HARD-working Nairn County earned a draw against Championship opposition at Station Park as Max Ewan struck just after the half-hour to cancel out George Oakley’s early opener for Inverness CT.
The visitors fielded towering forward Jordan White and he was a thorn in the County defence with his aerial threat. He headed a Zack Elbouzedi corner kick from the left across goal and wide from the far post on five minutes before drawing a superb reaction save from James Kendall in the Nairn, with the stopper clawing the ball away from the top corner after the forward sent it goalward from close range.
The visitors went in front 14 minutes in though. Elbouzedi was the source as he delivered an in-swinging corner kick from the left that was met by a subtle touch from George Oakley at the near post. And that was enough to send the ball beyond the wrong-footed Kendall.
Elbouzedi was almost on the scoresheet himself four minutes later with a powerful free kick from 22 yards. But the Irish youth international was denied by a stunning save from Kendall with the Englishman tipping the ball over the crossbar.
Nairn restored parity with their first goal of pre-season on 32 minutes. Kendall picked Max Ewan out on the left with a long pass from the edge of the box. The attacker then cut inside on to his right foot before lifting the ball over the exposed Daniel Hoban to equalise for County.
The hosts had a great chance to go in front two minutes before the break when Kenny McKenzie’s low delivery from the left found the unmarked Dylan Mackenzie at the far post. But the striker miscued his first time shot, sending the ball well past the post.
Almost immediately, the visitors should have scored themselves with White racing through on goal. The centre forward could have squared it to Oakley for a tap-in but decided to go it alone and was denied by Kendall, who excelled again to stand tall and divert the centre forward’s effort off target.
Last season’s top scorer Jordan MacRae came on at half-time and almost made an immediate impact, driving in from the left on 52 minutes before blasting a low shot goalwards. But the striker was denied by the boot of Hoban, who saved well at his near post.
County had a great chance again two minutes later when Jack Maclean intercepted Donald Morrison’s back pass from right back. But the Nairn man was kept out by the alert Hoban, who was out well and made himself big to block the shot.
The visitors nearly went back in front on 63 minutes with White’s deflected effort dipping inches over the crossbar. Then, just a minute later, Oakley’s close-range header was tipped on to the face of the crossbar by substitute goalkeeper Dylan Maclean as the visitors responded to Nairn’s bright start to the half.
Maclean was then called into action again on 73 minutes as he threw himself to his left to make a fine save by tipping White’s effort from just inside the box around the post after the centre forward had been teed up by Aidan Wilson from the right and has looked to guide the ball inside the near post.
Nairn County – Kendall (D. Maclean 46), C. Maclean (Munro 69), Mackenzie (Trialist 46), Porritt, Urquhart (J. Maclean 46), D. Mackenzie (MacRae 46), Gregg Main (MacDonald 46), Ewan (Highet 46), Maclennan (Naismith 46), Ramsay (Fernandino-Soto 46 (Ednie 60)), K. McKenzie (Glenn Main 46). Subs: –.
Inverness CT – Hoban, Morrison, Tremarco, Nicholson, McCart (Johnstone 84), Brown (Chalmers 76), Elbouzedi, Trafford (Wilson 46), White, Oakley, Nelson. Subs unused: Hastings, Fyffe, Gunn, Esson (gk).
Referee - Harry Bruce.
Pictures by Donald Matheson