Written by Nairn County FC June 16th 2021

Saturday saw the conclusion of our Reserves Team's first season in the North Caledonian League. Our application to join the North Caledonian League was successful at last year's AGM, where it was also decided to split the league into two divisions for one season only to give the best chance of completing the campaign on the park in the midst of the pandemic. As a new member, we were placed in the Second Division alongside fellow new sides Loch Ness and Scourie, the returning Alness United and the bottom two in the previous season's table, Inverness Athletic and Bonar Bridge. The fixtures computer handed us an away trip to Inverness Athletic on the opening day, so Head Coach Stuart Finnie soon got down to work on the training pitch with his assistants, Kevin McLeod and Brian Macleod. Finnie retained Gus Wilson, Scott Mutch, Darren Mota, John Grant, Scott Murray, Nathan Grant, Kieran Duffty, Logan Hallam, Sam Gordon, Duncan Robertson, Archie Kennedy and Ryan Moodie from the previous season's Under-20s squad, recruited Robbie Mackenzie from Inverness CT and promoted Liam Balfour, Kyle MacDonald, Louis Gordon and Callum Morrison from the Under-17s. Along with Euan Logan returning after a year out, that completed Finnie's squad with Lewis Mitchell and Ciaran Young having earned promotions to the First Team squad. After three pre-season friendlies and a bounce match against the First Team, the delayed start to the season arrived on October 17th and a meeting with Inverness Athletic at Muir of Ord. Ciaran Young's double in the first half had us in control and although the hosts pulled one back after the break, Young completed his hat-trick to give us the ideal start to the season. Loch Ness's opening day thumping of Scourie kept us off top spot on goal difference but it meant when the two sides met at the Riverside on week two that it was a top-of-the-table clash. The visitors raced into a three-goal lead inside the first half-hour but we rallied in the second half to reduce the deficit to 3-2 through goals from Young and Kieran Duffty and if the game had ran any longer, we looked capable of completing the comeback. It was not to be though but it only delayed the first home win of the season by seven days. A Duffty hat-trick, a Logan Hallam double, a Young free kick and an own goal all contributed to a 7-3 success over Bonar Bridge, our biggest win of the season. Friday November 6th brought the return match against Loch Ness under the lights at Canal Park and although we trailed twice in the first half, we went in level at the break with Ryan Moodie and Robbie Mackenzie providing the equalisers. Young then notched a double to put us ahead and although Loch Ness pulled one back, a Duffty free kick made sure of a 5-3 win and the three points which sent us to the top of the table for the very first time with nine points from four games. Our first ever visit to Scourie followed for a bottom-against-top clash and the West Highlanders threatened a shock by taking an early lead. Young equalised before the break though and Duffty's double just after half time settled the nerves before Hallam and Sam Gordon rounded off a convincing 5-1 success. We then took a break from league duty to visit Golspie Sutherland – the eventual Division 1 champions – in the North Caledonian Cup and were well beaten as the hosts ran out 6-0 winners. We continued our Division 2 winning streak though with a 4-1 victory away at Bonar Bridge as efforts from Young, Duffty, an own goal and Hallam wrapped up another three points to keep us top with five wins from six. Alness United were emerging as the favourites for the championship though with one draw their only dropped points from their opening fixtures, although postponements were keeping them off the top. We visited them at Dalmore Park on December 5th and went down to a comprehensive 6-1 defeat to hand them the impetus in the title race with Young grabbing a late consolation. We remained top but were eventually usurped on December 12th when Inverness Athletic completed a smash-and-grab raid at the Riverside with a 1-0 win to avenge their opening day defeat. The result sent Athletic top although we had games in hand, as did Alness. The lockdown which followed meant the season was put on pause and when it eventually resumed last month, Alness went into their meeting with Inverness Athletic knowing that three points would secure them the championship and they duly won 