Written by Nairn County FC October 24th 2020

The Reserves left themselves with a mountain to climb in the second half of their North Caledonian League home debut as they trailed Loch Ness 3-0 at the interval. And they summoned up their inner Edmund Hillary in the second half to almost pull off a remarkable fightback. Late goals from Ciaran Young and Kieran Duffty trimmed the deficit to just one. But the damage had been done in a costly opening half-hour as Loch Ness claimed all three points with a 3-2 success in this top-of-the-table clash. Both teams had been victorious last weekend on the opening day with Loch Ness thumping Scourie 11-1 while we upset Inverness Athletic with a 3-1 success at Muir of Ord. And it was Loch Ness who retained their 100 percent record and top spot in the table as we dropped to fourth. Reserves Head Coach Stuart Finnie said: “We were happy enough with how we started but we conceded a really cheap first goal, which set the tone for their second and third goals. “We keep saying to the lads to take responsibility at set pieces and on the pitch in general but in the first half, we did not do that, which led to us conceding twice from set plays. It is probably down to inexperience with having so many young lads playing when we need a cool head to calm us down and organise. After the third goal, if that had been last season we probably would have been beaten heavily. But the squad is always evolving and we are made of sterner stuff now. “Once we got to half time and explained the need to lift our game, be more organised, take more responsibility and be more aggressive, you could see the difference in the second half. Loch Ness may feel they dropped a gear but at the same time, we played much better and that stopped them from imposing themselves as much. “Although it took us a while to score our first goal, we still created more than enough openings beforehand to get an earlier goal. I must say, I thought both finishes were different class but ultimately, the goals came too late as we had no time to push for an equaliser.” He added: “Even though we got beat, it was pleasing to see the boys learning quickly as the game went on. I think all the teams in the league probably saw us as easy pickings before the season started but on last week’s performance and today’s second half display, I think we are showing everyone that we mean business and we are not here to make up the numbers. We know we lack experience but we have a good bunch of boys who are eager and keen to learn. “Good luck to Loch Ness and we look forward to welcoming Bonar Bridge next week.” Finnie made two enforced changes with Lewis Mitchell injured playing for the First Team on Tuesday night and Liam Balfour out through illness. That meant starts for Duncan Robertson and Robbie Mackenzie with Ryan Moodie and Callum Morrison included on the bench. The teams were: Nairn County Reserves – Gus Wilson, Duncan Robertson (Callum Morrison 64), John Grant, Scott Mutch, Nathan Grant, Euan Logan, Robbie Mackenzie, Sam Gordon, Logan Hallam (Kieran Duffty 47), Ciaran Young, Darren Mota (Ryan Moodie 46). Subs unused: Louis Gordon, Kyle Macdonald. Loch Ness – Michael Miele, Michael McRobert (Martin Mainland 69), Calum Black, Ryan Ingram, Reece Paterson, Steven MacDonald (Lee Tarran 69), Craig Mainland (Martin Bain 56), Kane Hull, Johnny Hewitt (Glen Donoghue 64), Donald MacPhee, Luke Seago (Ross Harrison 56). Subs unused: -. Our youngsters started well enough and five minutes in, Mackenzie’s cross from the right slipped through the gloves of Michael Miele in the Loch Ness goal. The ball dropped to Ciaran Young but his side-footed volley was deflected over the crossbar. The visitors went in front a minute later with a fine strike from Craig Mainland. Michael McRobert was allowed the space to deliver a cross from the right. His ball into the box was pulled down by Mainland, who was able to turn and rifle a sumptuous shot from 15 yards towards goal with the ball crashing beyond the diving Gus Wilson. Loch Ness dominated the next half-an-hour with Donald MacPhee’s corner from the left being headed over by Johnny Hewitt at the far post on 15 minutes before Mainland skipped away from Nathan Grant two minutes later but was denied a second goal by a diving save from Wilson. But, on 21 minutes, Loch Ness made it two. MacPhee’s deliveries from set plays were causing problems and this corner from the left was perfect for the impressive McRobert to meet with a near post header as the towering full back flicked the ball beyond Wilson. Hewitt then hit the by-line on the left after 26 minutes but his ball across goal was hooked clear by John Grant from underneath his own crossbar. This only delayed the third goal by a couple of minutes though, as Mainland’s in-swinging free kick from deep on the left was slid home by Hewitt at the far post. Nairn finished the half with a couple of half chances though – Nathan Grant teed up Young on 36 minutes but his drive from 20 yards was held by Miele before Sam Gordon’s free kick into the box from the left a minute later was not quite caught properly by Young’s first time effort and the ball sailed well off target. There was concern for the hosts just after the break with Logan Hallam limping off with an ankle injury. Kieran Duffty replaced him. Half time substitute Ryan Moodie’s corner kick from the right on 68 minutes found its way to John Grant in the box but he could not quite sort his feet out in time to get a shot away and was crowded out by a clutch of defenders. Debutant Callum Morrison saw his header forward from just inside his own half almost put Young in on goal on 74 minutes. The bounce of the ball was misjudged by the Loch Ness defender but the ball struck Young on the heel as he looked to take it under control before closing in on goal. But Young netted his fourth goal of the season on 78 minutes to put us on the board. The striker controlled a Moodie throw-in from the left before wriggling away from his marker to forage to the by-line and smashing a low effort beyond Miele and in at the far post. A minute later, Gordon’s free kick into the box from the left was knocked back across goal by Mackenzie to substitute Kieran Duffty. But his shot was well palmed over by the outstretched right hand of Miele. Nairn continued to push as time ebbed away and grabbed a second in the final minute. Duffty timed his run to perfection to run in on the Loch Ness goal and showed a cool head to lift the ball beyond the advancing Miele. But there was not enough time left on the clock to push for a leveller, leaving Finnie’s men to rue the damage caused in the opening half-hour. Well done to Loch Ness on their win and best wishes for the rest of the season.

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