defender opted to take an off-the-ball kick at Tyler Eadie and deservedly received his marching orders.

The numerical disadvantage failed to turn the tide though as Alness continued to push forward and they found their leveller with an equally impressive strike as Mackenzie beat Peterkin with a rasping effort from 20 yards.

The visitors failed to kick-on from there though and we grew more into the second half as it wore on, with Duffty again finding himself in a promising position but again unable to find a way past the Alness goalkeeper, who tipped the ball off target for a corner.

But as the clock struck 90 minutes, Duffty finally got his goal. Eadie whipped over a cross and the Nairn striker showed the most desire in the penalty area to direct a header goalwards, with the ball bouncing over the line despite the best efforts of the United stopper to send our young side wild.

Duffty could have had a penalty in injury time to wrap it up when he was bundled over in the penalty area but the referee was unmoved.

Struggling to comprehend the incoming defeat, Alness completely lost their discipline and had a second player sent off in the final play of the match for threatening language towards the referee, with a handful of his teammates also added to the notebook as chaos threatened to ensue.

As soon as play was underway again, the full time whistle was blown to give Finnie’s walking wounded their place in the last four.

Nairn County Reserves – Reid Peterkin, Kieran Munro, Murray Wilson, Liam Balfour, Nathan Grant, Scott Stewart (Will Jack 75), Robbie Lean, Scott Mutch, Kieran Duffty, Tyler Eadie, Kyle MacDonald (Trialist 60). Subs unused: Joshua Stephenson, Jack MacCormick, Trialist (GK).

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