THE League prediction positions were over, the jockeying began, and two sides finishing in last season’s Top 4 were jousting at a hot Harlaw Park on Saturday (August 4) for a solid start to the season.
In the end it was Nairn County who got their campaign off and running by claiming full points.
The new stand was in operation for the first time, the pay per seat scheme working well but at the end of it all for home fans the table seats were fine, but the menu available sadly wasn’t
Locos started well, and in three minutes Marc Young’s cross ball in from the right found the threatening Neil Gauld at the back post. He controlled the ball well and fired in his close range shot which forced the block from Callum Donaldson at the expense of a corner
The first chance for home star signing Stuart McKay saw some quick control but wayward shooting while his counterpart acquisition Junior Mendes was weak with his first effort at goal
A series of Locos corners at the midway stage looked like paying dividends. However, from one of these, the ball was cleared from the line in a melee of players, and Conor Gethins at the other end got in a firmer shot which Stewart Gray claimed at the second go
Locos had a perfect penalty shout denied on the half hour when midfielder Scott Begg was blatantly upended, then a few minutes later Gauld came close with a quick swivel and volley
Nairn County took the lead four minutes from the break. Paul MacLeod played a slide rule pass through the heart of the defence, Conor GETHINS latched on to it, quickly rounding Stewart Gray and rolling into the empty net.
The visitors had a goal disallowed right on the half time whistle, Gethins ruled offside as he headed the cross from Mendes into the net
Mo Morrison powered a header on to the post in 56 minutes from a right wing corner while at the other end there were more home shouts for a spot kick when Sean Webb and Clark Bain fell to the ground together
Late on it was real end to end football, Graeme Stewart heading a free kick over, then Donaldson making an acrobatic save to deny Bain. But the Wee County were by no means playing with backs to the wall. Gray saved well from substitute Craig MacMillan on the breakaway and moments later from Gethins too.
Robbie Duncanson and Gethins combined to set up MacLeod who screwed a shot wide at the end of a sweeping move. Locos had pushed and pushed, creating eleven corners but their final salvo saw a header from Steven Park land on the roof of the net
Inverurie Locos: Gray, Adams, Maitland, Bain, Park, Broadhurst, Young, Stewart, Gauld (Bagshaw 84), McKay, Begg (Strachan 69)
Subs: Souter,Graham, Scott
Nairn County: Donaldson, Webb, MacLeod, Morrison, Glenn Main, Gregg Main, Ellis, Mendes (McMillan 66), Duncanson, Gethins, Neill
Subs: Naismith, Cameron, Mackay Watson
Referee: C Potten
After the match a shellshocked Locos co-boss Kenny Coull said, “I was disappointed with the first half performance, we were a bit off the pace but I cannot fault the effort in the second period although we didn’t create enough. It was very tight in the middle of the park, they played five and so did we. It worked a few times for us but they defended well
“Nairn are a very good team, full of winners. Anything going into their box, Big Mo (Michael Morrison) and his team mates threw themselves at it. And Mo hit the bar too. We didn’t throw ourselves at some of our chances
“Regarding the goal, Conor Gethins got away, we told them before the start they’d have to be on their toes to deal with these kind of players. John Maitland lost out in the middle, we were not sharp enough. We weren’t pressing, not winning the first or the second balls.
“I thought the first penalty claim was a sure one, the player has kicked Scott Begg up in the air. The second, I’m not sure about, there were a couple of decisions we didn’t get.”
So to this Saturday and a trip to the Highland capital to face a side sitting on full points. Clachnacuddin at Grant St Park are the hosts who beat Rothes away on day one. Almost exactly eleven years ago the Merkinchers were the first Highland League opponents for Locos at Harlaw Park
All these years on and Locos are still unbeaten against the Lilywhites in any competition. But they will need to be in better form than on Saturday if they are to get some points on the board
Next midweek, it’s Quarter Final action for Locos in the Aberdeenshire Cup, Deveronvale or Formartine United playing host, the sides having met at Princess Royal Park for the second time in four days on Tuesday.