Locos secured a hard fought three points against Nairn County at Harlaw Park. They’ll feel it should have been a more comfortable victory having got themselves 2 goals to the good and with the visitors reduced to 10 men, but a late penalty caused a nervy final five minutes.
Nairn, sporting their colourful TeamHamish charity kit, started positively but Locos soon began to dictate play. The first chance came 5 minutes in with Jonny Smith getting behind the defenced but Dylan Maclean was on hand to save. Cole Anderson, making his debut having arrived from Formartine United earlier in the week, then got on the end of a ball into the box but could only send the ball looping onto the roof of the net. The opening goal was beginning to feel inevitable and it came on 10 minutes. Jamie Michie’s corner from the left was played low into the near post where Nathan Meres deftly flicked it on for Smith to head home.
The goal was no more than Locos deserved and they continued to play with high energy as they looked to add to their lead. Sam Robertson came close having forced his way into the penalty area on the right, but his low effort appeared to clip the post before going across the six yard box. Conor Gethins then had Nairn’s first decent opportunity, getting into a good position but hitting a left footed volley well off target.
Locos were good value for their half-time lead but there was a definite sense that a second goal would be needed against a County side that have been on excellent form. That feeling was born out as the visitors saw a bit more of the ball after the break but the chances that did materialise were continuing to go the way of the Railwaymen. Substitute Robert Ward hit a low effort towards the near post that Maclean dealt with comfortably before Greg Mitchell’s drive from the edge of the box was always rising, clipping the bar before going behind.
The second goal did come with a little over 20 minutes remaining. A swift exchange of passes released Michie into the penalty area down the right. His low cross was cleared but as Smith tried to retrieve the ball he was tripped and the referee pointed to the spot. Nairn felt there was an offside in the build-up and Ross Tokely, already on a yellow card for his reaction to a first half incident, earned a second for his angry outburst. After the excitement died down, Smith stepped up to take the penalty but put it too close to Maclean. The striker’s follow up effort struck the post but after another blocked shot Ward fired through the massed defence to double the lead.
Maclean saved from Ward again before the late drama. With little to lose, the Wee County started to get players forward. Reid made a good saved with his foot and when the ball was driven back towards goal the referee spotted a handball by Calum Dingwall that nobody else seemed to see. Ciaran Young calmly scored from the spot to give the away side a glimmer of hope. Smith had an immediate opportunity to settled the nerves but Maclean again saved well before Angus Dey sent a presentable chance over the crossbar.
This was a good win for Locos and one that perhaps earlier in the season wouldn’t have come. Their attacking play was rapid and inventive, particularly in the first half. Next up is the small matter of the Highland League Cup semi-final against a Brechin City side who, having heavily beaten Locos last weekend, suffered their first league defeat of the season in midweek.
Locos: A Reid, T Reid, Mitchell, Dingwall, Souter, S Robertson (Ward), J Smith, Burnett, Michie, Anderson (Halliday), Meres (L Robertson) Unused Subs: Mason, Petermann, B Smith, Shingler
Nairn County: D Maclean, C Maclean, Howarth (Strachan), Tokely, Dingwall, McKenzie, Macinnes, Dey, Gethins (Davidson), Gordon (Young), Greig Unused Subs: Rennie, Lisle, Mackay, Mackenzie