3-2 to take the crown. Loch Ness and Inverness Athletic had completed their fixtures before we had resumed ours, meaning we had dropped to fourth in the standings by this stage but we knew that three points from our two remaining games against Scourie and Alness at home would secure the runners up spot and we were well-prepared having managed to squeeze in two friendlies. Unfortunately, Scourie called off and we were awarded the win, which elevated us back up to second place although slightly anti-climatic in the circumstances. Regardless of being handed that win, the players had been training hard since getting back to it at the start of May, so were still determined to earn the points they needed on the park in their only league game back when they welcomed champions Alness United on Saturday in the curtain closer. Goalkeeper Gus Wilson saved two penalties in the space of a minute in the first half (although the rebound was scored off the first one) to give Alness a half-time lead and when they went two in front shortly after the turnaround, it looked like the writing was on the wall. But Duffty gave us hope from the penalty spot 20 minutes from the end before equalising seven minutes later. As both teams pushed for a winner, it was us who claimed it from an unlikely source as Duncan Robertson powered home a last-minute header to complete the comeback. Duffty then wrapped up the 4-2 win and his second hat-trick of the season by netting in injury time. That result meant we finished four points behind Alness in second place with seven wins and three defeats from our 10 league games with a squad of an average age of just over 18 years old. It is a quick turnaround with the new season due to begin on August 21st, so the players will be returning for pre-season training soon as they prepare for the challenge of a 12-team single division when they will come against their rivals from this season and the clubs which comprised Division 1. All results: 19/09/2020 – Nairn County 0 Inverness Athletic U20s 1 (Friendly) 26/09/2020 – Burghead Thistle 1 Nairn County 1 (Friendly) (Ciaran Young) 03/10/2020 – Nairn County 1 Clachnacuddin U20s 2 (Friendly) (Darren Mota) 17/10/2020 – Inverness Athletic 1 Nairn County 3 (Ciaran Young 3) 24/10/2020 – Nairn County 2 Loch Ness 3 (Ciaran Young, Kieran Duffty) 31/10/2020 – Nairn County 7 Bonar Bridge 3 (Own goal, Ciaran Young, Kieran Duffty 3, Logan Hallam 2) 06/11/2020 – Loch Ness 3 Nairn County 5 (Ryan Moodie, Robbie Mackenzie, Ciaran Young 2, Kieran Duffty) 14/11/2020 – Scourie 1 Nairn County 5 (Ciaran Young, Kieran Duffty 2, Logan Hallam, Sam Gordon) 21/11/2020 – Golspie Sutherland 6 Nairn County 0 (North Caledonian Cup) 28/11/2020 – Bonar Bridge 1 Nairn County 4 (Ciaran Young, Kieran Duffty, own goal, Logan Hallam) 05/12/2020 – Alness United 6 Nairn County 1 (Ciaran Young) 12/12/2020 – Nairn County 0 Inverness Athletic 1 27/05/2021 – Nairn County 1 Culloden Blacksmiths 3 (Friendly) (Ciaran Young) 01/06/2021 – Nairn County 8 Nairn United 1 (Friendly) (Kieran Duffty 2, Robbie Mackenzie, Scott Mutch, Ryan Moodie, Shaun Young, own goal 2) 12/06/2021 – Nairn County 4 Alness United 2 (Kieran Duffty 3, Duncan Robertson) Starts (Sub appearances in brackets, competitive games only): Gus Wilson 10 Sam Gordon 10 Ciaran Young 9 Nathan Grant 8 (2) Kieran Duffty 8 (2) Scott Mutch 8 Robbie Mackenzie 7 (2) John Grant 7 (2) Logan Hallam 6 (3) Ryan Moodie 6 (3) Euan Logan 6 (1) Darren Mota 5 (5) Liam Balfour 4 (2) Duncan Robertson 3 (3) Scott Murray 3 (1) Callum Morrison 2 (1) Kyle Macdonald 2 (3) Louis Gordon 1 (6) Lewis Mitchell 1 Calum Howarth 1 Jack Maclean 1 Tyler Eadie 1 Will Jack 1 Shaun Young 0 (1) Sean Murray 0 (1) Dean Calderwood 0 (1) Goals (competitive games only): Kieran Duffty 11 Ciaran Young 10 Logan Hallam 4 Ryan Moodie 1 Robbie Mackenzie 1 Sam Gordon 1 Duncan Robertson 1 Own goal 2 Cautions: Ciaran Young 4 Gus Wilson 1 John Grant 1 Euan Logan 1 Sam Gordon 1 Red cards: Ciaran Young 1

Other News

Nairn County badge and EURO 2024 trophy
May 15th 2024

Nairn County EURO 2024 Predictor Game

May 10th 2024

Pollock is back in yellow and black

Accord Solutions Main Stand at Nairn County
May 10th 2024

Squad update

Old and New Nairn County Badge
May 8th 2024

Nairn County unveil new club badge

May 8th 2024

New contract for Ben Kelly

May 7th 2024

Young duo earn First Team promotions

May 5th 2024

Jamie Carnihan agrees new contract

April 27th 2024

Aaron Nicolson agrees new two-year contract