Brora's poor performance out of the blue
Nairn County 1-0 Brora Rangers
BRORA Rangers suffered their first loss of the season at Nairn in a match where they had significantly more possession than the Wee County, but simply could not make it count.
Both these sides had 100 per cent records, albeit the Station Park men had played a game fewer, so something had to give and it was the Cattachs who left empty-handed.
The fact that Brora had been so impressive in their opening four league fixtures – scoring 19 goals and conceding just one – made this lacklustre and disjointed display all the more surprising and it came out of the blue.
The previous sparkling passing and moving that had cut opponents to ribbons was instead replaced by misplaced passes, hesitancy and often being second to 50/50 balls. Maybe their recent schedule of two games a week every week left them jaded, but fatigue shouldn’t be a factor so early in the new season.
The youthful home side were certainly up for it and, to emphasise the fact, Brora's player-manager Sid MacKay said: "Nairn showed more hunger and desire than us which is incredibly disappointing."
While this was a shock defeat for genuine title contenders, and they were well below their normal level, they were only beaten by a superb 20-yard strike by 18-year-old Nairn frontman Max Ewan, who was a danger throughout. Such was the quality of the high strike that Joe Malin's palm could only deflect it into the roof of the net.
The Cattachs started brightly enough, and on 12 minutes former County striker Jordan MacRae's powerful six-yard header was acrobatically tipped over by MacLean. Kyle MacLeod then had a low snapshot pushed wide before Nairn ended this period of Brora ascendancy on 25 minutes with Ewan's well-taken strike.
Nairn's goal seemed to change the dynamic as they grew in confidence and were more in evidence in attacking breaks. However, five minutes before the interval, Brora hit the woodwork for a second time when Ally MacDonald cut in from the left, only to see his drive come back off the post.
Striker Greg Morrison came on for defender Neil MacDonald at half time as Brora adjusted their formation to add firepower in an attempt to eliminate the deficit. Five minutes later, Sid came on himself, replacing Bjorn Wagenaar, to add width on the left. This emphasis on attack made the Cattachs vulnerable to a swift counter-attack and they almost paid when Kenny MacKenzie's shot from Liam Shewan's left wing cross deflected off a Brora defender's back and off the crossbar, with Malin helpless to intervene. And on 66 minutes Tom MacLennan's 20-yard cannonball crashed back off the bar and away to safety.
Brora went for broke in the 70th minute by bringing on striker Scott Davidson for centre back Mark Nicolson to try and rescue something from the game. It was one-way traffic for the last 20 minutes, with Nairn hanging on to protect their lead as Brora, unusually, pumped more high balls into the mixer. The nearest they came was when Davidson headed Ally MacDonald's left wing cross past the far post, quickly followed by Nairn keeper MacLean diving full length to push away Martin MacLean's volley, but Nairn held out.
Brora will be hoping that this was a blip, just one of those days where the ball just won't go in and it may well prove to be.