‘New’ Jags Make It Three In A Row by Easton Thain
The resurgent ‘new’ Jags continued on their merry away with the first win at Nairn in years to make it three league victories in a spin and in doing so encapsulated everything there could be in the philosophy of ‘Spider’ Stewart and Lewis MacKinnon. Firstly Thistle played a high pressing game which never allowed County to settle, secondly they attacked with force from the start and thirdly, when it was called upon, the formed a strong defensive barrier notably in the last eleven minutes when they were down to ten men. If a player made a mistake then ‘Spider’ barked out ‘forget about it, it has happened, let’s just get on with it’ and the man on the park responded positively. Had Nairn taken anything from the game then it would have been unjust as Thistle was the better team overall and created most of the chances. The fact that they didn’t win by more was down to some heroics from home keeper Callum Antell who pulled off a number of fine saves. At the other end Andy Burr was also called upon to show his ability so he has to take a lot of credit as well for the win, as much as those in front of him did. Overall the whole team played well but the right side combo of Shaun Wood and Chris Angus caused Nairn all sorts of problems, the latter bagging a fine goal, whilst out on the left Scott Adams played one of his better games and capped it all with a sensational goal. With Lewis MacKinnon suspended ‘Zico’ Davidson fell back into centre defence with Chris Hegarty and, one oops moment apart he played solidly as did the latter. Up front Liam Baxter was a busy bee but had not luck in front of goal. The only downer was the straight red card for Jay Cheyne which was deemed to be for a reckless tackle.
‘Spider’ Stewarts style was adopted from the off as in the 3rd minute Chris Angus delivered a superb ball into the box but Scott Adams went too early and the chance was gone. Six minutes later Chris Angus set off on a run before finding Liam Baxter who laid the ball off to Andy Low but he shot wide. Then in the 12th minute a great ball in by Shaun Wood fell to Andy Low but his shot was held. The best early chance came four minutes on when Shaun Carrol sent in a great cross-field ball which Shaun Wood headed goal-ward, Liam Baxter tried to head it home but his effort went over the bar. Nairn’s first chance came in the 18th minute when Kyle Wilkie found their main dangerman on the day, Robbie Duncanson but his drive was held by Andy Burr. Four minutes later he went closer when a cross into the box found him on his own, he tried to direct a header into the corner of the net but it went narrowly wide. Thistle responded in the 25th minute when they were awarded a direct free-kick about 22 yards out and there was only going to be one taker and up stepped Andy Low to crack in a great effort but this was tipped over by Callum Antell. Two minutes later Shaun Carrol found Jay Cheyne who shot was blocked as was the follow up from Liam Baxter. 60 seconds further on a Jags free-kick was half cleared and fell to Donnie Munro whose shot was blocked, the ball was not cleared and eventually fed across to Shaun Wood about eight yard out, he duly crashed it towards a seemingly unguarded net and it had ‘goal’ written all over it, that was until Callum Antell miraculously dived backwards and diverted the ball away for a corner. From the corner ‘Zico’ Davidson met the ball but headed wide. In the 31st minute Scott Adams picked up a loose ball and cut across but his final shot was held. Five minutes on a Thistle corner was fed to Shaun Carrol whose drive was parried by Callum Antell but not cleared and ‘Zico’ Davidson had a chance but headed wide. The relentless Jags pressure continued and five minutes before the break Scott Adams found Andy Low whose effort fell to Liam Baxter who had a great chance but that man Callum Antell blocked the ball away with his feet. Two minutes before the break a Thistle corner was half cleared to Andy Low who set up Scott Adams whose cross reached Liam Baxter but he headed straight to the keeper. Despite their total dominance the Jags nearly went in a goal down at the break as on half time a ball into their box found Kyle Wilkie on his own about five yards out, thankfully Andy Burr spread his huge frame out to pull off a super stop – it would have been unfair had it gone in!
