Written by Nairn County FC August 7th 2021

Seven days after a meek surrender to Deveronvale at Station Park, we took the fight to Rothes at MacKessack Park and battled our way to a deserved share of the spoils after an absorbing 90 minutes on Speyside. A draw was probably the fairest outcome although both sides could point to chances and key moments in the opposition box as reasons why they might have deserved to edge it. We handed instant debuts to Ben Williamson and Ryan Fyffe – both signed on loan yesterday from Ross County and Inverness CT respectively – as Ronnie Sharp looked to freshen up his line-up after a pair of lacklustre home displays. Seamus McConaghy also started for the first time this season while Tom Maclennan and Scott Davidson made their eagerly-awaited returns to action as second half substitutes to further strengthen the manager's hand. It meant the line-ups were: Nairn County – Will Counsell, Ben Williamson, Kenny McKenzie, Cohen Ramsay, Ryan Fyffe (yellow 63), Glenn Main (Rory Williamson 57), Seamus McConaghy, Angus Dey (Tom Maclennan 57), Conor Gethins, Max Ewan, Liam Shewan (Scott Davidson 61). Subs unused: Callum Ednie, Sam Gordon, Dylan Mackenzie, Trialist (gk). Rothes – Sean McCarthy, Ben Johnstone (yellow 30) (Alasdair Stark 79), Allen Mackenzie, Michael Finnis, Bruce Milne, Wayne Mackintosh (y 79) (Ross Gunn 80), Craig Cormack, Alan Pollock, Greg Morrison, Jack Brown, Fraser Robertson (Aidan Wilson 86). Subs unused: Shane Harkness, Sean Linden, Ewan Neil, Iain Mackenzie (gk). We made a really bright start and in just the first minute, Rothes right back Ben Johnstone was slack with a pass in field, which was seized upon by Conor Gethins and he was unfortunate to see his 15-yard effort fly over Sean McCarthy's crossbar. A swift Nairn break on four minutes saw Liam Shewan get away from Johnstone down the left but his goal-bound effort was headed behind for a corner by Rothes captain, Bruce Milne. We went down the other side three minutes later with Seamus McConaghy picking out Max Ewan with a low delivery from the right. He placed his shot across goal and narrowly past the far post when feeding the unmarked Gethins might have been a better option. Rothes threatened on 11 minutes with Fraser Robertson's run from deep breaching the Nairn offside trap. But Will Counsell in the Nairn goal was alert enough to race from his line to force the midfielder to shoot early, allowing the shot stopper to make the block. Robertson went closer to opening the scoring on 21 minutes. He headed Alan Pollock's corner goalwards but the ball was headed clear off the line by the well-placed Gussie Dey. Rothes worked it back out to Pollock and this time his delivery found Greg Morrison, who was thwarted by a great save from Counsell, who clutched the ball at the second attempt. The hosts were enjoying a good spell at this stage and on 24 minutes, Wayne Mackintosh's fresh-aired shot fortuitously landed at the feet of the lively Robertson. He had the composure to side step an out-rushing defender before blasting goalwards from close range only to see Counsell excel again with another fine block. Shewan had the beating of Johnstone down the left for most of the afternoon, with the Rothes defender eventually resorting to hauling the wide man to the ground 22 yards from goal on the half-hour. The right back was booked for his troubles and then Conor Gethins stepped up to the free kick to blast an exquisite effort across goal and into the postage stamp to put us in front. Shewan took on the chance himself to go for goal on 39 minutes when well-positioned 25 yards out but he miscued and blasted well over. At the other end, Morrison looped a header off the face of the crossbar after meeting Pollock's corner from the right. The hosts levelled in first half injury time though. Ally Mackenzie went on an enterprising run from left back, evading challenges from McConaghy and Ben Williamson before hitting the by-line and picking out the unmarked Jack Brown in the penalty area. The midfielder had the composure to take a touch to set himself before planting a rising effort beyond Counsell and into the net. Rothes started the second half in the ascendancy and went in front for the first time on 48 minutes. Pollock's corner from the left was flicked on at the front post to Greg Morrison, who had peeled off his man to arrive unmarked at the back post to stoop and head home from close range. We responded well to the set back though and Williamson's cross from the right on 53 minutes was met by the unmarked Ewan at the back post but he could only direct his volley back across goal and wide of goal. Counsell showed great bravery to keep us in touch two minutes later. Mackenzie's cross from the left found Johnstone at the far post but his thunderous drive from 10 yards was kept out by the face of the Nairn goalkeeper. The introduction of Rory Williamson and the returning Tom Maclennan just before the hour-mark brought us some renewed energy in the middle of the park at a time when Rothes were beginning to take more of a grid on proceedings. Then, on 61 minutes, Scott Davidson was thrust back into action in attack with Liam Shewan hobbling off with a knee injury as the result of a fair challenge by Johnstone. Davidson made an impact and he should have been involved in the award of a Nairn penalty kick on 73 minutes. His clipped ball from the by-line on the left picked out the unmarked Gethins at the far post. He chested it down and shifted it to the side as he lined up the shot but the ball was slapped away by the hand of left back Mackenzie. But it was missed by referee Lee Robertson. Four minutes later though, the referee did get a penalty decision correct. A fantastic piece of skill by Ewan along the by-line saw him get away from Ally Stark and Michael Finnis to the left of goal. The Nairn forward was chopped down by Finnis with the loose ball running free to Davidson. His blast at goal was repelled by McCarthy at the near post but Robertson correctly called back play to award the penalty. Gethins stepped up to stroke home from 12 yards and bring us level with his fourth goal in four games this season. A fantastic piece of goalkeeping from Counsell kept us level five minutes from the end. He stood his ground as Morrison advanced in on goal from the right after the Rothes man got in behind the Nairn back line. It looked like the centre forward would pick his spot but the County goalkeeper made his frame as big as he could, as he sprawled himself to superbly block the shot. There was a real cup tie feel about the closing stages as both teams chased a winner and it would have been us who grabbed it in the final minute with only a bit more composure from McConaghy. The tricky winger blazed well over from the edge of the box when a slipped pass to his right would have presented the unmarked Gethins with a golden opportunity for his hat-trick.

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