Nairn County 2
SCOTTISH CUP FIRST ROUND
KENNY PATERSON reports from Station Park
AS if a five-hour, 216-mile trip home after being knocked out of the Scottish Cup by an 89th-minute goal wasn’t bad enough, Selkirk had to complete the journey accompanied by The Cheeky Girls.
With no radio reception along most of the A9 road, Gabriela and Monica’s dulcet tones from the only CD on the minibus added further headache to the already hurting Yarrow Park squad.
Bryan Templeton’s team were minutes away from making their big-spending Highland League opponents make the same journey this Saturday for a replay – albeit surely with a better choice of music.
But Steven Mackay headed home a Glenn Main cross to finally break the Souters’ resolve after a brave showing.
The team, coaches and committee had stayed overnight in Nairn, but it was rumoured that the home team expected to stroll the cup tie.
The bookmakers had the same view, placing the visitors as massive 6-1 outsiders to progress.
Both were completely wrong. Playing a 5-4-1 formation, the Souters frustrated and matched their hosts in a first half which was a poor spectacle.
Jamie Gibson, who put in a man-of-the-match performance on his own up front, and the superb sweeper Jason Inglis both had long-range efforts well saved by Nairn stopper Calum Donaldson.
Scott Houston then had a superb chance to open the scoring for Nairn, but blazed over John Dodds’ bar from eight yards out.
The game was finally jolted into life on the hour mark by Gibson. County defender Martin MacDonald was woefully short with a header back to Donaldson, and the striker nipped in to neatly lob the ball into the net for his 12th goal this season.
Selkirk started to believe, and began to play some nice football – with right back Lee Stephen to the fore – but the pressure from Nairn was also beginning to show.
And the equaliser emerged on 73 minutes. Gillespie’s through-ball found Conor Gethins, and the former Republic of Ireland youth international – reported to have earned a signing-on fee similar to what some in the Selkirk squad would work for in a year – produced a classy finish.
Selkirk’s dreams of a place in round two seemed over six minutes later as Inglis’ late challenge on Mackay resulted in a penalty, but spot-kick specialist Dodds got down well to save Robbie Duncanson’s effort.
However, just as the Nairn secretary was preparing to book a bus bound for the Borders, Mackay popped up to score to the relief of most of the 190 spectators.
Templeton said: “We asked the players to give us everything and they did that.
“But with two minutes to go a lack of concentration has cost us. I am devastated.”
Asked if he was preparing for a trip to Selkirk before the late winning goal, Nairn manager Les Fridge told us: “It was not worth thinking about. In cup competitions you have got to keep going to the end.
“I would not say we underestimated them. You have got to give them credit – they made it difficult.”
Selkirk: J. Dodds, L. Stephen, B. Milven, J. Inglis, J. Higginbottom, E. Pritchard, Ross MacManus, Ryan MacManus, J. Gibson (R. Clapperton 84), D. Battle (R. Aguilera 60), D. Burdett.