Half-time Nairn County 0 Buckie Thistle 0
Any frustrations Thistle had at half-time completely vanished 40 seconds into the second half when they got the goal their play merited. Jay Cheyne won the ball in midfield and threaded it through the home defence to Chris Angus and as Callum Antell advanced the ‘Blonde Bomber’ skilfully clipped the ball over the keeper and into the net. Having done the hard work a bad error then let County back in when, in the 50th minute, ‘Zico’ Davidson got a pass back horribly wrong and gifted the ball to Robbie Duncanson who fed Conor Gethins and he smashed it past Andy Burr and in off the bar. To be fair it was the only error ‘Zico’ made in the whole game but he knew it! Thankfully he was soon a very relived Jags for just five minutes later the Jags retook the lead with a quite stunning solo effort. Chris Hegarty set Scott Adams free in his own half and the flying winger promptly stepped on the gas and careered down the win leaving home defenders gasping for air and then, from about 20 yards, the teenage terror crashed a superb right foot shot into the corner of the net. Thistle were back in control and in the 57th minute won another direct free kick right in Andy Low territory but he took his worst kick of the season by blasting the ball well over. 60 seconds later luck deserted the shaven headed striker as he met a Scott Adams cross with a superb header that beat Callum Antell all ends up only to come back off the post, the ball fell to Liam Baxter but with an open goal in front of him he shot over, he probably was not expecting the ball to land at his feet. On the hour Conor Gethins whipped in a dangerous free kick but the ball was blootered behind by ‘Zico’ Davidson. After a quieter spell Jay Cheyne set Chris Angus free in the 71st minute but his excellent cross was turned behind by a defender. With fifteen minutes left a Nairn corner was only half cleared and fell to Robbie Duncanson but he shot over. Four minutes on the game changed as Jay Cheyne was adjudged to have committed a reckless tackle and he was show a straight red, this was a bit harsh and the midfielder didn’t deliberately go for his opponent. Suddenly Nairn felt they could rescue the match and they piled forward but Trojan like defending kept them more or less at bay. With eight minutes to go though clever play set up Robbie Duncanson but Andy Burr blocked the effort away for a corner, this was only half cleared and Sean Webb had a superb chance to equalise only for the Thistle No 1 to pull off a magnificent save. With three minutes left County got through again and again the chance came for Robbie Duncanson but his drive was held by Andy Burr. In injury time Sam Urquhart used both hands to roughly shove Chris Hegarty to the deck but this was deemed to be a yellow card offence only.
Full-time Nairn County 1 Buckie Thistle 2
A superb result for the Jags and proof if proof be needed that they are back with a bang as Station Park is no easy venue to win at. Overall it was a great advert for Highland League football with both teams willing to have a go and for me this beats the Premiership etc any time! ‘Spider’ Stewart again got his tactics spot on and coached and cajoled the players well from the bench and he got the response that he wanted. The game is gone now and nothing can be taken for granted in the next match at home to Rothes. The Speysiders are now managed by Paul Lamberton, recently dismissed by the Jags, and he will be fired up and wanting his charges to put one over Thistle. In the corresponding match last season the Jags failed to dampen Rothes’ enthusiasm and spirit and the game ended in a lucky draw for Thistle so ‘Spider’ will have the players well warned of what can happen if they fail to reach their own standards of recent matches. Play like they did against Nairn County then the Jags should have the ability to see off a stuffy Rothes side but nothing can be taken for granted in this game!
Match Photos Courtesy of Allan Robertson
Nairn County – Antell, Webb, MacLeod, A Naismith, Main, MacKintosh, Pollock, Halsman (Cameron), Gethins, Dunacanson and Wilkie (Urquhart)
Buckie Thistle – Burr, S Wood, Carrol, Munro (K Gauld), Davidson, Hegarty, Angus, Cheyne, Baxter (MacMillan), Low (Copeland) and Adams
Referee – C Spence